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TV return is fit for a king; STEVE HENDRY Homeland star Damian Lewis has left the hard days of disgraced soldier Brody behind to embrace the much more opulent life of Henry VIII in Wolf Hall.

Byline: STEVE HENDRY

If you wondered what really happened to Marine Sergeant Nicholas Brody in Homeland, the answer is Wolf Hall.

Fans of the US espionage drama may have been pining for Damian Lewis but instead of taking on the Taliban, the actor was busy playing Henry VIII in a major adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize–winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.

The historical drama chronicles Thomas Cromwell's rise to power as he manoeuvres the corridors of power at the Tudor court as the consigliere to the King.

Having spent the last few years playing a character caught in a web of political intrigue and in constant peril, Damian was more than ready to play the man on the throne. What he discovered, however, was Henry wasn't who he thought he was.

He said: "We all have this understanding that he was this womanising, syphilitic, bloated, genocidal character.

"The truth is he had a 32in waist for quite a long time. He was the pre–eminent sportsman in his court. He was much taller than anyone else. His beautiful, pale complexion was often remarked upon by commentators. And so I think what I've found in Henry is that the grandiose, more paranoid, self–indulgent, self–pitying, cruel Henry emerged in the period after this series actually. What we're trying to concentrate on a little bit is just to give a more varied portrait of Henry and that's how it is written.

"Henry's not in it very much but when we see him there's great variety in his character and his personality – you might see him composing something on the lute, you might see him in a very boyish way, sort of dreaming about Jane Seymour. We see him at times frightened by the memory of his mother and I think these are little insights people won't be used to.

"Yet there are the familiar things – the vanity is still there, the self–importance, the fact that he believed himself a divine presence."

Bafta–winning director Peter Kosminsky directs the flagship drama that presents an intimate portrait of Thomas Cromwell, who is played by Mark Rylance.

The story follows the back room dealings of the pragmatic power broker from humble beginnings who must serve king and country while navigating deadly political intrigue, the King's tempestuous relationship with Anne Boleyn and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation. The relationship between the two men is key to the drama.

Damian said: "Henry develops a real affection for Cromwell. I think he likes this man who is humbly born in Putney, the son of a blacksmith, who has more worldly experience than any of the nobles that he's surrounded by.

"Cromwell was a merchant banker, an early prototypical merchant banker. He had spent time in Europe in the great financial centre of Antwerp and then comes back from this and he has fought as a mercenary for goodness sake.

"This is a man of the world and I think Henry is utterly taken with his straight–talking, no–nonsense approach, his intelligence and his legal mind. Henry just becomes wholly dependent on him."

The 43–year–old Emmy–winner also plays opposite Claire Foy as Anne Boleyn and he discovered a new respect for the King's unfortunate wife.

He said: "Anne was a formidable woman and she had an extraordinary power over Henry. He pursued Anne for five years but she was good at withholding.

"He desired her and he wanted her. I think he also was struck by her undoubted intelligence and her strength of will. I hadn't realised to what extent Anne is something of a feminist icon.

"She's certainly felt to have been wronged and I think Henry could've dealt with the end of his marriage better than cutting her head off. That's a little suggestion of his sociopathic tendencies."

Wolf Hall is on BBC2 on Wednesday at 9pm.

CAPTION(S):

RESPECT Henry increasingly relies on Cromwell

INFAMOUS But Damian's portrayal of the early days of Henry VIII will surprise viewers
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Sunday Mail (Glasgow, Scotland)
Date:Jan 18, 2015
Words:688
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