Wolf Hall: Damian Lewis on the one thing he has in common with Henry VIII

The Homeland actor knows what it is like to suffer depression after an accident

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The Independent Culture

Damian Lewis has revealed that he has more in common with his fearsome Wolf Hall character than many might expect.

The Homeland star, 43, plays Tudor monarch Henry VIII in the forthcoming BBC drama but insists that there was no need for him to “fatten up” for the famous part.


Henry only became obese, paranoid and cruel after a jousting accident forced him to retire from sports in 1536, Lewis told the Mail on Sunday. Before that, during the time that Wolf Hall covers, he was the top sportsman in his court with a 32 inch waist.

“I’ve suffered from concussion myself from a motorbike crash,” Lewis said, reflecting on their similarities. “I spent three months afterwards getting into needless fights and suffering from bouts of depression, unable to watch TV or read because of migraines.

“I would often not get dressed and just do puzzles in my flat. So I think it’s absolutely plausible that it had an effect on Henry’s character.”

Lewis’ accident occurred in 1998 while returning from his North London performance in Much Ado About Nothing. He rarely speaks of the experience.

The English actor stars alongside Mark Rylance, Jonathan Pryce and Claire Foy in the upcoming six-part series, based on Hilary Mantel’s Booker Prize-winning novel.

It tells the story of Henry’s court from the perspective of his adviser, Thomas Cromwell, and features his first two wives (of six!), Catherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn.

Wolf Hall begins on 21 January at 9pm on BBC2.