"Although it's a story about people who lived 500 years ago, it's a story that's every bit as relevant to the world we live in today," says Colin Callender, executive producer of the miniseries "Wolf Hall," which is nominated for eight Emmys, including Best Limited Series.
The miniseries, based on two historical novels by Hilary Mantel, tells the story of the reign of King Henry VIII (Damian Lewis), but from the perspective of his adviser, Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance). That's part of what appealed to Callender about this story. He explains, "A character who's normally a two-dimensional villain lurking in the wings in most stories about the Tudors, this character is put center stage, and you look at the world from a completely different point of view."
He adds of his morally compromised protagonist that "in many ways, this character is Frank Underwood [in 'House of Cards']. He could be Walter White in 'Breaking Bad.' Like so many contemporary characters on television at the moment, he's a very complex man. He's not your traditional hero, nor is he a villain at all."
"Wolf Hall" isn't Callender's first brush with Emmy success. Far from it. He won Best Limited Series for "The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby" in 1983, and recently he served as the president of HBO films during a period in which he oversaw Emmy-winning projects including "Recount," "Angels in America" and "John Adams." "It was a very exciting time," he says of his prolific tenure. "It was before the advent of Netflix and Amazon and Hulu. HBO was the insurgent running around all the incumbents … What we learned was the idea that you could tell smart and intelligent stories and still be entertaining, still embrace the showbiz of it all."
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Photo: Colin Callender at "Lucky Guy" opening night. Credit: BEI/REX