Wolf Hall

From Wednesday 21 October at 20:00

About the show

Man preys upon his fellow man

An intimate portrait of Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant consigliere to King Henry VIII, based on Hilary Mantel's bestselling novels and starring Mark Rylance and Damian Lewis.

It is 1529, and Henry has been married to Katherine of Aragon for 20 years without producing a male heir. Requests to the Pope for an annulment have gone unheeded. The King's link to Rome, Cardinal Wolsey, has failed his sovereign in only this one matter and as a result his life hangs in the balance.

Enter Cromwell – a pragmatic and accomplished negotiator, from humble beginnings and with an enigmatic past. As he walks the corridors of power at the Tudor court, Cromwell must navigate deadly political intrigue, the King's tempestuous relationship with Anne Boleyn and the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation.


Wolf Hall

Thomas Cromwell

Played by Mark Rylance

Mark Rylance was born in Ashford, Kent, to Anne and David Waters. His parents both worked as English teachers and the Rylance family moved to Connecticut and Wisconsin in the US in the 1960s. Mark has a sister called Susannah and a brother called Jonathan.

After discovering a love of acting as a teenager, Mark won a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in 1978. He graduated in 1980 and went on to perform with the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon and London.

He has built a reputation for success in Shakespearean stage roles. He’s also won numerous awards, including a BAFTA for Best Actor in 2006, and an Oliver Award in 2010 and a Tony award in 2011 for his portrayal of Johnny 'Rooster' Byron in the play Jerusalem.

He was the first artistic director of Shakespeare's Globe in London, from 1995 to 2005.

Rylance featured as the castaway on the long-running BBC radio programme Desert Island Discs on 15 February 2015. Rylance’s discs included music by his composer wife Claire van Kampen as well as Coleman Hawkins, Nina Simone, Beethoven and Justin Hinds and the Dominoes. His book choice was a collection of writings by the Sufi poet Rumi and his luxury was a stand-up bass bought for him by Van Kampen when he left Shakespeare’s Globe.

Wolf Hall

Henry VIII

Played by Damian Lewis

Damian Watcyn Lewis was born in London to Charlotte and Watcyn Lewis. His paternal grandparents were Welsh (hence his Welsh middle name) and his maternal grandfather was Sir Ian Bowater, a Lord Mayor of London. He’s also descended from the famed philanthropist Alfred Yarrow.

He was educated at the eminent educational establishment Eton College. Other famous acting alumni from this high profile English school include Eddie Redmayne, Tom Hiddleston and Dominic West.

Damien won an Emmy and a Golden Globe in 2012 for his portrayal of Nicholas Brody in the US TV series Homeland. He also took home a Dorian Award for TV Performance of the Year and a Satellite Award for Best Actor for his role as the marine sergeant.

Queen Elizabeth II appointed Damien Officer of the Order of the British Empire in her 2014 Birthday Honours for services to drama.

He’s a fanatical supporter of Liverpool FC and is married to actress Helen McCrory, whom he met when they both appeared in the play Five Gold Rings at London’s Almeida Theatre. The couple have two children together.

Wolf Hall

Anne Boleyn

Played by Claire Foy

Claire Foy was born in Stockport in the north of England. The youngest of three children, she grew up around Manchester and Leeds until her family relocated to Longwick in Buckinghamshire, due to a change in her salesman father’s job.

Claire was a pupil at a girls' grammar school in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, before she headed off to university. She studied for a degree in drama and screen studies at Liverpool John Moores University as she had early aspirations to become a cinematographer. She also completed a one year course at the Oxford School of Drama.

Her big break came when she was picked to star as Amy Dorrit in the BBC’s 2008 adaptation of Charles Dickens’ Little Dorrit. She was nominated for a Royal Television Society Award for her performance.

As a child, she suffered from juvenile arthritis and at the age of 17 she developed a benign tumour in one of her eyes. Fortunately, she’s returned to health now.

Claire met her husband, the actor Stephen Campbell Moore, when they both worked on the 2011 Hollywood fantasy film, Season of the Witch. They married in 2014.

Wolf Hall

Cardinal Wolsey

Played by Jonathan Pryce

Jonathan Pryce was born John Price in Carmel, Flintshire, the third child of Margaret and Isaac Price. His parents ran a general grocery shop in the small Welsh village.

He attended art college as a teenager and began to train as a teacher before being awarded a scholarship to Royal Academy of Dramatic Art (RADA). Jonathan made his professional breakthrough in the 1985 Terry Gilliam dystopian satire Brazil, when he played the lead role of Sam Lowry. He also worked with Gilliam in fantasy film The Adventures of Baron Munchausen in 1988.

Jonathan joined the Everyman Theatre Liverpool Company after completing his studies at RADA. He ended up as the theatre's artistic director and also met his long-term partner whilst at the Everyman, the actress Kate Fahy, with whom he has three children.

Jonathan is a fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music & Drama and was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Liverpool in 2006. He is also a Companion of the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire in the 2009 Birthday Honours.

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