Blake Ritson on ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ Season 2

Last year, “Da Vinci’s Demons” ended its first season with a cliffhanger, Riario storming the palace in Florence. Season two began by showing Riario and Leonardo da Vinci seemingly teamed up and taken prisoner by the Incas. Then it resolved that business with the palace.
We sat down with Blake Ritson, who plays Riario on “Da Vinci’s Demons” after the cast presented a panel to the Television Critics Association. Ritson teased us a bit more about Riario’s future with da Vinci.
CraveOnline: What did you think of starting the season with the tease of the Incas?
Blake Ritson: I love it. I remember thinking, we shot the end of the first season, that’s quite an act to top. It’s like being in the middle of a roller coaster ride, so to try and pick up from that energy and carry on, but I think we do it. As you say, having a little teaser of where the series is about to go and the fact that it’s so unexpected and so unsettling I think is a lovely little preface of things to come.
Did you have to do all the long hair and beard scenes all at once?
There was a lot of forethought about continuity because obviously wherever you can, you try and really grow a beard and grow the hair. Especially if you’re shooting on HD, you just see and it’s just nicer to have real hair. I remember doing a show a while ago with a stuck on beard. You peer up closely, in some shots it’s like that is clearly a stuck on beard. It’s unforgiving, HD, so it’s nice.
In movies you can always tell.
Yeah, you really can so it’s nice to have the chance to actually grow out.
About how long will it be before we catch up to that opening scene?
It’s a good few episodes in. I was watching the credits, I was thinking there’s lots of nice clues in the credits this year without giving too much away, but there are some good little teases in there.
So we should analyze the opening credits.
It’s worth it. You’ll get to the bottom of a few things I think.
Is this season more of a swashbuckling adventure for da Vinci and Riario?
I think there is a bit more adventure. Generally, I think tonally we’re so much more confident this year. I think in the first year we had to set up a whole universe and, because it is a historical fantasy, what are the rules of this universe? What circumscribes it in terms of the supernatural, the magic, the reality and the balance? I think that’s enabled us this year to just be a bit more ambitious actually.
Everything’s bigger this year. Geographically we span continents. The sets are bigger, the stunts are bigger, the scale is bigger, the ambition’s bigger, my beard is bigger. Everything is just fully rounded I think this year and I think there are a lot more surprises than in the first season.
Well, it’s more of a journey than staying in Italy.
Absolutely, and some of the things we do this season, I would have never imagined when I signed up for the series that the character would end up doing. I think that’s what’s part of the joy of it. It’s so defiantly original and it’s so defiantly unexpected. It’s good fun.
How does this new direction change what Riario wants?
In a way, the first season we see Riario, he’s largely entirely in control, almost terrifyingly so. And then right at the end of the season, we see the mask slit and we see this terrible savagery underneath with him blowing the walls open with a Renaissance bazooka. That’s where we pick up and we see Riario catapulted way out of his comfort zone so he no longer has the political, military, financial backing of the Vatican so he’s pushed to absolute breaking point physically, mentally, spiritually.
It’s a real roller coaster. It’s almost like the trials of Job, some of the things he has to go through, and I think it’s really fun just seeing how far he will go to get what he wants. I think he endures some pretty terrible sacrifices this year, without giving too much away.
Is Riario more vicious?
Absolutely. Last year was like a quiet Sunday afternoon compared to things he does this year. I mean, he is brutal. He is really unflinchingly horrible in moments. You get an inkling in the first season he will do almost anything, but it really pushes the limits of how far will you go. I think just to put it into perspective, both Riario and Leonardo da Vinci are on the quest for the Book of Leaves and both of them are absolutely convinced that this compendium of knowledge will determine the political landscape, not just of Florence but also Rome, maybe even the whole of Italy.
This is the holy grail. They’re talking about saving the world, both of them. So both of them endure extraordinary feats to try and get what they want. 
When we see them later with the Incas, have they formed an uneasy alliance?
I think it’s fair to say that they’ve had to rely upon one another in ways they wouldn’t have expected or necessarily anticipated. I love the relationship between Riario and Leonardo da Vinci because it’s changing all the time. From the beginning of the first season where he’s trying to enlist him and befriend him and he’s one of the first people to spot his genius, cut to the end of the first season where I’m trying to blow his head off.
In this season I think there is kind of a grudging respect from both sides. I think Riario has always respected Leonardo. I think Leonardo begins to respect Riario at some level, even if he doesn’t agree with him ideologically.
Are there a lot more physical demands on you this season?
There are a lot of big physical stunts and fights coming up which I can’t talk to you much about but we shot them a few months in. We literally choreographed for months some of the sequences. They’re pretty elaborate and spectacular. Especially for me. Last year, Riario basically got his heavies to do all the nasty work with the blades, whereas this year we’ve never really seen Riario go into battle and we’ll realize that he’s a pretty formidable fighter, and he fights dirty. He fights really dirty. There’s nothing nice about going into battle with Riario.


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