- The Washington Times - Friday, March 28, 2008

New ‘Tudors’ darker

It’s no fun having your head cut off.

Natalie Dormer felt “hysterical” as she prepared to portray Anne Boleyn’s final moments for Showtime’s “The Tudors,” which begins its second season Sunday night at 9 on the premium cable network.

The scene was filmed at dawn in the courtyard of Dublin’s famed Kilmainham Gaol, a stand-in location for the Tower of London, where the Tudor queen was beheaded on May 19, 1536.

Miss Dormer was overwhelmed by thoughts of the queen’s fate and by the potent atmosphere of the notorious prison, now a tourist attraction but once the site of many executions. She describes her “demented” weeping and wailing at the thought of “Anne going to die, and this horrible place, and everything that is dark about the human spirit and what man can do to one another.”

And to make things even more horrible, Miss Dormer says they shot everything that is dark about the human spirit out of sequence, “so it was almost as though I needed to go through the whole upset process before I could stoically find my composure to walk up on to the scaffold,” she tells Associated Press.

But when the camera rolled, the 26-year-old actress pulled herself together, delivering the scene with the composure Anne had displayed as she waited for the executioner’s sword to swing. Unlike the real queen, Miss Dormer says she earned a standing ovation from the crew of onlookers when it was over.

It’s no plot secret that Anne lost her head at the command of her ruthless husband, King Henry VIII (Jonathan Rhys Meyers), but this denouement won’t occur until the last of the new season’s 10 episodes of the medieval drama series.

“The second series is darker. It’s more serious. There are big issues, and, of course, the big issue is the Reformation,” says show creator, writer and executive producer Michael Hirst.

“Some of the things in the first series that people might have found too skittish — a band of young bloods having lots of sex and going hunting; having a rather carefree life while (Cardinal) Wolsey ran the state — that’s gone,” Mr. Hirst explains.

The new episodes reveal Henry taking charge of both church and state and beginning to display many of the tyrannical tendencies that ultimately dominated his personality.

A few plot tidbits from Showtime on Sunday night’s premiere (which also introduces veteran actor Peter O’Toole as Pope Paul III):

• As the Catholic Church struggles in vain to control Henry VIII’s (Mr. Rhys Meyers ) demands for an annulment, the king appoints himself head of the Church of England.

• A cook is blackmailed into poisoning a high-ranking bishop — then boiled alive for his crime.

• When Anne Boleyn (Miss Dormer) insists Henry break all contacts with Katherine of Aragon (Maria Doyle Kennedy), the noble queen is banished from court. The Reformation has begun.

Also Sunday

Although two centuries removed from Colonial America, “The Tudors” premiere will square off against HBO’s acclaimed “John Adams” in the 9 p.m. spot, as that miniseries serves up the fourth of its seven installments.

Titled “Reunion,” the episode finds Adams (Paul Giamatti) still convalescing in Holland when he learns of the British surrender at Yorktown, Va., and his wife, Abigail (Laura Linney), joining him at his opulent mansion in Paris. The two are soon joined by a grieving Thomas Jefferson (Stephen Dillane), who is mourning the loss of his wife.

Compiled by Robyn-Denise Yourse from staff, Web and wire reports

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