Get ready for a Tudor thriller: new drama Anne Boleyn tells the story of the tragic queen like never before
Various historical records suggest that Anne Boleyn was a witch with six fingers on her right hand, a temptress, an incestuous lover and at the very least a ‘difficult’ woman.
One thing that’s never been suggested is that she was black – but that hasn’t stopped a luscious new Channel 5 drama starring an actress of color for a “ progressive retelling ” of the tragic queen’s story.
Jodie Turner-Smith, recently featured in the hit movie Queen & Slim, plays Anne in the three-part drama Anne Boleyn, with Brazilian actress Thalissa Teixeira, from TV’s The Musketeers, as her cousin and lady-in-waiting Madge Shelton and I May Destroy You’s Paapa Essiedu cast as her brother George.
Jodie Turner-Smith (photo) plays Anne in the three-part drama Anne Boleyn
The new Channel 5 drama promises a ‘progressive retelling’ of the tragic queen’s story from Anne’s perspective. (Pictured: Jodie as Anne with Barry Ward as Thomas Cromwell)
When we first see Anne, she celebrates the death of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, and has been married to Henry VIII for a few years (played by Mark Stanley, pictured right)
The movement is coined ‘color-conscious casting’, which implies awareness that the accepted standard is being ignored, unlike the previous trend for ‘color-blind casting’ where variety is not specified or considered during the casting process.
“To me the term means that you are aware that it is not historically correct,” Thalissa says. “It’s been happening in the theater since the 1960s, and it’s strange that we can suspend our disbelief in front of the stage more than we think we can in film and TV.”
Jodie Turner-Smith believes the cast will have more appeal to modern audiences. ‘Each actor brings his individuality to the table. If you normally stay away from period dramas because they feel stuffy, then this is for you. ‘
What is undeniable is that Henry VIII’s second wife, beheaded in 1536, suffered from misogyny after failing to give him the male heir he longed for.
But this show tells the story from Anne’s perspective and aims to show that she was a highly intelligent queen who paved the way for her daughter, Elizabeth I, to become one of our most important rulers. Here the cast reveals what’s in store …
JOY GETS PANIC
It is designed as a ‘thriller’ as it counts down the panic-stricken five months until Anne’s execution (photo: Madge Shelton and Lady Anne Shelton on the chopping block with Anne Boleyn)
The three-part drama is styled as a ‘thriller’ as it counts down the panicky five months to Anne’s execution. When we first see her, she celebrates the death of Henry’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon, by throwing a party.
“At the beginning of our story, Anne is quite confident,” explains writer Eve Hedderwick Turner.
She’s been married to Henry for a few years: she’s had a few botched pregnancies, but a successful one with Elizabeth. When we meet her, she is pregnant again, Catherine has just passed away, and Anne is confident that she will give birth to a boy who will secure her rightful place on the throne. ‘
After Anne miscarries, the king has her arrested on false charges of adultery, incest and treason. Madge Shelton was with Anne when she went to the block.
“It was terribly sad to say up there,” This woman was decapitated because of a probably made-up affair, “said Thalissa Teixeira. “There were ghosts in the air that day.”
HIGH POINTS AT THE COURT OF KING HENRY
The show offers a high-stakes romance as bridesmaid Jane Seymour (pictured left, played by Lola Petticrew) draws King Henry’s roving gaze
Henry’s wandering eye is a constant problem, especially with bridesmaid Jane Seymour, and Anne has to play all kinds of games to keep his interest.
At one point, she even persuades her cousin Madge to sleep with Henry to keep him sexually satisfied, thinking, ‘better the devil you know’.
“What’s interesting about our show is that it’s told through the female gaze and the men are side characters,” said Lola Petticrew, who plays Jane Seymour.
‘The women tried to keep their place in court, but the great thing about our version is that you get the feeling that they are playing the game, it’s not just pawns.
Jane is seen on the surface as subdued, but below that she’s planning and playing the long game. She can see that Henry is disgusted by Anne’s great passionate displays, so even after Anne’s death, when Jane became queen, she forbade parties and started embroidering to keep him. She’s not that nice, but I think that was on purpose! The women’s position was so precarious and if you fell out of favor, the alternative was the pork chop, so it was a high bet. ‘
Jodie says it’s an all too familiar story. “The ‘other woman’ thinks the peculiarity they feel at first will protect them from the rest of that relationship, but the reality is, like many men, Henry was faithless.”
ANNE THE DEDICATED MOTHER
Anne Boleyn’s maternal instinct is one of the main subjects of the show, and Jodie reveals that this resonated with her becoming a mother herself, just five months before taking on the role.
One of the main topics of the show is Anne Boleyn’s maternal instinct, and it was this aspect that had particular relevance to Jodie, who became a mother herself just five months before taking on the role. She is married to The Affair actor Joshua Jackson and gave birth to daughter Janie in April last year.
“When I read the story, the biggest thing that struck me was how this was about Anne as a mother,” she says.
How she tried to manipulate her circumstances to protect her daughter, and how her inability to provide an heir affected her own life and viability as a queen. As a mother, there was so much about it that resonated with me.
There is a lot about Anne’s legend that people believe – that she was a witch or that she had an incestuous relationship with her brother. I think we’ve seen her life largely through the people around her, but this time we’re trying to tell a more human story about this figure who was really just a woman trying to survive in her time. What her body was capable of was more important than who she was and how she felt. In many ways it resembles the experiences women still have in the world. ‘
IT’S FUN TO PLAY A PRINCESS
The cast were happy to put up with the cold on set in Yorkshire, not least because it was an excuse to dress up. The women wear heavy, brightly colored dresses, often with the fashionable hoods that Anne brought from France.
She was educated there and served Queen Claude for years before returning to England at the age of 21.
“Loved the costumes, the hair … everything,” says Jodie. “I think it was Jack Nicholson who said, ‘Let the wardrobe act,’ and there’s something magical about putting on these clothes. We are all products of a society that has glorified the idea of being a princess and I’m not immune to that, so I threw myself into it. It was absolutely fun! ‘
The cast says someone at the filming locations, Bolton Castle in Yorkshire (pictured) where Mary Queen of Scots was held in 1568, felt haunted and things would shift around her bedroom.
The cast says some filming locations had a haunted feel, most notably Bolton Castle in Yorkshire, where Mary Queen of Scots was held in 1568.
Thalissa Teixeira says she and Amanda Burton, who takes on the role of Madge’s mother Lady Anne Shelton, felt like the castle was haunted.
“Things are said to be shifting in Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom,” Thalissa says. During filming, babies on set didn’t stop crying. Thomas Cromwell had been there too. It was fascinating. ‘
Paapa Essiedu, who is cast as Anne Boleyn’s brother, George, says he also experienced strange things while filming. One day a peregrine falcon flew into the room. I thought it was a joke. It had somehow walked up the stairs, which was really weird. ‘
Anne Boleyn starts Tuesday, 9pm, Channel 5.