In saga: a moral man who gives in to the slow seduction of power and politics, all in the name of family loyalty. No — it's my first big mainstream American project.With the season finale coming up on Sunday (the cast starts shooting season two in July), Vulture spoke to Arnaud about the depths of Cesare's darkness, his strangely appealing flirtations with his onscreen sister, and his fake audition with Jeremy Irons. I was in a crappy TV movie a couple years ago, and I've done some English-language theater. When you were auditioning for the show, did you know that Cesare was the part you wanted? There's something really dangerous about the guy, but I don't know, I felt him from the inside. I think you just have to be honest about it and be willing to explore that.

It’s claimed by historians that he “bought the largest number of votes”, while his rival, Ascanio Sforza, was “bribed with four mule-loads of silver”. Rodrigo is played by Jeremy Irons, one of Britain’s best screen actors, who, in perfect understatement, describes this rather rollicking drama as “an interesting story”. It was a whole different ball game.” His character, Rodrigo Borgia, was undoubtedly larger than life and is determined to prove himself: “He was a man with great appetite, a Spaniard with a great love for food, women, power and for life.

He explains further: “It’s about a family with a familiar name but many people won’t really know much about them. There are huge complications and inconsistencies in this character and that’s always interesting when you find someone who lives his life in a certain way.

It’s a very fascinating period in European history where Italy was a ferment of small nation-states and the Papacy was very rocky. He was a man of excess and liked to take everything to the nth degree. “He was a wonderful church organiser and a man who adored ceremony and procession and the theatrical side of the Christian religion and he saw the value of it. He was a man of God and a man who adored his children.” Irons’s career on television is rather sparse but it does include his starring and unforgettable role as Charles Ryder, the disillusioned Army captain, in the classic Brideshead Revisited.

The Borgias were an immigrant family from Spain who were clawing their way up to a position of power.” The family also happened to be cutthroat and ruthless. Few productions have ever matched the ITV series for its scale or ambition.

Irons, who is married to actress Sinéad Cusack, also appeared recently in a Terry Pratchett adaptation on Sky1. “One reason was that Neil Jordan was helming,” he says.

“He was writing, producing and directing some of it.

He directs film too so I thought we would have a real chance here.

Showtime, the US cable channel which made the series, gave us great facilities.

“A couple of things I filmed have been put out on Showtime. I know that they take enormous care over their productions and sell them very well and a lot of people see them.