‘Da Vinci’s Demons’ courts Emmys with portrait of the artist as a young man

The Starz drama “Da Vinci’s Demons” is far from a dry account of the legendary artist and inventor. The historical fiction series was created by David S. Goyer, whose previous writing credits include more sci-fi/fantasy oriented projects like “Dark City,” “The Dark Knight,” and this summer’s “Man of Steel.”

Indeed, Goyer takes a more modern view of the original Renaissance man, likening him to other brash modern heroes: “I guess he’s like ‘House’ in that way, or the modern ‘Sherlock’ – the Benedict Cumberbatch one – or even Tony Stark. I think it’s impossible to have that level of genius without having a certain amount of self-destructive qualities.”

“House” and “Sherlock” certainly have strong Emmy track records: “House” earned four nominations for Best Drama as well as five wins in other categories, including writing and directing, while “Sherlock” has earned a total of 17 nominations, including a Best Movie/Miniseries bid last year. Could “Da Vinci’s Demons” enjoy the same success?

“Demons” competes in the drama series races, where historical biographies have not fared especially well – ironic, given how well such subjects are received at the Oscars. In recent years, lavish productions like “The Tudors,” about King Henry VIII, and “The Borgias,” about Pope Alexander VI, have racked up multiple nominations and wins, but only in Creative Arts categories.

“Demons” may also find success in those crafts fields. Its costume designer, Annie Symons, won an Emmy last year for “Great Expectations,” while composer Bear McCreary, cinematographer Fabian Wagner, and casting director Priscilla John are all previous Emmy nominees.

But historical subjects have fared much better overall in Emmy’s longform races, where movies and miniseries about famous figures like John Adams, Winston Churchill, Queen Elizabeth I, and Grigori Rasputin, among others, have received multiple nominations and wins in acting, writing, and directing categories.

“Demons” may also struggle due to the youth of its subject; the Da Vinci explored on the program is in his 20s, and though TV networks and advertisers covet young viewers, the industry often balks at awarding shows about brash young folk; “Demons” star Tom Riley, at age 32, would be the youngest winner of Best Drama Actor since Bruce Willis won for “Moonlighting” in 1987.

Says Riley of the troubled artist, “We’re dealing with a man who was illegitimate; he was a bastard, so incapable of inheriting wealth, incapable of inheriting land. So as a result he had a constant chip on his shoulder about trying to find a way to prove to the rest of the world that he was worth as much as he believed he was worth.”

So how much will “Da Vinci” be worth at the Emmys? Watch our complete interviews with Goyer and Riley below, and then make or edit your predictions in our prediction center.

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