[NYCC 2014] Interviews with Da Vinci’s Demons Writers Amy Berg & John ShibanOctober 25, 2014
At New York Comic Con, fans had the chance to see their favorite actors from the Starz television series, Da Vinci’s Demons during a panel. We also had the opportunity to join fellow media members and writers Amy Berg (Eureka, Leverage) and John Shiban (The X-Files, Supernatural, Breaking Bad) in a roundtable discussion.
Da Vinci’s Demons is a historical drama series about a fictional account of the early life of Leonardo da Vinci and the first two seasons were written by David S. Goyer (writer for Chrisopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy, Man of Steel, Call of Duty: Black Ops). Now headed into their third season with two primetime Emmy wins for Main Title Design and Main Title Theme Music, Da Vinci’s Demons will be airing sometime in 2015.
Can you start with what has happened since the revolution has taken place and what’s being done differently this season?
John: Sure! I mean we came in with this two years of really exciting and interesting character work and plots and a whole world that has been built and we were tasked with taking it to the next level and to, honestly, not only make it a bigger and more exciting world, but make it a deeper character drama as well as being an action-adventure, historically-speculative show. A lot of times it’s digging very deeply into these characters because historical people are very interesting, the characters that we’ve got and the actors are amazing, and that was our starting point. We looked for ways to intersect them, build relationships, break up relationships, and then just play with it as if it were a modern character drama about a bunch of people during wartime. That’s kind of what we took on.
Amy: I think John and I as writers come from a place where we like plot to come from characters instead of the other way around. We want characters to lead the plot in different directions and not the other way around. We’ve really embraced that in season three even though we’ve had to pick up a little where we left off given the eve of the Ottoman invasion, I think we did that in a way that really allows us to explore these characters more deeply and we are using the invasion sort of like a Pearl Harbour for these characters and the ramifications will be felt throughout the season.
John: What we both felt when we started was here we’ve got Leonardo da Vinci who is the smartest man on the planet who can invent something in 15 seconds to solve a problem and what we wanted to do with him was knock him off his pedestal and throw something at him that he can’t solve. What we came up with that I’m so excited about this season is that he finds that his own worst enemy is himself. Some of his designs are stolen and used against him and can he ‘out da Vinci’ himself? That’s his big character arc and that affects everyone else because everyone in some way is da Vinci’s demon in this world, or da Vinci’s angel in some cases. But they’re all forced to faced not only this man that they admire that could always solve everything and to see him knocked down and to actually say on screen “I can’t fix this” it’s so exciting and such a great place to start from. His arc is the spine of all the other arcs but every character has to face – Lucerzia has such a past and has done some very naughty things and now she’s facing up to it, taking responsibility, she’s trying to find out who she is. Zo has to face “am I just a sidekick or do I have my own path?” and of course Riario, we find at the end of season two he’s in an enormous crisis of faith – “who am I? What do I believe in? Will anyone accept me? Can I get absolution for my sins” and ends up in this cult-ish labyrinth so he’s on a personal journey too.
Amy: Can they break free of the chains that have been set up in the first two seasons and we’ll see the results of that.
After season one, David Goyer said we are going to get through the invasion of Florence right away and put everyone on a road trip – we start with the Ottoman’s beginning to invade now, but will this be a longer arc for the season?
John: Absolutely, and honestly, the way we are looking at it, it’s like Pearl Harbour and we’re now playing WWII for these characters. It’s going to spill into a fourth season if we get one because it’s a great way to tie everybody together. We felt from the beginning that the best parts of the first two seasons was when the “Scooby gang” was together and the characters were interacting instead of being on separate plots. This gave us a great way to do that and this affects everyone’s lives in Italy because they’re trying to invade and they’re going to go to Rome and Florence and these people have to work together.
Amy: As history tells us, the war ends at some point but the ramifications on these characters will continue on long after that.
What’s it like to come into a series that’s already established? Do you feel you have to fix or ground things a little?
John: All of the above. The business has changed somewhat in the past decade but every show has to grow and find itself. If you look back at the early X-Files, it’s finding itself. What can you do – I mean honestly, it started out as an alien conspiracy show and then other monsters came in and you used to have, in the good old network days, this show would still be in season one – they’ve only done eighteen episodes. You’d still be trying to figure out how far you can push the envelope story-wise, which actors and characters work together and which don’t, do they have chemistry, is there a spark, how far can you bend history – all those kinds of questions. We just sort of added the history in our heads since they’re all relatively based on real characters or people that “could have been” so we said where did they grow up, what do they want, do they have kids, who do they hate, who do they love – we made a big board in the writers room with all of their characters lives until now and said okay, let’s throw this invasion at them and see how they react.
Amy: And we really wanted to make them relateable to a modern audience, not just to people who were living in a Renaissance time period; we wanted to make sure what they were experiencing as human beings could resonate with all of us.
John: We both come from a place where – it’s an overused term but we love genre fiction but the genre fiction that we both respond to and I think we bring to the show is character based as opposed to just plot based. To us, that’s how the audience gets into it, that’s why they want to keep watching is because, ‘that could be me, they’re dealing with things maybe I have to deal with’. Of course that’s speculative but that’s the joy.
You can get all of the Da Vinci’s Demons show information that you’d like, watch trailers and read about the episodes on Starz official website.