By Piya Sinha-Roy
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - When Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy stepped into the lead role of Netflix Inc's historical series "Marco Polo," he faced one major hurdle. He did not speak English.
"I was terrified," Richelmy said. "Language is one of the most important things for an actor, so I worked a lot to learn."
Already an established actor in Italy, Richelmy leads the origin story of 12th century Venetian merchant Marco Polo, credited with being one of the world's first explorers with his documented journey through the realms of Kublai Khan's Mongolian empire.
Richelmy, 24, discussed his experience ahead of "Marco Polo" being released across Netflix's online streaming platform on Friday.
Q: How do you connect with this legendary 12th century man?
A: I'm Italian. That helps a lot because back in the day, cultural differences were more evident ... but he was cultured and that was the first thing that amazed people from the East.
Also, I've been in all the places that Marco Polo has been, because my stepfather was stationed in Southeast Asia, so since I was 9, every year I'd visit Vietnam or Myanmar.
Q: How does Marco change over the series spanning five years?
A: At the beginning, he doesn't know anything. At the end, he knows a lot of himself, and the fact that he sees two worlds and he's raised in both worlds, it's beautiful, because they weave parts of the two systems into him. We wanted to create the kid who becomes the great explorer.
Q: Italy doesn't have Netflix yet, so how familiar were you with it?
A: I didn't know what it was. The first time they told me it was Netflix, I said "I wish it was HBO!" (laughs) And then I realized it's much better.
Q: After doing this show, are you being drawn to Hollywood?
A: My life now is changing, and I get calls from people that I've never met. I've been working a lot on this, and for now it's enough. I have my work in Rome, I want to live there and I don't want to live here.
I'm not interested in the Hollywood system. I'd like to work here, I love the market here and the things that they do, but I can work even from Italy. The beautiful thing for me right now is that I have nothing to lose. That's a good place to be.
(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Eric Kelsey and Richard Chang)