Anne Boleyn star hits back at criticism over ‘dull’ Channel 5 drama

Anne Boleyn: Jodie Turner-Smith stars in Channel 5 trailer

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Last month, Channel 5 aired its three-part drama on Henry VIII’s (played by Mark Stanley) second wife, Anne Boleyn (Jodie Turner-Smith). The channel caused quite a stir when they announced a black actress would be taking on the role of historical white figure Queen Anne Boleyn in the dramatisation of the modern thriller. Although many viewers praised Jodie for her leading role, others weren’t so happy with the choice of casting. Some viewers also spotted “inaccuracies” with the Queen’s behaviour and accused the star of “butchering the role”. However, one of Jodie’s co-star’s, Paapa Essiedu has since spoken out about the backlash as he admitted they received more positive feedback than negative.

Anne Boleyn was beheaded by her husband King Henry VIII after their marriage fell apart.

Anne, Henry’s second wife, was found guilty of high treason by a jury of her peers in the King’s Hall at the Tower on May 15, 1536.

She was thought to have been 35 years old at the time of her execution after she had been charged with having sexual relationships with five courtiers.

The Channel 5 series followed the final months of Anne’s life as she tried to establish a future for her daughter.

Paapa, who starred as Anne Boleyn’s brother in the Channel 5 series, spoke with at the 25th Anniversary South Bank Sky Arts Awards on Monday about the criticism.

“People have the right to respond to it whatever way they wish,” the actor began.

“We know the reason that we made that show.

“And actually, way more people responded positively than negatively so that’s what we focus on.”

After the first episode aired, viewers took to social media to share their thoughts on the drama.

One viewer penned: “I could accept Jodie Turner-smith #AnneBoleyn as a way for the younger generation to take an interest in history they might not before but having her kiss Jane Seymour and too many inaccurate events that never took place is too much, have at least some historical accuracy in it.”

Another wrote: “Channel 5 have absolutely butchered the character of #AnneBoleyn and I’m furious.”

A third raged: “#AnneBoleyn This isn’t very good. They’ve made an interesting woman rather dull.” (sic)


While some aired their frustration over the inaccuracies, others were thrilled to see Jodie play the Queen.

One viewer praised: “Jodie is phenomenal as #AnneBoleyn. Adoring the fact old Henry is basically a supporting character and the storylines focus on how Anne and the women of the time felt.”

Another said: “This is interesting. Telling the story from Anne’s point of view, from within the women’s circles, talking about women’s lives. Makes a nice change to have Henry as a supporting character, not the lead. #AnneBoleyn.”

Despite the backlash from viewers, Henry VIII star Mark Stanley defended the producer’s decision to cast Jodie as the Queen.



He revealed the actress has a “lot in common” with the former Queen.

 “Jodie has a lot in common with Anne Boleyn. She’s a strong, opinionated, scarily intelligent person,” the actor explained.

“She was also bringing up a young child at the time that we were on set, and she’s quite awe-inspiring really. If you put that all in a box, actually, it’s very similar indeed.

“It was all about this being the right person for the job, rather than what we as a society might perceive as the ‘right look’ for the job.”

He continued to “Anne Boleyn was beautiful, witty, vibrant, intelligent and Jodie is all of those things.”

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