'Leonardo' star Aidan Turner: 'These are big boots to fill'

Aidan Turner in Leonardo.
Aidan Turner reveals his artistic flair in Leonardo. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Poldark’s Aidan Turner is going back in time once more to play another brooding hero in Amazon Prime Video’s gripping new period thriller Leonardo, which explores the life of artist, inventor and all round genius Leonardo da Vinci.

The series, set in 15th century Italy, follows the rise to fame of the creator of The Last Supper and the Mona Lisa as his talent brings him to the attention of high society. But scandal comes his way as he is drawn into gay love affairs, before finding himself accused of the murder of his muse and friend Caterina da Cremona (The Undoing’s Matilda De Angelis). But can he clear his name?

We caught up with Aidan Turner to find out more...

When can I watch Leonardo?

Eight-part drama Leonardo will launch in the UK and Ireland on April 16 on Amazon Prime Video. A US release date is still to be confirmed.

Aidan Turner on the appeal of playing Leonardo

“When I read the script, my first thought was, ‘This is not your typical historical period drama.’ Trying to get to the core of who this person was and the man behind the artist attracted me. He’s one of our greatest artists but I couldn’t find any previous dramas that revealed what motivated him. We're left with his great works and his inventions as an engineer, philosopher, botanist and anatomist, but we don't know about the man.”

Aidan Turner on what makes Leonardo fascinating

“I found out he was a vegetarian, which I didn’t know! I didn’t know about his unconventional upbringing either. He wasn’t educated formally but he must have been surrounded by well-educated young men of nobility. His talent must have exceeded everyone's expectations because we see that he became famous and wealthy quite young.”

Aidan Turner on Leonardo’s bond with his muse Caterina

Matilda De Angelis in Leonardo.

Matilda De Angelis as da Vinci's muse Caterina in Leonardo. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

“It’s difficult for Leonardo emotionally — he finds it hard to relate to people. But Caterina is the key to unlocking things about nature and life that he appreciated. He relies on her professionally, but they are also friends and soulmates.”

Aidan Turner on the research he did to play Leonardo

"I learnt to paint with my left hand because Leonardo was left-handed. And I went to the Louvre. There was a retrospective on Leonardo and it was like a private viewing, which was amazing. I got to spend an hour or two alone with his paintings. I read the biographies and manuscripts, but so much of it is imagined as we don't have a record of what it was really like. It can be intimidating, these are big boots to fill. You’ve got to play this huge, almost mythical figure and you panic. But you're not playing the genius, you're playing the person and I had to keep reminding myself. He was a human, with the same vulnerabilities we have ourselves." 

Aidan Turner on why Poldark stood him in good stead for Leonardo

“It’s such a different character but I’m still leading the show so there's a lot of work involved. It was a five-month shoot and Poldark was similar. So stamina’s the thing you learn when it’s all day every day. It's about recognising how to use what's in the tank and focus on what's important and what you don’t need to waste your energy on.”

Caren Clark

Caren has been a journalist specializing in TV for almost two decades and is a Senior Features Writer for TV Times, TV & Satellite Week and What’s On TV magazines and she also writes for What to Watch.

Over the years, she has spent many a day in a muddy field or an on-set catering bus chatting to numerous stars on location including the likes of Olivia Colman, David Tennant, Suranne Jones, Jamie Dornan, Dame Judi Dench and Sir Derek Jacobi as well as Hollywood actors such as Glenn Close and Kiefer Sutherland.

Caren will happily sit down and watch any kind of telly (well, maybe not sci-fi!), but she particularly loves period dramas like Call the Midwife, Downton Abbey and The Crown and she’s also a big fan of juicy crime thrillers from Line of Duty to Poirot.

In her spare time, Caren enjoys going to the cinema and theatre or curling up with a good book.