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‘Marco Polo’s’ Lorenzo Richelmy on Intense Workouts, Learning English for Netflix Series: ‘It Was Just Crazy’ (Video)

Richelmy also tells TheWrap which other famous historical figure he’d like to take on — if only Gerard Butler hadn’t beat him to it

You wouldn’t do a “Marco Polo” press junket any service if you didn’t sit down with Lorenzo Richelmy, the man who plays the title character in Netflix’s historical drama.

Richelmy’s preparation to play the famed explorer goes far beyond what most actors do for their potential breakout roles, he explained to TheWrap. His lead-up to filming was almost as legendary as the tales he ultimately portrayed on screen.

“It was just crazy. It was madness,” Richelmy said of his intense six-week workouts, horse-riding, and archery regiment for the show. “I’m a smoker and I love to drink — I’m just a normal guy.”

But those aren’t even the most incredible things Richelmy took on for “Marco Polo” — the Italian actor actually learned English just for the role.

“If you see the show — we shot it chronologically — so it’s beautiful because at the beginning I was scared,” Richelmy said. “And now, if you see the stories, at the beginning, this guy talks this dirty English with a strong Italian accent. At the end of it, he’s pretty fluent, so it becomes sort of a strength for the character.”

Appropriately flanking Richelmy at the junket was Benedict Wong, who plays Kublai Khan — the ruler who oversees the 13th century China court that contained the legendary explorer’s adventures — on the series.

We asked both actors which other historical figures they would like to play if they had their druthers. Richelmy chose Leonidas, king of Sparta, who Gerard Butler portrayed in the “300” films.

Wong replied that he is just thrilled with his current role as Kublai Khan, grandson of Genghis Khan. And why not? The guy ruled over one-fifth of the entire known-world’s land mass during his reign — so that’s a pretty good gig.

The 10-episode first season of “Marco Polo” premieres Friday on Netflix.

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