January 23, 2022

Jodie Turner-Smith on What Anne Boleyn, Meghan Markle, and Princess Diana All Have in Widespread

6 min read


Regardless of the smash success of Netflix’s Bridgerton and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s groundbreaking musical Hamilton, which each shattered tightly held concepts when it got here to casting individuals of shade in interval tasks, there was nonetheless some commotion when Jodie Turner-Smith was solid in a brand new miniseries as legendary Tudor queen Anne Boleyn.

However for British-born Turner-Smith, who’s Black, it was by no means about accepting the beforehand perceived off-limits function just because she might, however slightly as a result of it supplied an opportunity to reexamine the lifetime of a famously maligned and misunderstood lady.

“It’s not like, ‘Oh, I wish to simply play this historic determine who’s white as a result of I can,” Turner-Smith explains to The Day by day Beast, forward of the premiere of AMC+’s three-part miniseries Anne Boleyn on Dec. 9. “It’s actually extra so about what resonates with me is the story.”

“I’m glad that now there are extra alternatives for us to step into tales which can be based mostly in instances the place my individuals had been subjugated, however we’re really being supplied the chance to play roles by which we’re not [subjugated].”

Within the collection, Turner-Smith brilliantly performs a special sort of Boleyn in the course of the monarch’s short-lived reign. As an alternative of assembly the crafty younger courtesan as audiences usually do—as a younger, scheming seductress eyeing Queen Catherine of Aragon’s crown—Turner-Smith’s Boleyn is launched simply as her energy, affect, and bewitching maintain over King Henry VIII is slowly starting to slide away, finally resulting in her execution in ​​1536.

And whereas Turner-Smith’s Boleyn stored true to most of the royal’s famed attributes—haughty, bold, charming, intelligent, modern, and extremely jealous—the actress presents a softer and extra susceptible facet to the perceived imperious queen, particularly in the case of her function as a mom.

“I believe what was attention-grabbing to me is it was extra about humanizing [Boleyn], as an alternative of form of sensationalizing her,” Turner-Smith says. “We’re not simply saying she was this seductress and this scandalous lady, however extra about this one who had wishes and objectives and desires for herself, for her daughter, and that is what occurs when these issues begin to slip away from her.”

“The thought of exhibiting her sort of dropping grip is as a result of we’re making an attempt to inform a narrative about her humanity, about what loss and grief and concern did to her and what they imply.”

As a result of there are not any official diaries or letters straight from the palms of Boleyn, the varied accounts of her doomed life depart many blanks. So Turner-Smith and historian Dan Jones compiled their very own research about Boleyn, filling in these empty and muddled spots with their very own analysis so as to create a backstory for the queen.

“All official data that we have now of her had been written by folks that it was of their greatest curiosity to form of disparage her,” Turner-Smith says. “So it’s not surprising to me that she can be considered as anyone who solely [had] destructive attributes.”

Amongst Turner-Smith’s discoveries was how influential and clever Boleyn was, together with how she helped shift the nation’s tradition and was perhaps instrumental in the push for translating the Bible from Latin into English.

“She actually was really making an attempt to make it so that ladies had a seat on the desk and in order that she was allowed to be part of conversations about what was occurring,” Turner-Smith says. However, as historical past reveals, “whoever is form of the victor, the winner goes to report the story in the way in which that they suppose greatest advantages them. It does not essentially mirror the reality.”

It was in her seek for a more true understanding of Boleyn that Turner-Smith started to see the repeated patterns of how the British monarchy has stamped out ladies who challenged the established order.

Most not too long ago, there’s been ongoing scrutiny with how the monarchy handled Meghan Markle, who was introduced into the royal household’s fold when she married Prince Harry in 2018. The family had reportedly cautioned Harry against rushing into a relationship with Meghan—a Black, American, divorced former actress—and issues solely obtained rockier after the Duke and Duchess of Sussex famously determined to resign from their royal duties final yr.

A lady who’s highly effective, who’s pushing for change and is disrupting in any method, is taken into account a risk.

In a bombshell interview with Oprah in March, Meghan and Harry accused a member of the royal family of expressing concern about the color of their son Archie’s skin. The couple additionally stated they felt that they had no assist from the agency concerning the fixed torrent of destructive and racist press directed at Meghan, basically suggesting she grin and bear it. To make issues worse, Meghan was continually pitted towards her publicly adored sister-in-law, Kate Middleton.

Kristen Stewart’s acclaimed efficiency as Princess Diana in Spencer, which is already drawing Oscar buzz, additionally touches upon the concept of how the monarchy chews up and spits out ladies who problem the establishment. Within the movie, the ghost of Boleyn torments a struggling Diana as she painstakingly tries to push again towards a number of the royal household’s long-held traditions.

Whereas Turner-Smith says she hasn’t gotten round to watching Spencer simply but, she agrees that there are similarities in how Meghan, Diana, and Boleyn had been handled.

“That’s one other factor that made this story an interesting one to inform, that as an idea, this concept {that a} lady who gave the impression to be disruptive to the monarchy—what that meant for the individuals round her and the way that meant they wanted to try to destroy her and produce her down,” she explains.

Jodie Turner-Smith attends the Veuve Clicquot Polo Basic at Will Rogers State Historic Park on October 02, 2021, in Pacific Palisades, California.

Frazer Harrison/Getty

“I believe it’s a common idea. I believe we discover it with womankind the world over, a lady who’s highly effective, who’s pushing for change and is disrupting in any method, is taken into account a risk.”

“In immediately’s world—I imply, have a look at any lady in energy. Have a look at how Michelle Obama was handled, have a look at what individuals needed to say about Hillary Clinton. Anne Boleyn was not with out her flaws, however the way in which by which we deal with these ladies once they appear to be highly effective, and the way it then turns into society’s impetus to deliver them down, it is only a symptom of patriarchy.”

Certainly, Boleyn’s downfall might simply be chalked as much as the whims of the patriarchy, as her husband Henry VIII was fixated on having a son and rejected the concept both of his two daughters—Mary, from his first spouse, Queen Catherine, and Elizabeth, from Boleyn—might take the throne. Simply months after Boleyn miscarried a toddler, believed to be a son, she was discovered responsible of treason and beheaded.

“That’s why I wished to do the mission, as a result of it felt like such a contemporary idea,” Turner-Smith provides. “This concept of a lady who’s considered as an outsider due to the issues that she is making an attempt to do, and alter is a risk to the present patriarchy, and the way that makes individuals really feel the necessity to take her down and destroy.”



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