Jodie Turner-Smith on being the primary Black actress to play Anne Boleyn in new miniseries: ‘Our intention was not historic accuracy’

Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn in the new AMC miniseries based on the English queen's life and death (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/Fable/Sony/AMC)

Jodie Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn within the new AMC+ miniseries based mostly on the English queen’s life and loss of life. (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/Fable/Sony/AMC)

Midway via the brand new miniseries, Anne Boleyn, the doomed 16th century English queen and second bride of Henry VIII warns her chief tormenter, Thomas Cromwell, that even when he succeeds in his plan to dethrone her, her reminiscence will finally eclipse his. That’s confirmed to be the case: the story of Boleyn’s life and loss of life has been informed and re-told in various completely different mediums throughout the following centuries. But it is by no means been introduced in fairly the identical means as this newest dramatization, which premieres Dec. 9 on AMC+. And that begins with the identification of the performer enjoying Anne: Jodie Turner-Smith. 

The England-born Queen & Slim star is the primary Black actress to painting this main historic determine on display screen, and her casting ignited controversy in her native nation when it was first introduced final yr. “I didn’t pay attention to it, because you really can’t,” Turner-Smith tells Yahoo Entertainment now. “When you’re doing the work, you just have to do it. Anne Boleyn is a polarizing and fascinating character that people either love or love to hate. I knew that there were going to be people that were very protective of her story, and they would feel conflicted about a Black actress playing the role.” 

“But obviously our aim was not historical accuracy,” she continues. “Our aim was to tell an emotional human story, and that meant that any actor could play the role. And isn’t it wonderful to finally see actors of color telling these emotional stories that for so long there was only room for white actors to tell? That’s how I feel, and I think that many other people feel that way. And the people that don’t feel that way were never going to watch the series anyway!” 

Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn in the new AMC+ miniseries (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/Fable/Sony/AMC)

Turner-Smith as Anne Boleyn within the new AMC+ miniseries. (Photo: Parisa Taghizadeh/Fable/Sony/AMC)

Even although Turner-Smith could not resemble the Anne Boleyn depicted in contemporaneous portraits, she says that she deeply recognized with the best way the queen was “othered” by the royal courtroom as her husband and Cromwell set her downfall in movement. “I mean, it is my life experience: I’m a woman who was often othered, so I understand that journey. This was my telling of Anne Boleyn in a way that’s unique to me and my experience, but in a way it also allowed me to tap into the universal experience of a woman who was already an outsider in many ways.” 

Turner-Smith’s presence lends the collection an additional resonance when Anne is placed on trial for top treason in 1536. The actress filmed these scenes within the wake of George Floyd’s loss of life in Minneapolis police custody final yr, a case that shined a brand new mild on systemic racial injustice throughout the American justice system. “For me, those scenes were less about that and more about the limitations placed on women at the time,” she explains. “Don’t be so bold; don’t be so outspoken; don’t ruffle any feathers; know your place — all of these things that I feel Anne sort of refused.” 

Still, Floyd’s loss of life was very a lot on her thoughts that whole summer season and continued because the case went earlier than the U.S. courts this spring. “It was impossible to not follow it with a heightened awareness. Those events are things that are part of my existence as a Black person in the world. To follow these things, see how these trials occur and what happens and what the verdicts then say about my humanity. And then having to reaffirm my own humanity based on my disappointment with how [these trials] often go.” 

Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson at the EE British Academy Film Awards in 2020 (Photo by David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Turner-Smith and Joshua Jackson on the EE British Academy Film Awards in 2020. (Photo: David M. Benett/Dave Benett/Getty Images)

Beyond emotions of otherness, Turner-Smith says that she additionally felt bonded to Boleyn by their shared expertise of latest motherhood. The actress gave delivery to her daughter with husband Joshua Jackson 5 months earlier than manufacturing started. “I was nursing and pumping as I shot,” she says, laughing, including that the calls for of manufacturing usually stored her separated from her new child. 

“Obviously, I’m in nearly every scene of the show and that means a very extensive work schedule. Some days I was waking up before she was even awake and coming home after she’d gone to sleep. So all I really was able to ever do was take her out of her crib as she slept and nurse her. It was really hard to not see her: you don’t want to miss bedtime, you don’t want to miss them waking up. You don’t want them to not really see you except for on the weekends when you have time off. I have so much respect and admiration and appreciation for all working mothers because it’s not easy.”

Jackson wasn’t out there to select up the parenting slack both: whereas Turner-Smith was capturing Anne Boleyn, the previous Dawson’s Creek star was filming the Peacock collection, Dr. Death, on location in New York City. “It’s a f***ing brilliant show, and it was challenging for him in the same way this was for me,” she says of her companion’s efficiency. “It was long hours every day playing someone very intense.”

“We spoke and FaceTimed as much as we could, but there were many mornings, where I would be on my way to work, and he would be going to sleep,” Turner-Smith explains. “I would call him, and he would help me to run lines, but he could barely keep his eyes up. so This was a project that I did without the benefit of having him physically close by, and that was definitely tough. But we made it work as we do because we’re two working actors.”

As the actress notes, Boleyn was additionally ceaselessly separated from her solely youngster — and eventual successor to the throne — Elizabeth I. After Elizabeth’s delivery, Anne suffered a number of miscarriages as she tried to fulfill Henry’s calls for that she conceive a son and inheritor. “Having just gone through birth, I felt I had a much deeper and more raw connection to this idea of having your child and your child not surviving, and the grief that would give you,” she says. “And then having to push through that to continue to compete in the court. It’s very intense! So often all the stories I’ve seen about Anne Boleyn were more about that — like, here was this really ambitious, scandalous woman. But this felt like a story about a mother, and that resonated with me.” 

Anne Boleyn premieres Thursday, Dec. 9 on AMC+.


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