The new trailer for the BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall has just been released, giving viewers their first look at Damian Lewis in his first big television role since his turn as Homeland’s Brody. In the upcoming series, the actor takes on an entirely different character, portraying the menacing monarch King Henry VIII.
Directed by Peter Kosminsky and written by Peter Straughan (Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy), the six-part drama is based on Hilary Mantel’s Pulitzer Prize-winning historical novel of the same name and its critically acclaimed sequel, Bring Up the Bodies. It chronicles the story of Thomas Cromwell’s ascent from a humble blacksmith’s son to Henry VIII’s closest adviser. Lewis takes on the role of the Tudor monarch opposite Tony Award-winning actor Mark Rylance as the King’s merciless counselor, Cromwell. Claire Foy plays the king’s doomed wife, Anne Boleyn, while Joanne Whalley plays Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Mark Gatiss, Charity Wakefield, and Jonathan Pryce co-star.
Some Homeland fans may have a hard time watching Lewis play someone so wildly different from his former character, but as evidenced by the trailer, the actor has clearly embraced the challenge. The teaser gives viewers their first glimpse at the complex relationship between Rylace’s Cromwell and Lewis’s King Henry VIII. In it, the adviser attempts to counsel Henry on how to become a better king, but the monarch dismisses his instructions with a rather ominous warning. “I keep you because you’re a serpent,” he tells Cromwell in the clip. “Everything that you are, everything that you have, will come from me.”
While the role is unlike anything we’ve seen Lewis take on before, the actor recently revealed that he actually relied on memories of his own upbringing to play the part. “I think there’s no question it helps having had the kind of schooling that I’ve had to play a king. Just the way, the sort of court structure, hierarchies, the way they’re set up, it’s something I feel I implicitly understand,” he explained to Yahoo, later adding: ‘The more I read about him the more I was happy — and alarmed — to find that I did share character traits with him.”
Wolf Hall is the latest in Lewis’s long-running list of upcoming projects. He’s appearing alongside Nicole Kidman in the biographical drama Queen of the Desert, as well as co-starring in the upcoming thriller Our Kind of Traitor. In terms of TV, the actor is also reportedly playing William T. Sherman in another historical miniseries, entitled To Appomattox, although the show doesn’t yet have a network.
In addition to marking the actor’s next major television role, Wolf Hall is also the most recent of a slew of popular novels soon hitting the small screen and only one of several book-to-TV adaptations underway at BBC. The network is turning Susanna Clark’s bestselling novel Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell into a seven-part miniseries starring Eddie Marsan (Ray Donovan, Filth) and Bertie Carvel (Restless). The channel is also heading the adaptations of two separate J.K. Rowling works: The Casual Vacancy, which will air on the BBC and HBO at some point in 2015, and the author’s Cormoran Strike series, which does not yet have a release date.
Wolf Hall will air in the U.K. on BBC Two in January and will make its stateside debut on PBS in April.