It may not be as steamy as The Tudors, but heads will still roll.
In the PBS Masterpiece six-hour miniseries Wolf Hall, Damian Lewis (Homeland) assumes the royal garb of infamous 16th-century English monarch Henry VIII for the television adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s acclaimed historical novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies. Set during Henry’s reign in the years from 1529-35, the story is told from the perspective of his chief adviser, Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance), who finds a political adversary in eventual queen Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy).
“Henry really bestrides it as a presence,” Lewis says of Wolf Hall. “The real drama is between these two and how they are negotiating the halls of power and trying to give this capricious king what he wants.”
Lewis savors the challenge of adding a new dimension to an oft-portrayed figure who, Lewis says, “isn’t simply the syphilitic, philandering Elvis that people have tended to think he is.” Lewis says. “Actually, he was a more complex man than that and needed these two great lieutenants in his life — Wolsey initially and then Cromwell — needed them for the minutia, the detail of governance, everyday governance, because he liked to go hunting, you know. So I hope we’ll see a more rounded picture of him.”
“Henry VIII as a brand is right up there with Coca‑Cola,” Lewis says. “So in terms of brand recognition, you have to go looking for different things. And I think we have.”
Photo: Courtesy of Giles Keyte/Playground & Company Pictures for MASTERPIECE/BBC