Have you adopted Leo's sartorial style by wearing open shirts all the time?
I'm sitting here right now and my belly button's so cold. [Laughs.] No, I haven't. I haven't. That's not a practical look, particularly when you live in England.
One thing I like that you do with your character is the thing with the hand when he's tackling a problem. How did you come up with that?
There's a lot of speculation in some of the biographies that he is somewhere in the autism scale, somewhere on the spectrum. And I have a family member who is autistic. When he was younger he used to try and work out mathematical problems with an invisible abacus. It was weird because an abacus wasn't something that he particularly used, but he would move them in front of him. And then as he got older that became just a twitch that he did when he was working something out. So it was kind of a nod to that element of people's speculation about [Da Vinci] that he may have been somewhere on the spectrum. That was something I had recognized with autism and tried to bring it, hopefully very subtly. Unfortunately the thing is with something like that, when you do it and the camera catches it, it tends to drift to it and then the editor just starts putting it in more than you hope it to be in. But it's just a little nod to that really.
Give me your pitch for the new season.
Oh man. My pitch is generally if you liked the first season you're going to go out absolutely crazy for the second season. And if you didn't like the first season you going to love it anyway because I think we finally found our tone. We found out what the show is, how it works best. I think we got there halfway through the first season. You kind of edge your way in slowly. I hope to think we got that. And it's just like nothing else on TV.
Last season ended on quite a crazy cliffhanger. Should we prepare ourselves for the same thing this season?
I couldn’t possibly tell you.
Should we hold on to our seat?
You’re going to have hold on to your seat. You’re going to have to hold on to your seat a lot, though, the entire season. It’s one of those. I saw Bear McCreary, the composer, last night and he saying, ‘Last season I had to score a big moment every few episode. This season I’ve got to do a giant moment every episode, two big moments in every episode.’ So, yeah, you’re going to have to hold on to your seat.
Anything else you want to tease about the season, a favorite moment, episode or scene?
My favorite episode, I love episode five. And six is the most Da Vinci’s Demonsy of ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ in history. Matt Fraction wrote that, who’s a comic book writer, with David. It’s co-written between them and it is bonkers, in a very bold and brave…I love it. Then in the final few episodes, eight, nine and ten, I’ll just say…
So we’re going to brace ourselves?
You brace yourselves for the season. What else can I tease? We’ve told the world that we go to Naples in this season and we go to the new world, but that’s not the only places that we go. That’s a tease.
We see a lot of Da Vinci’s inventions and seeing how his mind works. Has any part of that influenced you at all?
It’s really made me feel incredibly lazy. That’s the one thing that I’ve taken from it. I always wake up and think that I need to do some work, that I need to do something rather than sit in front of the TV. I need to not just make morning about what I have for breakfast. That’s basically what it’s been. I’ll eat my breakfast while I’m doing something else. I always find it incredible that he went to his grave saying, ‘I’ve offended God or mankind because I didn’t do enough.’ You think, ‘What are you talking about? You did more yesterday than anyone else did in their entire lives.’ So that’s influenced me. I’m increasingly restless as a result.
What’s been the most surprising part of being involved with this show so far?
The most surprising bit for me, or anything in the new world, every time I read a script, I was like, ‘This is insane.’ I always knew that it was going to be big, the series, but when we shot the first one, we hadn’t sold it to the world. Now it’s in a hundred and fifty territories and we’re chased by tourists in London and people from Turkey. Gregg [Chillin] went on holiday and people were swimming out into the sea in Greece, and Japanese people crying and taking photos of our shopping in Tesco, a shopping market in England. You think, ‘Wow, this has got giant, international reach.’ We didn’t expect that. So then we’re in this giant set in Swansea, aware that it’s going to be shown to the world, going from a soundstage where there’s a giant Incan pyramid where there’s another one where there’s whole streets of Rome to another one that’s Florence. That’s kind of crazy.
What’s the fan reaction been like?
Tom Riley: I’m aware that the people who watched it to the end got very passionate about it. The people who liked it loved it. That’s a thing that we didn’t expect. We thought we were going to do okay, but people were really…they love the characters. They love the show. That’s very encouraging, to know that you’re doing something right and people are waiting to see what happens next. The amount of angry Tweets after season one’s finale, that was enough to know. It was like, ‘Alright, guys.’
If you could guest star on any other show, what would it be?
That’s a great question. I’m just now into ‘House of Cards’ and I think that’s a real actor’s show because it’s full of such great, juicy dialogue. But only the first season. I’m not in the second yet, and so I don’t know what goes on. ‘True Detective’ is amazing, and of course there is a chance to be in future seasons of that because they change the cast every year. There’s another show that’s just started in the UK that you don’t have here and you should get it. It might be on BBC America. It’s called ‘Inside of No. 9.’ I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of a company called The League of Gentlemen. They were comedians, but they’ve written, two of them, Reece Shearsmith and Steve Pemberton, these incredible writers have written these six episodes that are all inside a house number nine, a flat number nine. They’re all different episodes, different stories, an anthology series, and they’re half hours. They’re all a little bit dark and twisted, and so beautifully written and they’re all in, like, one room.
The show might come here.
Yeah, I hope so because it’s one of those things that the world deserves to see because it’s awesome. So I’d love to do that, and that’s another thing that’s possible.