Netflix is no stranger to original programming, even original programming with a historical angle; but its recent epic series, Marco Polo, is the most production-intensive historical drama to premiere on the service in its entire history. The series focuses on the famous explorer Marco Polo, who spent several years living at the court of Kublai Khan; the show’s focus on court politics, which could be secretive and even brutal, has led to some critics describing it as “Netflix’s Game of Thrones.” The show was well received enough to garner a second season, which is expected to air sometime in late 2015 or early 2016.
If you haven’t yet started watching Marco Polo, there is no better time to start! But first, take a look at some interesting things you should really know about this epic series.
The show was originally developed by the Starz network, which officially picked up the series all the way back in 2012. The original plan was to film the series in China; however, this proved too expensive and time-consuming–possibly due to the strict filming and content regulations required by media that films in China–and the project was dropped. Starz released the series to the Weinstein Company, where it was eventually picked up by Netflix.
The first season of Marco Polo cost a whopping $90 million to produce, or $9 million per episode. The original budget for the series was $5 million for each episode, however, the budget was nearly doubled by Netflix.
To put this production cost into context, the first season of Game of Thrones cost about $60 million to make.
One of the reasons for the high budget may be the fact that the series is filmed almost exclusively on location. The show has been filmed in Venice, Italy; Kazakhstan; and Malaysia. The Malaysian scenes were the location of Kublai Khan’s court. According to the show’s creator, John Fusco, it took 9 months to finish filming in Malaysia. These 9 months were reportedly difficult due to the extreme heat, which sometimes reached as high as 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
Joan Chen plays Chabi, the empress consort of Kublai Khan, who was not only his favorite wife but his unofficial advisor. Chabi was one of Marco Polo’s benefactors during his time at court and, in addition to her work advancing the interests of Marco Polo, she is credited with promoting actions that appeased the Chinese people and nobles that her husband had conquered. Among her many credited actions, she actively suggested that the Chinese imperial family be treated well, helped prevent Chinese farmland from being converted into Mongol-style pastures, and promoted Chinese Buddhism to high ranking Mongol government officials.
To prepare for this important role, Chen read several books, including The Secret History of the Mongol Queens by Jack Weatherford. When you purchase XFINITY broadband offers, you can stream Marco Polo on Netflix.