Jodie Turner-Smith has addressed the backlash she has faced since being cast as Anne Boleyn in a forthcoming Channel 5 series.
The British actor wrapped filming on the project, which was written by Eve Hedderwick and directed by Lynsey Miller, in December last year.
The series is set in the final months of Boleyn’s life, and tells the story from her perspective as she attempts to challenge the formidable powers of Henry VIII’s patriarchy.
News of Turner-Smith’s casting sparked a racist reaction from some people who were upset that Boleyn was being portrayed by a Black woman.
“Anne Boleyn is such a fascinating woman and I was really excited to play her, to get to unpack some of the things that we’re imagining internally she was going through,” Turner-Smith said, in an interview with Variety.
She said one of the things that most fascinated her about Boleyn was “how incredibly polarising she is as a person”.
“Obviously, her legend has perhaps dwarfed even the truth of who she was as a person in real life,” she said. “She’s majorly influential in so many different ways, and I think it’s interesting how much about her story gets under people’s skin, even now.”
Of the backlash to her casting, she suggested the fact she was playing someone who existed in history “makes people feel uncomfortable and upset”.
“Hamilton is a really great example of how amazing it is when you just open up the space to tell a story with non-white actors,” she said. “It makes that story that much more relatable, because it just becomes a human story and a story for all of us. Not just a story for white people.”
She added that, despite the reaction from a certain group of people, she hoped the series would be viewed “with an open heart and an open mind”.
“When they do [that], they’ll see that when we put characters of colour in stories where we’ve typically only seen white people, it is not in some effort to erase white people, which is not possible,” she said.
Anne Boleyn is set to air on Channel 5 later this year.
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