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History meets soap opera on Showtime's 'The Tudors'

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McClatchy Newspapers (MCT) - The historical soap opera that is "The Tudors" continues Sunday on Showtime. And what would a soap opera be without some new rogues and romances?

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Highlights

By Rick Bentley
McClatchy Newspapers (www.mctdirect.com)
4/1/2009 (1 decade ago)

Published in TV

This third season of the premium channel series about the life of Henry VIII gets a little more wicked through the performance of James Frain as Sir Thomas Cromwell, architect of England's Reformation. The sizzle is supplied by a bevy of love interests for the king: Jane Seymour (Annabelle Wallis); Lady Ursula Misseldon (Charlotte Salt); Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone); and Katherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant).

If Henry had had an evil twin, this tale could have been told on daytime network television.

To make sure he didn't lose his head over playing Cromwell, Frain threw himself into research. He didn't get the definitive picture of Cromwell he had hoped to find.

"The more that I read, the more I realized that there are lots of different opinions about this period of history. I think I found someone who said that it's the single-most written-about period of English history, the 1515 to 1530, '45, that period, because we don't finally know the answer to a lot of key questions, and because the personalities were complex and because there are different agendas at stake," Frain says during an interview in January at the Universal Hilton. "Through English history, you can see different periods have different perspectives on what happened being more or less sympathetic toward the Catholic or Protestant idea of events, or who is responsible for what."

In other words, Cromwell's story is not as simple as a typical soap opera plot in which a man's brother is the father of the child being carried by a woman who is in a coma.

The one thing Frain was certain about was that this period was a time of enormous revolutionary change, bigger than anything else that's happened in British history.

History has never been the driving force of soap operas. Complicated love affairs are more the fodder. And the relationship between Henry and Anne is a doozy.

Henry becomes a recluse after wife No. 3, Jane Seymour, dies.

Cromwell thinks Henry should make Anne of Cleves his next wife. The union would be more about religion than love.

As soon as Henry agrees to wed Anne he realizes he's made a huge mistake.

The task of playing Anne fell to pop singer Joss Stone. This is the first major acting role for the English singer. She credits her experience on stage with helping her adjust to the new line of work.

"I think when I'm singing a song, you can't just sing it. You can't just make a noise that you're supposed to and go through the melody and go through the motions," Stone says. "You have to tell the story. So I think that kind of helps. You gotta feel. You gotta feel your way through. It's the same thing.

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"There's just no melody, I think. That's how I see it."

She also could have seen it as one compelling historical soap.

___

© 2009, The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.).


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