May 12, 2014

Damian Lewis set to play Henry VIII in Mantel adaptation


Damian Lewis will play King Henry VIII in a BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Wolf Hall. Via Wikimedia Commons.

Damian Lewis will play King Henry VIII in a BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall.
Via Wikimedia Commons.

Hilary Mantel’s award-winning series of novels about Thomas Cromwell are getting the big adaptation treatment from the BBC, and as of last week, they’ve found their royal actor: Damian Lewis, best- and most recently known for his role as Nicholas Brody on the (sometimes) acclaimed television series Homeland.

Lacey Rose writes for the Hollywood Reporter that Lewis has signed on to play Henry VIII of England in a miniseries based on the first book in a series that Mantel plans to be a trilogy—the Man Booker Prize-winning Wolf Hall, which is succeeded by Bring Up the Bodies, and the upcoming The Mirror and the Light, due out next year. Mantell’s historical novels take place in the sixteenth century and follow the story of lawyer Thomas Cromwell, ruthless lawyer and minister to Henry VIII during the years of the English Reformation and the various dramas surrounding the king’s marital life.

Now, spoilerphobia is  a stupid thing to have, but it exists, so: consider this fair warning to be prepared from this point forward for possible spoilers regarding Homeland and the Tudor dynasty.

First things first: Brody dies in the third season of Homeland. He’d dead, and Claire Danes will have to find something else to inspire her rubbery crying face. That’s at least part of the reason that Lewis is free to film a new show where, instead of being an occasionally-emo-styled terrorist, he’ll play a hot-tempered king prone to decapitating folk. In a bit of crossover kismet, Homeland’s network Showtime previously had its own warmly-received series called The Tudors, but most of the actors involved are busy with other projects and unlikely to be available, even if the producers of Wolf Hall wanted them: Natalie Dormer (Anne Boleyn) is still playing a queen, albeit a fictional one in a fictional place, on Game of Thrones; Henry Cavill (Charles Brandon) is presumably occupied with the next Superman movie; and Maria Doyle Kennedy (Catherine of Aragon) is busy being a shotgun-toting badass on Orphan Black.

Instead, Lewis joins Mark Rylance (playing Cromwell) on the cast of Wolf Hall, as well as Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn, Joanne Whalley as Catherine of Aragon, and Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Thomas Wolsey. Oscar-nominated screenwriter Peter Straughan is adapting the 600-something-page novel for the small screen, which will air on BBC2 in the UK and PBS in the US.


Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.