A new interview with Tom for the Independent has been shared online, along with a gorgeous new photo. Read it in full on the website.
One can’t help feeling that since playing an ambidextrous mastermind who is credited as a sculptor, artist, anatomist, inventor, war engineer and polymath, the neurological pathways of Riley’s own brain may have been affected. He is clearly intelligent: he has a first in English and drama from Birmingham University and studied for a further three years at the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art.
“My mind is a well-exercised muscle by the end of shooting. I used to suffer horribly with auditions when I had to read my lines to the casting director and I would just see fuzz and hear white noise. Weirdly now, that has gone and I’m getting more jobs as a result which is a relief.” A hit in Tom Stoppard’s Arcadia and Stephen Poliakoff’s production of My City at the Almeida theatre, he has had to turn down another stage opportunity because of his commitments to the series.
Is there anything which shocked him about his discoveries? “I read letters from Leonardo to various dukes promoting himself in the most arrogant way and he had literally nothing to base it on apart from a belief in his own genius,” Riley says. “I had no idea he paid people to dig up graves illegally so he could chop up bodies and inject their veins with wax so that they would stay whole when he sawed them open and drew them before they collapsed. People say how dare you do this to him, he was so wise, how could you possibly make him into this troublemaker? But he was doing completely illegal, dangerous, disgusting things to advance his own pursuit of knowledge.”
What about the pursuit of Riley’s own career? Will he stop at nothing to succeed? A quick assessment of his down-to-earth manner and easy charm suggests not. “I hope I never get caught up in it. But who knows, come back in five years time when I walk in sipping on room-temperature water with my mini chihuahua in my handbag and I won’t let you look me in the eye and I’ll only speak to you through a translator,” he giggles.