Henry VIII is a monster, but he’s our monster. We’re perversely proud of Henry. -Hilary Mantel
Tell me… what are the odds your favorite actor plays your favorite historical monster in a mini-series based on your favorite book? I know 🙂 And, not just that, but the mini-series had its world premiere on BBC2 on January 21 — literally as my birthday gift! A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!
I have had this amazing journey with Wolf Hall. It started on a sunny and cold Saturday afternoon in New York City at the Belasco Theater in January 2014 and is now coming full circle at Prime Time Emmy Awards on September 20 with me getting glued to TV rooting for Wolf Hall and in particular Damian Lewis for them to turn those well-deserved 8 nominations into beautiful little statuettes 🙂
My husband and I had front row seats for Richard III on a Saturday matinee in January 2014. We were so looking forward to seeing then two-time now three-time Tony winner Mark Rylance, arguably the best Shakespearean stage actor we have today. And he did not disappoint. Not a bit. Rylance’s performance was mesmerizing that he created a tragic but equally funny Richard. The Shakespeare’s Globe production was brilliant also because it was staged in the same way that it would have been in Shakespeare’s time. All actors on stage were men. And their performances as women were superb, too!
We were so captivated by the play that during the intermission my husband said: “We should read and watch more about the history of England” which made me think about Wolf Hall, Hilary Mantel’s Man Booker Prize award winning book about the meteoric rise of Thomas Cromwell in the court of Henry VIII. The book had been sitting in my pile of unread books for a couple of years now. I started reading Wolf Hall a few days later, and just a few chapters into it, I was completely sold. Wolf Hall was not another “juicy” Tudor novel. No, it was not The Other Boleyn Girl. Not even close. Wolf Hall was dark. Wolf Hall was smart. Wolf Hall was utterly political. Wolf Hall had some of the best lines I had ever read in a book — and I read A LOT. Moreover, this dark and political book had the BEST sense of humor I had ever seen in years in a book. I was simply blown away by Hilary Mantel’s prose.
That’s why I got overexcited when I found out about the upcoming BBC production of Wolf Hall in which none other than Mark Rylance would portray Thomas Cromwell! In fact, BBC waited for him for over a year so that he could finish his run with the Twelfth Night and Richard III on Broadway before filming Wolf Hall. And, add Peter Kosminsky, a director known for his contemporary political dramas such as Warriors, The Government Inspector and The Promise as well as for his love of politics, and yes, I admit, I now got a little bit too excited.
They started filming in April, but there was no Henry VIII to be seen yet — even though I had a particular Henry in my mind. I read a lot and always assign actors to characters to create some familiarity, and I really thought of Damian Lewis for Henry VIII and bragged about it to my husband as well as to my friends. Damian would make PERFECT Henry just because he has this ability to give a monster some compelling human touch.
Me being me, I tweeted to Peter Kosminsky and asked about Henry… And, he very kindly got back to me… only to tell me that I had to wait and see 🙂
So, I just kept waiting with all fingers crossed!
BBC made the BIG cast announcement early May: Mark Rylance. Damian Lewis. Jonathan Pryce. Mark Gatiss. Anton Lesser. Claire Foy. Joanne Whalley. And more. It felt more like a fantasy casting than a real one. I could not ask for more. And, it was probably the only moment I thought about calling Alex Gansa to thank him for what he did to my Brody 🙂
Haha, and by the way, a friend of mine told me that she seriously believed I had some superpowers over the casting decisions. Hilarious — move over Nina Gold 🙂
The summer shoot was a lot of fun THANKS TO @wolfhalldrama and @kosmoSFL (Peter Kosminsky) tweets that let us follow the different stages and locations of filming and THANKS TO locals that spotted the production and the actors! Gotta love the power of social media!
Highlights included King Henry VIII taking a selfie on Wolf Hall set…
Henry VIII buying a round of drinks for locals at a Montacute pub…
And the “codpieces” creating a little controversy on the way 🙂
The Telegraph reports what Damian Lewis said when asked about wearing a codpiece at the Silent Storm Premiere at the BFI London Film Festival:
“The 43-year-old actor raised eyebrows in the summer, when filming the drama on location at Chastleton House in Oxfordshire, wearing an enormous red codpiece.
Lewis said: “I’m glad to say I didn’t suffer from wilting codpiece and Henry was fully functional at all times, being the slightly, erratic, unpredictable king that he was. A fabulous, fabulous part to play.”
Well, here is THAT infamous pic for you 🙂
Oh, and when Damian guest-hosted Have I got News For You last fall on BBC, this very pic was the Caption Competition!
Watch this clip, it’s extremely FUNNY!
And I knew I would have so much FUN during Wolf Hall TV run, but even the ever enthusiastic me did not expect this much…
Wolf Hall brought us a mini-series that is one of the best, if not the best, one that ever happened to TV… which alone makes one very happy… And, add to that: me reading the books all over again, this time with my husband, in parallel with the series, live-tweeting with incredible twitter partners during the Wolf Hall PBS run, sleepless but incredibly FUN nights writing episode recaps as well as tons of other essays on different aspects of Wolf Hall — hey, if you want an overdose that would not kill you but make you indulge yourself in the world of Wolf Hall, feel free to click here — at the last count, we had 80+ posts with Wolf Hall tag on it 🙂 Ah, the wonderful feeling of having overdone it 😀
Now… more than a year and a half after my FUN journey has started, we have stakes at the Emmys with Wolf Hall scoring eight nominations. I am simply psyched that Wolf Hall is recognized by the Television Academy in every category — including acting, directing, writing, casting and costume design!
Prime Time Emmy Awards is an important event for me; not just because I will be cheering for my favorite actor, but also because it marks the third anniversary of me meeting Damian Lewis on TV for the first time 😀 So… it’s special 🙂 On that very day, I had no clue about Damian Lewis or Homeland. But, this time, I will be rooting for the entire Wolf Hall team and in particular for Damian to get that lady home like he did before because he truly deserves it.
Best of Luck!