Damian Lewis: ‘Henry VIII wasn’t all bad!’

Now that Wolf Hall has ended, Damian Lewis has revealed that playing Henry VIII gave him a new sympathy for the royal.

The former Homeland star portrayed the monarch in BBC2’s historical drama which was adapted from Hilary Mantel’s novels.

(BBC/Company Productions Ltd/Ed Miller)(BBC/Company Productions Ltd/Ed Miller)

“There’s a lot of him I’ve fallen in love with completely. He’s a fabulous, fabulously interesting character Henry,” he said. “And a lot of it is good; a lot of it is really good.

“In this version of his life – in Hilary Mantel’s vision – Henry is at times the despotic, paranoid, cruel king that we may think we know from history. But more importantly for our version, we see a king interested in romantic love, a man who tries to normalise his relationships with women, who wants to have a romantic relationship with women.

Damian said he can understand some of his actions, particularly the deaths of his wife Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), during his reign.

Damian Lewis and Claire Foy in Wolf HallDamian Lewis and Claire Foy as Henry VIII and Anne (BBC/Company Productions Ltd/Ed Miller)

“What I’ve taken from it is that this is a man who sort of didn’t concentrate at the important times. And was happy for Governance to be left to (Cardinal Thomas) Wolsey (Jonathan Pryce) initially and then to Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance).

“And as a result, I think some of the terrible things that happened during Henry’s reign happened, often I think, because he didn’t always understand the consequences of his actions or take responsibility for things that he said fully.”

Wolf Hall is out on DVD and Blu-ray on 2 March.