Dishonest or devoted? Sinner or saint? Traitor or trailblazer? These are the questions the trailer for the buzzy, controversial new period drama Anne Boleyn asks its audience to consider about the woman whose story most of us feel we already know.
The upcoming Channel 5 series has made waves ever since it announced it had cast Jodie Turner-Smith, a Black actress, in the role of the former Tudor queen. It's one of just a handful of times that a Black performer has played a major royal figure in this way. (The Hollow Crown's choice to cast Sophie Okonedo as Margaret of Anjou is probably the most recent example of similar production choice.)
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. If the new trailer is anything to go by, it appears to be the former, but truthfully we won't know until we watch for ourselves.
The clip features Anne declaring herself innocent during a public trial before rewinding through central moments in her life as queen, including one of her multiple miscarriages, her struggle to provide the king with a male heir, and the arrival of her hated rival Jane Seymour. (Spoiler alert: It looks great and Turner nails the peculiar mix of ferocity and vulnerability that we've all come to accept as hallmark's of Anne's story.)
The three-part series is set over the course of the five months leading up to Anne’s execution in 1536, and will re-examine the last weeks of her life as a sort of period psychological thriller, as she struggles to save herself from certain death at the hands of a man who once loved her, secure a future for her daughter and push back against the patriarchal society of Tudor England.
Game of Thrones alum Mark Stanley is King Henry, with Lola Petticrew as Jane Seymour and I May Destroy You breakout Paapa Essiedu as Anne's similarly doomed brother, George.
Anne Boleyn is slated to premiere on Channel 5 in the U.K. at some point this May, but it apparently does not yet have an American distributor. Given the buzz surrounding this series, it seems unlikely that will remain the case for long - but fingers crossed anyway. More on that as we have it.
What do you think of the look of this show? Let's discuss in the comments.