Medici: The Magnificent is the second chapter in the epic Italian dynasty series, which takes viewers into the heart of the Renaissance and the epic stories of the great lords of Florence.
Series one starred Bodyguard’s Richard Madden and Dustin Hoffman and is streaming on Netflix now.
A lavish eight-episode second series features an equally star-studded cast as Daniel Sharman (Fear the Walking Dead, Teen Wolf) steps into the role of Lorenzo De Medici, aka Lorenzo the Magnificent.
Lorenzo’s ascendency to power as the head of his family places him in conflict with a rival banking family, the Pazzi, who are led by Jacopo (Sean Bean).
Packed with political intrigue, historical drama, family tensions, sword-fighting, conspiracies, double-crossing, romance, art and an ensemble cast including Bradley James (Merlin), Alessandra Mastrondardi (Master of None) and Synnove Karslen (Clique), Medici: The Magnificent is worthy of a serious Netflix binge.
BT TV caught up with leading man Daniel Sharman to find out everything you need to know about the series.
This story isn’t very well known outside of Italy – what was it like heading out there to film and what has the reaction been like in Italy?
"This story is incredibly important to Italians. It’s a time they’re very proud of. But they gave us their blessing. And we were really taking over these Tuscan towns, which have remained untouched and look just the same as they did in the 1400s and 1500s. It’s remarkable how little has changed. You can just look around and be immersed.
"The people are incredibly, incredibly welcoming. They know your story, the story of Lorenzo and the Medici and even towns that historically hated the Medici that famously had animosity to the dynasty, they welcomed us with open arms."
What was it like fighting with Sean Bean?
"I remember him very clearly from my childhood. There was a very specific moment, where you take a step back and understand that the person you’ve watched on the telly, that you’ve read about and enjoyed for all these years, is stood right there. You are starstruck.
"But that does dissipate quite quickly, because you are working on the same project and you have a job to do. I loved working with him and there was something very open and natural about Sean. You can see why he’s played so many iconic characters because he's able to let the truth of something come through. And that was lovely to watch."
What lessons do you think today's European leaders could learn from Lorenzo?
"Well, I think it’s very timely reminder that there are other ways of leading. This was somebody that very strongly believed in the power and beauty of art. Bringing people together for discussion. And having a unity and a belief that we're better together."
What made Lorenzo such a significant figure in Italian history?
"He was the first of his kind and he became known as Lorenzo the Magnificent because people resonated with his philosophy and came together behind it. We're going through a dark time now and before the Renaissance, Europe was in the Dark Ages and things were very internal, reactive, suspicious and naïve. But Lorenzo showed what could happen when you open up, champion art, champion knowledge and discussion.
"I think leaders could learn there is another way and believing in something beautiful and believing in unity is not something that can be compromised. I hope that's something people will be inspired by."
What were your sword-fighting skills like before this?
"I'd done a bit at drama school and a bit on stage in Othello. I knew me way around a sword, but I was in no way proficient.
"And also, I was in no way proficient at horse-riding to the level that I thought was! Both of those were very much learning on the job."
How much research did you have to do for the role?
"A lot of reading. I went to Tuscany a few weeks before filming for some time by myself to immerse in the place and truly understand the importance of who this guy was. I was walking around with a tour guide in Florence and she was a scholar and historian.
"She bumped into her professor on the street and she said, ‘I’m just showing Lorenzo Medici around all his buildings’. And people would start crying and say how important he is and was. It was an insight for me into who he was and his story."
You mentioned how important a figure he was to Italians – how much pressure did you feel to get his character and performance spot on?
"With all characters you have to do the research, do the work and then throw it away and at its core, realise this is just a human being.
"As an actor in every role - and I've played some messed up characters - you always have to identify and realise that everyone has very human desires, weaknesses, fears and fallibilities. I think once you’ve done the research, it doesn’t matter what you look like, what someone’s perception of the person is, it is your version of that story and your truth.
"A lot of acting is about throwing the research away and finding a truth for you."
Are you a romantic and an optimist like Lorenzo?
"I am a romantic. More so, I’m a huge believer in art. I believe in the importance of it. Any form of art, it’s important that it’s championed.
"I think it's imperative for the evolution of humankind – the beauty of the creation that you can make is so important to the human species. I see it as a tool to bring people together. I really identify with that side of Lorenzo."
Medici: The Magnificent is streaming now on Netflix.
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