Lorenzo Richelmy as Marco PoloLorenzo Richelmy shares behind the scenes updates on Netflix’s new epic Marco Polo and how he learned English in six weeks to play the role.
You’re about to see a lot of Lorenzo Richelmy. As the star of Netflix’s epic Marco Polo, the Italian plays the legendary explorer in a series packed with massive battles, elaborate fights and steamy encounters. Shot on location in Asia with a budget to rival Game of Thrones, Marco Polo may become your new addiction.
Richelmy fills us in on everything that went into playing the role - from hours of sword fight training, learning to horseback ride, performing Wushu and learning English.
THE RED BULLETIN: This is your first starring series. How did you land it?
LORENZO RICHELMY: My agent said the Italian casting director didn’t like me, so he told me to do a video and send it to the main casting director [in the U.S.]. I did it with my girlfriend playing Kublai Khan. I didn’t hear anything for two months. Then, I was going to America to a film festival, and I found out I got the part in the Philadelphia airport. America is the land of opportunity.
There was a lot to learn, including English. How did you prepare?
I had like six weeks. In the morning, it was four hours of body training. We had a Chinese stunt team teaching us Wushu, Japanese guys teaching us sword fighting and then the fight choreographer. After that, there was two hours of horse riding, one hour of archery and two hours of English.
Had you ever visited Malaysia before?
I traveled through most of Southeast Asia except for the Philippines and Malaysia, so it was good for my list! I loved the heat and heavy humidity—it was better than Kazakhstan. Acting in the cold is worse than acting in heat.
What was the shoot like?
I had like three days off in seven months. We had people from 25 countries, and I was the only Italian. It wasn’t easy, but for me, it was a dream.
How much did you know about Marco Polo?
He’s not a hero like Napoleon for the French, but in Venice he’s the biggest man who ever lived. When [show creator] John Fusco first spoke to me about Marco Polo, it was like he was a college professor and I was totally ignorant. I had to study and get to know him.
And did you know Netflix?
It doesn’t exist in Italy. At first, I thought, “Oh, on the Web? And they’re paying me to go to Malaysia for it?” But it’s not going to be out in Italy for at least two years. I can stay in Rome with my easygoing life and maybe go to China and be famous. Then I can be Bill Murray in Lost in Translation and make commercials for liquors in Tokyo. That’s my plan.
Marco Polo premieres Dec. 12.