It’s the beginning of the end for The Tudors as the hit historical drama begins its fourth and final season on Showtime (HD) April 11.
When we left court at the end of Season 3, Henry (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) had just annulled his marriage to Anne of Cleves. Then he took his ire out on his closest adviser, Thomas Cromwell, and had him executed for arranging the failed marriage. And Henry had just taken a liking to Katherine Howard, a young woman with a questionable past and a short future.
For Season 4, Joely Richardson joins the cast in the coveted role of Henry’s sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr, the only one who “survives” Henry. “Catherine Parr was different because she had already been married twice before Henry proposed to her,” says Michael Hirst, Tudors creator, writer and executive producer. “She was still relatively young, but unlike Henry’s previous wife, Katherine Howard, who was a teenager, she was a mature and intelligent woman.” It would take a special actress to take on the highly sought-after role. “There’s a particular intrigue about the woman who finally outwitted and outlasted the monster that Henry became,” Hirst says. “The Tudors has showcased many great actresses who have played Henry’s wives at different stages of his life, from Maria Doyle Kennedy to Natalie Dormer to Joss Stone to Tamzin Merchant, and it became obvious we would need to cast a final actress who could not only live with her predecessors onscreen but possibly also upstage them. Add to that the fact that Joely Richardson comes from a background of stage and screen royalty, and you have the perfect solution to a difficult and coveted role.”
While The Tudors has portrayed Henry as a young and virile king for much of three seasons, we now find his mental and physical health failing, and him becoming increasingly cruel and tyrannical. “[Henry] has come a long way from the young and idealistic monarch we first met,” Hirst says, “and yet he still keeps his fierce grip on our attention because he continues to have the power of life and death over those around him. In other words, you don’t always have to be attractive and good to be the charismatic lead in a television series, as anyone familiar with The Sopranos will know.”
While fans may mourn the end of The Tudors, Hirst and Showtime are moving on to another famous family in the upcoming historical drama series The Borgias, expected to bow in 2011. Hirst will write and co-executive produce the series, which stars Jeremy Irons. “It’s not a history lesson, but we’ll take you back to Renaissance Italy and we’ll show you how these infamous historical characters actually relate to you and me,” Hirst says. “Which is to say, after all, that they are human beings and, even in their excesses, they remain human — and that ‘history,’ so called, is really here and now.”