Jessica Raine plays Jane Rochford in the TV series Wolf Hall.
Jessica Raine plays Jane Rochford in the TV series Wolf Hall. Giles Keyte

Wolf Hall star talks of tough reality of Tudor times

WOLF Hall is British period drama at its very best.

The critically acclaimed series, based on Hilary Mantel's Booker Prize-winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies, follows the rise of Tudor powerbroker Thomas Cromwell.

The six-part drama has breathed new life into the genre. In the UK, it was BBC2's biggest drama series launch of the past decade.

Mark Rylance plays Cromwell, who helps Henry VIII (Damian Lewis) annul his marriage to Catherine of Aragon so he can marry Anne Boleyn.

"His Cromwell is watchful and slippery and dangerous but also there's something quite sad about him," Jessica Raine told APN.
"Between his childhood and his family dying, you can kind of understand why he goes all out in this world, because there's nothing left for him. It's a really complex performance."

Raine, best known as Jenny Lee in Call the Midwife, plays Anne Boleyn's step-sister and lady in waiting Jane Boleyn (nee Rochford).

"I'd say she's not a happy woman; she's frustrated," Raine said.

"She's quite intelligent but you were not allowed to be intelligent at the time as a woman. She lashes out in ways that are very bitter and manipulative and very catty, all things that are very fun to play and you can't get away with in real life."

Raine found her taste of Tudor England fascinating, but she's glad to be a woman in the 21st century rather than the 16th.

"When I got the job I said 'what does a lady in waiting do?' They tend to Anne a lot; they sew a lot. Getting dressed takes half a day; I'd be frustrated (living) in that time. You bear children, which was the main profession of women in Tudor time, and everyone is hoping for boys all the time... It's such a harsh world."

The lavish production is also a feast for the eyes thanks to its authentic period costumes.

"I was standing there during my costume fitting for maybe 20 minutes and I started to feel quite faint," she said.

"It was only then I realised 'I can't get out of this if I want to quickly'. You have to stay calm. It was a very weird feeling being trapped in this tight, claustrophobic costume."

Wolf Hall airs Saturdays at 8.30pm on Foxtel's BBC First.

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