The three-part series aims to re-examine the final months of the infamous queen's life as a sort of period psychological thriller, as Anne struggles to save herself from certain death at the hands of a man who once loved her, secure a future for her daughter, Princess Elizabeth, and push back against the patriarchal society of Tudor England.
Anne Boleyn has long been a fascinating figure in history and pop culture, thanks to her love affair with King Henry VIII and the tragedy surrounding her death. But Anne was also a woman ahead of her time in may ways, with an avid love of learning and a dedicated zeal for religious reform that helped bring the Protestant faith to power in England.
“She challenged the norms in a period when women were treated as objects and mistresses," Turner-Smith told British Vogue. "She demanded a seat at the table, and she loved hard – and of course, she’s been depicted by history as this incestuous, six-fingered Jezebel as a result."
This particular Anne Boleyn has already attracted its fair share of controversy thanks to his casting of Turner-Smith, marking one of just a handful of times in which a Black actor has played a major royal figure in this way.
The real Anne was the Queen of England from 1533 to 1536, achieving the throne after a wildly controversial courtship that saw Henry VIII put aside his wife of nearly twenty-five years and break with the Catholic Church in order to be with her. Their tempestuous relationship ultimately ended in Anne's execution, after she was accused of crimes ranging from adultery to witchcraft. She was beheaded when her daughter - and the future queen - Elizabeth was just two years old.
She was also, of course, historically a white woman, and it's unclear whether this new Channel 5 drama will directly address the idea of Anne as a Black woman within the story, or if it's simply a colorblind casting choice that will otherwise follow the beats of the story of Anne as we otherwise know it.
The snippet of footage revealed in the new series is certainly much briefer than most of us would like and, unfortunately, doesn't contain any dialogue. And yet, Turner-Smith's face is remarkably dynamic in the few moments we're allowed to see, depicting an Anne that's clearly in emotional turmoil but trying to hold it together.
"There's a new queen in town," the teaser declares, quoting a response to the show from critics, and further hyping the series as an unprecedented take on arguably Henry VIII's most famous wife.
I May Destroy You star Paapa Essiedu will play Anne's similarly doomed brother George Boleyn, Game of Thrones' Mark Stanley will play Henry VIII, and Dating Amber's Lola Petticrew will play Anne's rival Jane Seymour, who eventually becomes Henry's third wife.
The three-episode series is written by newcomer Eve Hedderwick Turner and directed by Deadwater Fell's Lynsey Miller.
The show wrapped production in Yorkshire last year and is set to premiere in the U.K. on Channel 5 at some point in 2021. There's no word yet on how it might cross the pond to our screens, but the buzz surrounding this show makes it seem extremely likely that an American distributor will inevitably pick it up. More on that as we find it.
What do you think of Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn? Let's discuss in the comments.