Now he’s taking his historical work to the streaming world with new Amazon Prime original series, Leonardo.
The new show is set in the world of legendary artist and inventor Da Vinci's early days, as he learns his craft in 13th century Florence, with art and architecture the prized skills in the bustling Tuscan metropolis.
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It’s a long way from Poldark’s Cornish adventures, but the passions are running just as high, and he's just as broody and emotional. It’s Turner’s first TV show since the Sunday night special, and he clearly can’t get enough of these glossy period dramas.
The pan-European production sees the titular hero starting out in the art world, and we follow his collaboration with teacher Andrea del Verrocchio on one of his first acclaimed works, The Baptism of Christ.
The early glimpse of genius and torment on show give fleeting hints at the conflicted creator’s busy and complicated career to come, and Turner works hard to create a sensitive and wounded portrayal of the famous character.
There’s passion and pain as we follow his damaged relationship with model and muse Caterina da Cremona, played by Matilda De Angelis, whom we last saw alongside Hugh Grant and Nicole Kidman in The Undoing. And there's rivalry with fellow students, but mainly the battles are with his own demons.
Not literal ones this time – which is a departure from the action packed struggles the last time we saw a Leonardo Da Vinci on screen. In the 2013 FOX series Da Vinci’s Demons, Tom Riley played a much more dynamic and Indiana Jones hero and rock star version of the artist as he battled forces of political scheming and fantasy.
The new incarnation is more about the emotional battles. The series is built around an older Da Vinci as he has to account for himself in the face of serious accusations and tells his stories to an interrogator played by former Finding Neverland child actor Freddie Highmore, giving us all a shock as he’s now 29 and a proper adult.
Turner has relished taking on the title role, and commented: “As we know, Leonardo Da Vinci was a man who created an incredible body of work across so many disciplines.
“As an actor, to explore the inner workings of this great artist was a very exciting and humbling experience and I feel so fortunate to have worked with such a great team in Rome to make this series happen.”
Amazon’s head of UK content Martin Backlund added: “Leonardo is a beautiful drama that tells a riveting backstory of one of the most fascinating artistic figures in history.”
Alongside the character studies and the depiction of Da Vinci’s development in the art world, the show also offers a fabulous look at the period and the city of Florence.
Several scenes revolving around construction of the city’s famous Duomo cathedral, providing drama to the historic tales of the young artist’s contribution to the stunning attraction’s crowning glory.
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The season launches 16 April, on Amazon Prime, and while the pilot episode is a a slow burn, it offers lots of promise and potential for the eight episode run.
Audiences know they can rely on Turner to carry a series like this, and his fans won’t be disappointed.
Leonardo premieres on Amazon Prime Video, Friday 16 April.
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