EXCLUSIVE: Here’s a hot one: British model and Queen & Slim actress Jodie Turner-Smith is to play Anne Boleyn in a convention-defying Channel 5 drama made by the Sony-backed Stan & Ollie producer Fable Pictures.
Deadline can reveal that the ViacomCBS-owned broadcaster has commissioned a three-part series that will examine the downfall of Boleyn through the prism of a psychological thriller rather than a stuffy period drama retreading the demise of King Henry VIII’s second wife.
Penned by newcomer Eve Hedderwick Turner, the drama shines a feminist light on the final months of Boleyn’s life, re-imagining her struggle with Tudor England’s patriarchal society, her desire to secure a future for her daughter, Elizabeth, and the brutal reality of her failure to provide Henry with a male heir.
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Fable has assembled an eye-catching cast to star alongside Turner-Smith, who teamed with Daniel Kaluuya on racially-charged film Queen & Slim last year and has featured in TV shows including Jett and True Blood. Her co-stars include I May Destroy You’s breakout performer Paapa Essiedu. Amanda Burton (White House Farm), Thalissa Teixeira (Two Weeks To Live), Barry Ward (White Lines), and Jamael Westman (Hamilton) also feature.
Working titled Anne Boleyn, the series will be helmed by Deadwater Fell director Lynsey Miller. Fable founders Faye Ward and Hannah Farrell are the producers. Ward is no stranger to Boleyn’s story having produced the Natalie Portman/Scarlett Johansson feature The Other Boleyn Girl in 2008.
Sony Pictures Television is co-financing the project with Channel 5 and will distribute internationally. Historian Dan Jones, who has an overall deal with Sony, is an executive producer. Anne Boleyn was commissioned by Ben Frow, ViacomCBS’s director of programs in the UK, his deputy Sebastian Cardwell, and Sony’s international production president Wayne Garvie.
Frow first teased the project at the Edinburgh TV Festival in August and said Boleyn is his “favorite person in history” and is a big hit with Channel 5’s audience. “This project re-frames her story as a propulsive psychological thriller, told from a new perspective, with top talent like Jodie Turner-Smith attached. It was simply too irresistible to say no to,” he said.
Ward and Farrell added: “We feel that history has side-lined the voice of this ambitious Queen in favour of the men who brought her down, and that Lynsey Miller’s beautiful, intimate vision will put Anne’s gaze at the heart of the piece.” Turner-Smith continued: “Delving deeper into Anne Boleyn’s immense strengths while examining her fatal weaknesses and vulnerabilities, Eve’s scripts immediately captured my imagination.”
Anne Boleyn represents the latest step in Channel 5’s charge into drama. Deadline revealed last week that the network is teaming with Acorn TV for a Bertie Carvel-fronted adaptation of P.D. James’ best-selling Inspector Dalgliesh Mysteries, while we hear that a second season of All Creatures Great And Small is all-but a done deal. The Playground Entertainment veterinary drama became Channel 5’s highest-rated show since February 2016 when it premiered last month.