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The first episode of Starz’s new series Da Vinci’s Demons introduced Tom Riley as a young Leonardo Da Vinci, but fans still have a little while to wait until they see Lara Pulver’s Clarice Orsini in action.
Clarice is the wife of Elliot Cowan’s Lorenzo Medici, but his character has been seen spending more time with his mistress Lucrezia Donati, played by Laura Haddock, than with the woman he married. That’s not to say that Clarice doesn’t have a significant role in Lorenzo’s life, however. Spinoff Online spoke with Pulver (Sherlock) about her developing role in the Starz drama and also her upcoming portrayal of Ian Fleming’s wife Ann in Sky Atlantic’s drama miniseries about the life of James Bond’s author.
Spinoff: We haven’t seen much of you this season. Is there going to be more of Clarice later on in Season 1 and in Season 2?
Lara Pulver: David [S. Goyer] has this kind of device that he’s used in all of his projects, be it TV or film, where he’s always wanting to kind of keep a key player back, hold them back, and bring a principal character midway through a movie or midway through a season. When he approached me about doing the project he said, “There’s this female character I’m writing who’s going to be quite a slow burn. We’ll bring her in midway through Season 1 and by Season 2 she’ll be literally running Florence.” That was kind of what sold me into doing the project. So, yes, you will definitely be seeing more of me.
I’m excited to see how that comes into play because we’ve seen a lot of Lorenzo so far, but he’s been so busy dealing with Da Vinci and his affair that it really hasn’t been addressed who’s running Florence. How does Clarice’s dynamic fit into that storyline?
She’s his main ally and his confidant. She’s a shrewd politician and a great businesswoman herself, so I think therefore her love and support is integral in them succeeding, really, and being able to defend and protect their family and the city of Florence.
What do we have to look forward to with Clarice later on this season?
David’s written these kind of wonderful behind-closed-doors scenes, sort of like you’ll see in Episode 3. You see her with her husband, you see her secretly confronting her husband’s mistress; I think that’s what you get more of. You see her dynamic with her brother-in-law Giuliano. You see a lot of these kind of out-of-public-view moments which hopefully leave you wanting to know more and more about this woman if I’ve done my job properly.
What does her relationship with Da Vinci end up being?
In Episode 4 you see she’s trying to keep that man on track. He’s very freethinking, he’s very entrepreneurial. Very few people can stay up to speed with his mind and his genius, and yet he’s unable to woo her in the same way he does some of the other female characters because obviously he’s being employed by her husband, so it creates a very different dynamic and a different relationship between the two of them. She’s really trying to keep him on track so that they can succeed and hold their barriers against Rome.
It sounds like Clarice will put Da Vinci on his toes. Will that change his character at all?
You’re absolutely right. I think with most women, he can outwit them and out-charm them, but with Clarice he’s dealing with a much bigger fish in that sense, and much more challenging. He is very much having to play a different game to what he does with the other female characters, which makes for a very interesting dynamic between the two of them. It’s like they’re both kind of walking on eggshells slightly around each other. Neither of them is entirely sure about the other person.
Is the threat of war with Rome going to end up being a larger part of the show, or Da Vinci’s Demons going to focus more on the political intrigues?
I think the kind of overview of the whole of Season 1 is really the dynamic between Florence and Rome. With that, it obviously brings the political and the religious conflict between the two cities. This possible war that kind of hangs over the two cities is definitely one of the key players of Season 1.
What sort of research did you do going in, or did you mostly rely on the mythology David created?
I did a lot of research mainly on the period and the culture and Italian history rather than the Orsini family because there wasn’t a hell of a lot to really research in that sense. There’s a lot on the Medicis. Then, it’s like you say, you kind of take on David’s material and allow the other stuff to inform your choices, but really what you’re staying true to is the script and what’s on the page.
I know you got to go to the premiere in Florence. What was your experience like getting to go to the city you all are portraying?
As David Goyer said, we kind of put ourselves into the belly of the beast with premiering a TV show about the most iconic man in Italian history in the city of Florence. We thought, “Well hey, they’re going to be our harshest critics so we might as well go for it head first.” But they were extremely generous and appreciative of David’s vision. They saw that it wasn’t a historical drama. It’s a historical fantasy world that David’s created where Leonardo Da Vinci parallels to like a superhero — a Batman, a Tony Stark.
I think what they got caught up with was the entertaining factor of the show and how fun the show is. Yes, it’s embedded in historical fact, but there’s this whole kind of creative, fantastical world that David created that is infectious, actually. The premiere in Florence was incredible. I’ve never known anything like it, really. Just to be in that city and to feel its culture and the traditions and how evident and strong they still are today and how passionate they are for this ultimate Renaissance man who is Leonardo Da Vinci.
You’re also tackling another really exciting historical figure: Ian Fleming’s wife Ann in Sky Atlantic’s biopic series about him. She’s pretty much a real-life Bond girl.
I’m playing the original, yeah. The original femme fatale. It was wonderful to enter this world. Ian Fleming’s one of those people you know about but you don’t know about, so it was really interesting to kind of step into that world and create this very kind of dysfunctional relationship that spanned over 20 years, really. They courted for 20-odd years and had a very public affair before finally getting married in 1952. The series starts with them meeting in the 1930s and the war and him going off with the intelligence agency and ends with them at their honeymoon at Goldeneye, at Jamaica, with him completing “Casino Royale,” his very first Bond novel.
Will the series have a James Bond feel or stand on its own?
I think stylistically it very much stands on its own as this miniseries. It’s been shot in such a way and obviously we’re depicting a very different time. We’re doing the 1930s to the early 1950s which brings a whole different kind of style, a color palette, and fashion and hair and makeup and music. It has a very, very different feel from a Bond film. That was never their intention. It’s very much the man behind Bond. It’s definitely not trying to step on the toes of the franchise.
Da Vinci’s Demons airs Fridays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Starz.