The latest journey of Marco Polo has brought the 13th century Italian merchant into the world of 21st century digital entertainment with a dose of '70s kung fu and just a hint of premium cable fantasy.
"Marco Polo," which premiered on Friday (December 12) on Netflix, has been described as the streaming service's answer to "Game of Thrones," an expensive epic of warring armies, courtly intrigue and not-insignificant quantities of nudity.
Of course, I'm not making that comparison and neither is "Marco Polo" EP Daniel Minahan.
"The similarity is that there's court intrigue but I think that's about it," Minahan tells me. "I mean we're set in Mongolia and China; it's the story of a warlord rather than six different kingdoms vying for their throne. There's really big differences in the way 'Marco Polo,' the tone of it and the structure of it. I think the only thing that might be similar would be the scale of it, you know, the idea that we were creating this big spectacle. But that's just what it takes to re-create the Empire of the Kublai Khan."
But Minahan's presence as producer and director on "Marco Polo" pushes the comparison, since his directing credits including five "Game of Thrones" episodes, as well as installments of some of HBO's other acclaimed shows including "Six Feet Under" and "Deadwood."
"Marco Polo" represents Minahan's first time as an executive producer, as he's had the opportunity to help shape series creator John Fusco's vision on locations in Malaysia and Kazakhstan bringing, as he says, the Empire of Kublai Khan to life.
I chatted with Minahan this week about achieving the scope and realism of "Marco Polo," but also about the series' crazier moments, including a naked kung fu set piece that caps the second episode. We discussed the long process that led to the casting of Italian actor Lorenzo Richelmy as Polo, plus the shaping of the 10-episode drama for Netflix's binge-friendly audience.
Check out the full Q&A below...