If you’re following the Emmy race, you may be scratching your head when it comes to one show called Wolf Hall, which has been nominated for eight Emmys. Though not as popular as Downton Abbey, this PBS show has great performances and tells the story of England’s most notorious and misogynistic king.
If you love historical drama and enjoy following the soap operas about real kings and queens, you may have seen Showtime’s The Tudors, which ran for three seasons from 2007 to 2010 and starred the yummy Jonathan Rhys Meyers as King Henry VIII, the chiseled Henry Cavill (Superman) as Charles Brandon and the gorgeous Natalie Dormer as the temptress, Anne Boleyn.
While The Tudors showed a somewhat fanciful version of King Henry VIII’s life, with beautiful costumes and spicy royals engaging in lusty rendezvous, Wolf Hall is more of the grown-up’s version of the story of King Henry’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. It’s told from the point of view of Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance), a commoner who uses his street smarts and cunning to make a name for himself at court where “man is wolf to man.”
Masterpiece Theatre‘s limited series of six episodes was adapted from the 2009 historical novel, also called Wolf Hall, written by Hilary Mantel. The book’s sequel, Bring up the Bodies, was published in 2012 and will also be serialized for television.
In the show, Damian Lewis plays King Henry VIII, a man so desperate to divorce his first wife, Catherine of Aragon (Joanne Whalley), he changes England’s national religion from Catholicism to Protestantism so the divorce can be legal. He then marries the social-climbing Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), his seemingly true love. But when she fails to produce a male heir, let’s just say, heads begin to roll.
Another familiar face in the show is that of Thomas Brodie-Sangster, whom you may recognize from the films The Maze Runner and Phantom Halo, as well as the TV show Game of Thrones.
One of the amazing feats of the show is that it is shot on real, historical landmarks and palaces using only natural light, even at night. Shooting scenes by candlelight is incredibly difficult, but makes for a very naturalistic viewing experience, as if you are really back in the 1500s.
So, does Wolf Hall have a shot at one of the eight Emmys for which it’s nominated? We think Damian Lewis is most likely to win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie, though Bill Murray from Olive Kitteridge is stiff competition. Mark Rylance is certainly deserving of winning Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or a Movie, but it seems unlikely, only because he’s not very well known here in the US.
Wolf Hall is streaming on Google Play and Amazon, and the DVD is available on Netflix. The Emmys air on Sept. 20, on Fox.