David S. Goyer on ‘Da Vinci’s Demons’

The creator of STARZ’s newest drama talks about the historical characters that Leonardo Da Vinci will encounter, the heartbreak of “Flash Forward” and comic book movies.

Fred Topelby Fred Topel

Da Vinci's Demons


When Starz CEO Chris Albrecht introduced “Da Vinci’s Demons” to the Television Critics Association, he called series creator David S. Goyer “Mr. We Need It, He Does It.”

“Da Vinci’s Demons” tells an action packed legend of Leonardo Da Vinci (Tom Riley), based partly on historical fact, and a fair deal of embellishment. Goyer told the panel that 7,000 pages of Da Vinci notes are missing, so he can imagine what adventures and inventions filled them.

After the panel, we had some exclusive one-on-one time with Goyer. We also talked a bit about his previous series “Flash Forward,” which never quite lived up to its potential and only lasted one season.

CraveOnline: Of all the Da Vinci legends, have you happened to see Hudson Hawk?

David S. Goyer: You know what, I’ve never seen Hudson Hawk. I know that it deals with Da Vinci machines and things like that, and the flying machine, but I’ve never seen it.

The flying machine is definitely in it. How science fiction can his inventions be on “Da Vinci’s Demons” versus some of the real ones he made?

Well, he invented the machine gun. Various people have attempted to build his inventions in real life and see if they worked. They built his machine guns and they do work. You see them built. That’s not science fiction. That’s historical fact. He did design the tank and the submarine and the parachute and the glider and the helicopter and all these things. So that’s not science fiction. That’s historical fact.

Then can you have fun with it and go a little further?

Yeah, we’re hoping to.

Maybe invent some things that he might have invented?

Yes, that’s what I alluded to on the panel which is he supposedly had 13,000 notebook pages and only 6,000 are known to exist. 7,000 went missing so I figure if he invented 50, 100 different things in the 6,000 pages, surely he invented that many in the other 7,000 pages so we’ll be dealing with that as well.

How do even the practical ones have to be enhanced with CGI?

Well, cannonballs. Actually, most of the inventions are practical, now that I think of it, on the show. We built two different machine guns for episode two. He’s famous for having designed this giant crossbow that was something like 75, 80 feet long. We didn’t build that whole thing. That was CG.

How much of “Da Vinci’s Demons” will be Da Vinci uncovering a conspiracy?

A goodly amount. I think secret societies and mysticism and code and puzzles, I think they’re kind of synonymous with Da Vinci and we’d be doing the audience a disservice if we didn’t delve into that. Certainly there are a lot of symbols and things embedded in his paintings in real life. He wrote in mirror writing and in code. He seems to have been very secretive about his work.

The Sons of Mithras, which are this shadowy organization that he gets involved with in the show, they were a real secret society that Aristotle and Plato were a part of. That’s the kind of mythic backbone of the show. Every hero needs a quest and a quest object, so the Book of Leaves is kind of our grail or Lost Ark if you will.

How much of the series have you mapped out so far?

A fair amount. STARZ wasn’t willing to green light the show unless I could prove to them that it could last for at least five years. So all the big goalposts have been mapped out and then there’s some latitude within that, but we know how the second season ends or the third season.

Is that a new model for TV, that you can’t just pitch a show, you have to pitch the whole series?

If it’s serialized, yes. I think so. Sure, because I think audiences are a little bit wary sometimes of shows that promise a big mythology but just are meandering, it’s clear that they hadn’t figured it out. I learned a little bit from “Flash Forward” in that this is even more mapped out than “Flash Forward” was.