The first thing that will strict anyone when approaching this new three parts mini series about the infamous second wife of King Henry VIII is that the title role of Anne Boleyn is being played by a black actress Jodie Turner-Smith. This bold move on the part of the film makers seem to be more a populist statement of racial and colour impartiality. The film makers claim Jodie was given the part based on her acting abilities and her skin colour had nothing to do with it. I cannot help find this initially a big distraction, but eventually got past it and moved on to focus on the story instead.
The mini series focus on the short period of the final months leading to Anne Boleyn’s beheading by the king for treason and adultery. Jodie Turner-Smith portrays Anne as bitchy, calculating and someone quite unsympathetic. Since I do not know Anne Boleyn personally or have any recollection of how she was in previous adaptations, I would assume this to be a fairly accurate portrayal of her. If I were to compare this series with most British costume mini series, I would say this series lacked the level of details and drama which I have come to expect. The costumes and sets look fine but they do not pop and capture the viewer, where in fact it should have been spectacular to complement the plot. With only three episodes here, the story seem to flow quickly and leaves little time for us to identify closer with the characters. King Henry VIII as played by Mark Stanley comes across rather 2 dimensionally and we have no clue on his personality apart from his roaming eyes for young virgin maidens who would potentially be his next bride.
Things only got more personal and involving in the final third episode which took place mostly in the Tower of London where Anne awaits her faith. The cold exterior and interior of the Tower adds on to Anne’s anxiety and depressing realisation of her eventual fate. How she and her close contacts are accused of wrong doings by the King through the spread of lies by influential people is despicably demonstrated. Their actions justified by an equally biased court. I have to admit that I only began to connect with her in this final act but it was a bit like too little too late.
This latest Anne Boleyn comes across as quite a forgettable series. King Henry VIII and his six wives have been made into many far more elaborate and engaging movies and TV series. Using a black coloured skin actress to play the title may have been somebody’s brilliant idea of making a bold statement to denounce discrimination in casting, but, for me, this ultimately came across more of a gimmick than an artistic choice.