Lifestyle & Entertainment

A New Queen challenges what is possible for black actors

The black actress cast as Anne Boleyn has said that some viewers will be unable to get past her skin colour but that those who do will be rewarded with a human story.

Jodie Turner-Smith, (Queen and Slim) who stars in Anne Boleyn on Channel 5, said that people who were prepared to suspend their disbelief would see a natural performance in a thrilling tale. “It’s much more approachable and appealing to a contemporary audience when you cast this way because we are distilling this down to a human experience,” she told Radio Times. “If you ask anyone to watch a film or to observe any art, you are asking them to suspend their beliefs.

“I am aware it’s going to be a stretch for some people because they will feel too distracted by that, but I think for a lot of other people who are finally ready to see the world in a different way, they’re going to see that this is a human story we are telling, and a fascinating one at that.”

Paapa Essiedu, who portrays Boleyn’s brother George and who has previously played Hamlet for the Royal Shakespeare Company, said: “Everyone has the right to comment but I would question anyone who’s got a problem with this but hasn’t got one with believing that a spaceship can fly in Star Wars or that a giant bird can talk in Sesame Street.”

Turner-Smith, who was born in Peterborough in Cambridgeshire but grew up in America, said she never felt that portraying an English queen would be off limits. “When I envision the world for myself and what is possible I don’t put limitations on it,” she said. “I would never say, ‘No one will ever give me this role.’ I definitely had an awareness that no one had given me a part like that yet but to me it felt so natural to play a queen.”

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