Channel 5 Anne Boleyn: Otley actor Mark Stanley to star as King Henry VIII in new historical drama

An actor from Otley is set to star in Channel 5's new historical thriller Anne Boleyn.

Tuesday, 25th May 2021, 6:34 am
Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn, Mark Stanley as Henry VIII. PA Photo/ViacomCBS Networks International.

Mark Stanley, will be playing King Henry VIII, in the new three part drama, which focuses on the Anne Boleyn s final months from her point of view.

Anne Boleyn was the second wife of Henry VII and was beheaded in the Tower of London.

She was also the mother of Queen Elizabeth I, who would later take the crown.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Written by newcomer Eve Hedderwick Turner, and directed by Lynsey Miller, Anne Boleyn is a psychological thriller with female voices at the heart of it.

The production team and cast worked closely with historian Dan Jones throughout the process. But when delving into such iconic historical figures, what sort of pressure did they feel?

“I’d imagine some people might start watching The Tudors or Wolf Hall, and [think] ‘How can I emulate that?’” notes Stanley, who went to Prince Henry's Grammar School.

“Although I was aware of those projects, and had seen them, I stayed quite disciplined about staying away from them.”

Expanding on how he approached playing Henry, Stanley continues: “You’ve got to think that he’s you and, in that respect, the pressure dissipates the more empathy you build for him.”

The most challenging part for the actor – who has had roles in dramas such as Game Of Thrones and White House Farm – was getting his head around Henry’s perspective towards Anne, in order to play the part truthfully.

“It’s quite hard bending your mind to think of someone as totally replaceable, someone who is a second-class citizen, someone who is basically put there as a pawn, from their family, to bridge the relationship of their family and the crown,” he elaborates.

Jodie Turner-Smith, of Queen & Slim fame, will take on the title role of Anne Boleyn.

She said: "The biggest thing that jumped out to me was how this was a story about mothers.

“[It’s about] Anne as a mother and how she was trying to manipulate her circumstances in order to protect her children, how her ability to provide an heir affected her own life and viability as a Queen, and how she manipulated her rivals’ children in order to get what she needed.

“As a mother, there was just so much about this that resonated with me.”

Another major character is Jane Seymour – portrayed by rising Northern Irish star Petticrew – who went on to marry the King just 11 days after Anne’s death.

“When we first see Jane, it’s five months before Anne’s murder, and there’s a sense that maybe things aren’t what they seem in that relationship, and that Henry’s getting a bit fed up,” suggests Petticrew, who has recently appeared in BBC series Bloodlands and Three Families.

“Jane Seymour sees an opportunity and starts gearing up to take it.”

Compared to previous portrayals, this is a much more human story about Anne who, as Turner-Smith points out, was “a woman before her time” in many ways.

“Anne was trying to push culture forward – she was interested in art and science and she felt like religion should be a much more personal and private experience for people, which was different to what the Catholic Church was doing at the time.

“Our telling of the story really focuses on Anne’s desires in that context as a modern woman, and how who she was, how she thought and what she was trying to do was really quite feminist.”

Anne Boleyn will air over three consecutive nights on Channel 5 from Tuesday, June 1