Masterpiece and the BBC have announced that filming will begin shortly on Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light, the second installment based on Booker Prize-winning author Hilary Mantel's critically acclaimed trilogy of novels. Rumors have swirled for the past few years that a second season of Wolf Hall was in the works, but the project was generally assumed to be on hold until Mantel finished the final book in the series, called The Mirror and the Light. With its completion and subsequent publication in 2020, it would appear the time to return to Cromwell's England is finally upon us.
Wolf Hall follows the story of Thomas Cromwell, a man who rose from working-class beginnings as a blacksmith's son to become one of the most powerful figures in the court of King Henry VIII. He was – among many other things - one of the primary architects of the Protestant Reformation in England, and largely responsible for both the dissolution of Henry’s marriage to Catherine of Aragon and the fall of Anne Boleyn several years later. He also negotiated Henry's infamously disastrous marriage to Anne of Cleves and presided over the dissolution of the monasteries, an act which saw all religious houses across England, Wales, and Ireland disbanded, made Henry a great deal of money by allowing him to dispose of their assets for his own gain, and tore a gaping hole in the social fabric of society by destroying a key source of charity for the old and infirm.
Despite all this, Mantel's novels are remarkably sympathetic to Cromwell, often in contrast to a literary and historical tradition that generally likes to set his determined scheming and naked ambition at odds with the quiet moral certainty of Sir Thomas More, who was ultimately canonized by the Catholic Church following his execution for refusing to acknowledge Henry's divorce. (It's hard to compete with a literal saint, after all.)
Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light reunites the creative team from the BAFTA and Golden Globe-winning first series. It will be directed by Peter Kosminsky (The Undeclared War), adapted for television by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), and produced by Playground (All Creatures Great and Small) and Company Pictures (Van Der Valk).
More importantly, it will also bring back the majority of the original cast as well. Stars Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) and Damian Lewis (A Spy Among Friends) are both reprising their roles as Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII, respectively, with Kate Phillips (Miss Scarlet & The Duke) as Henry VIII's third wife Jane Seymour, Jonathan Pryce (The Crown) as Cardinal Wolsey and Lilit Lesser (Domina) as Princess Mary, Henry's daughter with his first wife Catherine of Aragon.
The first season of Wolf Hall adapted the first two novels in Hilary Mantel's award-winning trilogy --- Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies --- and ended with Anne Boleyn's execution. The second will adapt the final installment, which covers the events of the last four years of Cromwell's life, until his own beheading in July of 1540.
“The Mirror and the Light picks up exactly where Wolf Hall ended, with the execution of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn," Kosminsky said in a statement. "I'm overjoyed to be able to reunite the extraordinary cast we were lucky enough to assemble for Wolf Hall, led by the brilliant Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis, with the original creative team of Gavin Finney (DOP), Pat Campbell (Designer) and Joanna Eatwell (Costume Designer). We are all determined to complete what we started – and to honor the final novel written by one of the greatest literary figures of our age, Hilary Mantel.”
Here's the series' description:
May, 1536. Anne Boleyn, Henry’s second wife, is dead. As the axe drops, Thomas Cromwell emerges from the bloodbath to continue his climb to power and wealth, while his formidable master, Henry, settles to short-lived happiness with his third queen, Jane Seymour.
Cromwell, a man with only his wits to rely on, has no great family to back him, and no private army. Navigating the moral complexities that accompany the exercise of power in this brutal and bloody time, Cromwell is caught between his desire to do what is right and his instinct to survive. But in the wake of Henry VIII having executed his queen, no one is safe.
Despite rebellion at home, traitors plotting abroad and the threat of invasion testing Henry’s regime to breaking point, Cromwell’s robust imagination sees a new country in the mirror of the future. All of England lies at his feet, ripe for innovation and religious reform. But as fortune’s wheel turns, Cromwell’s enemies are gathering in the shadows.
The inevitable question remains: how long can anyone survive under Henry’s cruel and capricious gaze?
“I am incredibly proud to bring Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light to Masterpiece and the American audience," Susanne Simpson, Executive Producer of Masterpiece said in a statement. "It is thrilling that such brilliant actors as Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis will reprise their roles for this final chapter of Thomas Cromwell’s story. The level of excellence on and off screen for this series is incomparable.”
Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light is a Playground and Company Pictures co-production for the BBC and Masterpiece. The series will be distributed internationally by Banijay Rights. The series is directed by Peter Kosminsky, adapted by Peter Straughan, and produced by Lisa Osborne. Executive Producers are Colin Callender and Noëlette Buckley for Playground, Kosminsky and Lucy Richer for the BBC, and Simpson for Masterpiece.
Filming on Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light is expected to begin soon across the U.K, with further casting news announced at a later date. Wolf Hall's first season is available to watch on the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel in the U.S. and on BBC iPlayer in the U.K.