“It’s much more of an interior drama. It’s much more about the looks thrown between men in darkened rooms,” reveals Damian Lewis about his role as King Henry VIII in the limited series “Wolf Hall.” The six-part program recently completed its run on the long-running PBS anthology series “Masterpiece.”
In our recent video chat (watch below), he admits, “Everytime anyone speaks they feel they’re on a knife’s edge; it could go either way. No one is sure of their career, of their head remaining in place as they do the bidding of this incredibly mercurial king.”
Lewis says the look and substance of “Wolf Hall” is more akin to “House of Cards” than “The Tudors.” It is based on two award-winning novels by Hilary Mantel, with the focus on the rise of royal advisor Thomas Cromwell (three-time Tony champ Mark Rylance) and his championing of a marriage between Henry and Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy) in the early 16th century. Director Peter Kosminsky filmed the lavish production in some of the finest British medieval and Tudor houses.
Known as one of the most vindictive of British rulers, who ordered the beheadings of two of his six wives, Henry VIII wanted to be known as one of the best. As Lewis explains, “More than anything, he just wanted to create the idea that he was at the head of the most fabulous court that had ever existed… There is certainly a great deal of vanity that comes with it, but it had a political purpose, too, which was to spread awe and wonder, and to see England at the top of the tree.”
Lewis won Best Drama Actor at the Emmys in 2012 for his work as the conflicted military hero Nicholas Brody on Showtime’s “Homeland.” He was killed off that series at the end of the third season. He will now be on the Emmy ballot as Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Wolf Hall” while Rylance will compete in the lead category.
Currently, Lewis is performing on the London stage with John Goodman in the David Mamet classic play “American Buffalo.” After that, he can next be seen in the limited series “To Appomattox” as Civil War General William T. Sherman. He then returns next year to a starring role at Showtime in the financial thriller series “Billions” opposite Paul Giamatti.
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