The upcoming Starz drama “Anne Boleyn” puts the doomed wife of King Henry VIII in the spotlight in a daring revisionist look at British history.

How revisionist? Boleyn, the second of Henry’s six wives, is portrayed by Black actress Jodie Turner-Smith, and that’s just the start of the liberties taken in the new series.

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According to Britain’s Daily Mail (the series is debuting on British television before coming to North America), the “racy” first episode features a “passionate” kiss between Turner-Smith and Lola Petticrew, who plays third wife Jane Seymour.

As the Mail’s synopsis makes clear, Anne’s kiss is more strategic than anything else, trying to earn Jane’s trust while suspecting her husband the king (played by Mark Stanley) has developed a romantic interest in her.

“It’s definitely something that I think will be a talking point for a lot of people,” Pettigrew said of the scene in an interview with Radio Times. “Very simply, it was Anne assessing what was before her, and her sort of interest in [Jane]. Sometimes Anne sees Jane through the male gaze and she’s trying to see what her husband [King Henry VIII] sees, which I think is really interesting, because it’s the male gaze through a female gaze, which I think is really beautiful.”

JODIE TURNER SMITH
Channel 5 — Channel 5

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As for Anne’s motivation, Petticrew said, “She’s trying to see what her husband sees, she’s trying to see what the appeal is, and then assess what the actual threat is. It’s so smart. At this point I think we still underestimate Jane a little bit. And I think that Jane is thrown off a little bit, [because] at the end of the day, this is her queen. And there’s a lot of danger there. But I think that she respects Anne.”

According to Petticrew, “These two women see each other. And they understand the position that they’re both in, which is actually something that we talked about a lot. It was two women that ultimately understood it had to be one of them.”

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