Laura Haddock on playing a sexual powerhouse in “Da Vinci’s Demons”

With so much attention on the new Starz series Da Vinci’s Demons and just how much sexuality will play as the story unfolds about the 25-year-old Leonardo Da Vinci (played by Tom Riley), we thought the ladies of the show also deserved some attention. Who better to sit down with and grill than the gorgeous Laura Haddock, who plays mysterious mistress Lucrezia Donati.

What kind of power does a mistress to a powerful government ruler yield? Does Lucrezia use her sexuality with women as she does with men? And what does Haddock think about dropping her fabulous costumes and shooting sex scenes?

She recently talked one-on-one with about all that and more.

AfterEllen: Having seen the first few episodes, it doesn’t take us long to figure out that there’s a lot more going on with Lucrezia than we originally might think. She’s not just a pretty thing.
Laura Haddock: No, she’s really not. No.

AE: Was that part of the appeal of the character is the fact you knew she wasn’t just the mistress and she wasn’t just going to be eye candy for the show?
LH: Yeah, real, real big pull. Real big appeal. I just kept reading the scripts and I was like ‘so now she’s doing this?’ She’s the most multi-layered, three dimensional character I’ve ever read in my life. This is just fascinating and what was so great was that I was reading someone who was doing something “evil,” but then you thought “ah, no, but it’s justified.”  She’s a powerhouse and David [Goyer, creator] is so clever and I had said this early on to him that he’s just written a woman in the renaissance era who is as strong as the strongest men living in Florence or Rome. And she’s doing everything that they’re doing.

She’s manipulative and she extremely uses her sexuality as a weapon in lots of situations that she’s in and that was fascinating to me and her relationships with men in it. She’s very clever in making the men in her life believe that they’re in control of her, but actually I really got the sense that she was completely the master of them.

AE: Do we know — or will we find out soon — what her ultimate goal is?
LH: [smiles] I know it. She’s definitely working — it’s so huge what she’s going through. There’s a lot to her that we won’t know until the end of the series and then it all becomes clear.

AE: Talking about sexuality, so much of the talk on the show has been about Leonardo and there are some men in the show that you see having dalliances. Does Lucrezia ever use her sexuality with women?
LH: Actually, you know what’s really fascinating is — Lucrezia is Lorenzo De Medici’s mistress and he’s married to Lara [Pulver’s] character, Clarice. And they know lots about each other and they talk about each other a lot, but they rarely meet and so there’s — we don’t see until later on in the series [episode 3] when we have our meeting together and we meet and what happens in that situation.

You know what I kept thinking was that Lucrezia doesn’t have a tangible real status really. She doesn’t have a title. She doesn’t have a marriage that’s going to aid her in any way in terms of raising her status within Florence in a respectable way. Her status is high because she’s known to be the mistress of Lorenzo. But Clarice is the wife of him, but she also has her own money, her own title, her own status, her own intelligence and all Lucrezia really has is her aesthetic and her appeal sexually —

So it was fascinating the first time [Lucrezia and Claire] met because suddenly Lucrezia’s strength meant nothing. It meant nothing in a situation with another woman who has the position that Clarice has. It’s like the control that she has over the men and then what happens when she’s put in a situation with women —

AE: — especially women with power.
LH: — women with power.

AE: What do you make of the fact that so much attention is on sexuality in the show?
LH: Leonardo Da Vinci, his whole thing was about freedom. Freedom of being who you are, freedom of expressing yourself and having a dream that you think is untouchable or unreachable but actually sort of ‘I’m going to go for it. I’m going to have that dream. Do you know what it is about Leonardo Da Vinci? He was so utterly charming that people fell in love with him whether they were men, women, potential employers. Anybody and everybody. There was something about him that people couldn’t not be intrigued about.

Because he himself was curious and inquisitive about everything. About materials, about bodies, about minds. You know, but then the curious thing about Da Vinci is that he’d be intrigued about it for five minutes and then he’d get bored and he’d go into the next thing. The same with his inventions, his paintings, his lovers. He’d be bohemian and charismatic and charming and throw himself into something and then he’d be like “next.” So it means that actually the possibilities are endless because he’s open to everything. I know that’s my opinion. I wouldn’t want to speak for Tom, but that’s what I saw.

AE: What’s your take on shooting the sex scenes in the show? How to handle doing them?
LH: Well, just kind of being really silly and telling lots of silly jokes and David [Goyer] did a scene with us and he sat on the bed with us and telling us this really hilariously ridiculous story and so we’re all feeling calm and comfortable and settled.

You know what’s really strange about working on a set is that you’re crew and the people that you’re working with and — there’s a trust. There’s like a real kind of trust and you almost know that — I was looking at some of the crew members and they are so respectful, actually. Our crew was so respectful.

But if those scenes weren’t there, [Lucrezia] wouldn’t be half the woman that she is because those scenes are there for a definite reason. Because she uses it. It’s her tool. It’s her weapon. If they weren’t there, it would be impossible to tell the story the same way. We would just be commenting on it and then it’s not as powerful. But thank goodness, Tom and I get on really well. We’re really good friends and there’s a lot of trust and, of course, you’re insecure. You’re insecure just about everything. I’m insecure when I’ve got clothes on let alone when you haven’t got clothes on!

AE: Do we get to know any more about Lucrezia as far as her family and where she’s come from? Does that come into play at all?
LH: Yeah it does. Yeah. Throughout the series. Yeah.

AE: And that’s all you can say?
LH: I can’t say anything. Yeah.

AE: What do you hope people take from this show when they watch? Is it just have a good time or do you want them to think about things a little more?
LH: I think both. It’s not one of those shows that you have to put on subtitles to understand it because it’s accessible. But it is extremely informative and extremely intelligent and fast and dangerous and forward thinking so you’ve got to be on your game watching it. I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen and not listen, but I laughed. I giggled and I think what I want people to enjoy is that it’s telling the story of someone that we all know. Times that by a thousand and you’ll learn so much more without even knowing it. Because it’s hard with history unless you totally dig it.

Da Vinci’s Demons premieres tonight at 10 p.m. on Starz.