Jodie Turner-Smith has grown—deservedly—comfortable with a crown. The actress, whose turn as Queen in Melina Matsoukas’s Queen and Slim earned her widespread critical acclaim, is taking it back a few centuries to play the infamous Tudor queen Anne Boleyn in three-part psychological drama Anne Boleyn for the English broadcaster Channel 5.
Boleyn is one of the most popular and debated figures in all of British history, the Queen of England from 1533 to 1536 and the second wife of King Henry VIII. Her spectacular death by beheading serves as only one of several colorful moments in her complicated marriage—she was also delightfully accused of treason and, mayhaps, witchcraft.
“We can only infer who she was, because she left no paper trail that would hint at her imagination. She’s endlessly fascinating for that reason,” Turner-Smith told ELLE for her January digital cover story. Turner-Smith hopes to “tell the story of the woman who sits at the center of the myth, and make that story an accessible one—one that’s not entirely about class, but about humanity. Because whether a woman is a queen or a housekeeper, she is not exempt from any of the challenges and trials that women face in navigating their bodies, love, or the patriarchy.” She added, “There’s an opportunity to tell a really human story and for it to feel that much more accessible because a Black woman is playing her.”
Turner-Smith will be the first Black woman to take on the role; previous actresses to take on the role include Vanessa Redgrave, Helena Bonham Carter, Natalie Dormer, Natalie Portman, and Claire Foy.
The Channel 5 series will focus primarily on Boleyn’s final months, during which she fights for the future of her young daughter—the future Queen Elizabeth I. Per Variety, the show is set to debut later this year in the U.K. No word yet on when it’s headed to the U.S.
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