My year-long Wolf Hall Journey

“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 premieres 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 last January and is now coming full circle with our first rendezvous with Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII.

source: Damianista

My husband and I had front row seats for Richard III on a Saturday matinee. 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 performance as women was superb, too!

We were so captivated by the play by the end of the first half 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 just blown away by Hilary Mantel’s prose.


That’s why I got excited 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 overexcited.

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 friends. Damian would make the 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. Anton Lesser. Claire Foy. Joanne Whalley. And more. It felt more of 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 killing off 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 🙂

Summer was a lot of fun THANKS TO  @wolfhalldrama and @kosmoSFL (Peter Kosminsky) tweets that let us follow the different stages of filming as well as THANKS TO locals that spotted the production and the actors and tweeted about it. Ah, I love the power of social media!

Seeing King Henry VIII taking a selfie on the Wolf Hall set put a smile on everyone’s face!


And, my personal favorite was Damian Lewis buying a round of drinks for the locals at a Montacute pub.


We have now come full circle — a year after my Wolf Hall journey started — as the first episode of Wolf Hall hits our living rooms very soon, in fact, literally as my birthday gift!

It’s a date, Henry 🙂

Author: Damianista

Academic, Traveler, Blogger, Runner, Theatre Lover, Wine Snob, Part-time New Yorker, and Walking Damian Lewis Encyclopedia :D Procrastinated about a fan's diary on Damian Lewis for a while and the rest is history!

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