Marco Polo is Netflix’s newest (and most expensive) series to date. The show follows the life of the famed adventurer during his time serving in Kublai Khan’s court. You may not have heard much about the show’s breakout star, Lorenzo Richelmy, just yet but trust me, now that the visually stunning and intriguing series has debuted on the streaming service, it’s only a matter of time until you do.
FanBolt was fortunate enough to speak with the 24-year-old Italian actor (whom you’d be surprised to learn only recently learned English) about his new role, including the historical accuracy of the show and how he landed the part.
Nowadays most would probably credit Marco Polo with inventing the pool game, but his contributions are far more wide-reaching and important than that. Many facts are known about the merchant, but there’s still an air of mystery that surrounds his story. So it’s understandable why the role would attract Richelmy, aside from their shared Italian heritage. “Marco Polo is the guy who can bring the good skills of the Italian people,” explained Lorenzo. “Now we know Italians for bad politics, bad economy and pizza, but actually Italians are good for other things. It’s an old country, and before it was great! We were sailors and poets and traders, so it’s a wonderful story. When we read about Marco Polo in the history books, we read about the great merchant. I studied it as a kid and didn’t think too much about it, but then when I met [series writers John Fusco and Patrick Macmanus] I found out that we don’t know anything about it. I mean, we know about Marco Polo the great merchant. The man that went in Asia, he stayed there for 20 years and then he came back bringing… nothing. What kind of merchant is he? So what drew me to Marco Polo is wow he’s this 17-year-old guy, starting with his father from Venice, walking towards China in the middle of nothing, no iPhones, no GPS or anything like that. He was like a kid in front of the most powerful man on Earth, Kublai Khan, another man that we don’t know anything about. Kublai Khan was the owner of the greatest empire that ever existed… and we don’t know anything about him! So it’s a wonderful chance to represent the good Italians and bring the audience into a great world that we don’t know.”
Lorenzo was so determined to land the role that he worked on improving his English rather quickly (it was his one obstacle), so that he could play Marco. “John Fusco told me, ‘you can have the role, but your English is not good enough, so we’re going to give you one week, one dialect coach, and if you can improve your English enough, you will be on the list. So I did. For one week, they gave me this dialect coach, and I studied like 8 hours a day, English, for a week. Then I went to London, last audition, with Benedict Wong, the actor playing Kublai Khan, and then [I got the part]!”
People know that the film/TV industry is known to take liberties when portraying historical events in movies and TV shows, so in case you’re wondering how far off base the series may wander from the facts, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. “The cool thing is, and I was really happy at the beginning of it, that all of the script is related to the history,” shared Lorenzo. “All the actors, except for Hundred Eyes, are all people that have existed. Even the two counselors of Kublai Khan, the Egyptian one and the other one, are all existed people. The war between the two brothers is real. So the basics are all true and, of course, we’ve added on the entertainment stuff, so the martial arts and all this stuff. We can entertain people and at the same time school them about a period that we don’t know.”
You can stream the full first season of Marco Polo now, only on Netflix!
Photo Credit: Netflix