Darren Franich
April 05, 2013 AT 04:00 AM EDT

At the start of Starz’s Da Vinci’s Demons, a nude Duke of Milan (Downton Abbey‘s Hugh Bonneville) relieves himself into a chamber pot and groans, ”I’ve a beastly hangover, and my bowels are in a tumble.” It’s hardly befitting an aristocrat — and that’s the point. ”I wanted someone like Hugh, who’s known for a proper English show, because I wanted to signal that this isn’t your grandfather’s historical drama,” says creator David S. Goyer. In preproduction, Goyer told Tom Riley — Da Vinci‘s Da Vinci — that he wanted a Bonneville type for the part, so Riley called his old Lost in Austen costar. ”He didn’t even bat an eyelid,” says Riley. Indeed, recalls Bonneville, ”when Tom Riley phones and says, ‘How do you fancy playing a naked, hungover git who gets assassinated on page 2?’ you tend to say, ‘I’m free on Thursday next week.”’

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