Belfast Telegraph

Eton helped me play king - Lewis

Damian Lewis says his elite upbringing, attending a leading public school, helped to prepare him for his portrayal of a king in Wolf Hall.

The 43-year-old star, who plays Henry VIII in the forthcoming BBC adaptation of Hilary Mantel's Man Booker Prize-winning historical novel, said his background has given him an insight into structure and social circles of royalty.

Damian, who was a pupil at Eton, will be seen in the much-anticipated dramatisation when it launches on BBC2 later this month, bringing together both the books Wolf Hall and Bring Up The Bodies.

The actor, who has become an international name for his leading role in Homeland, said taking the role felt like a natural fit and he had found much in common with Henry.

"The more I read about him the more I was happy - and alarmed - to find that I did share character traits with him," he said.

"I suppose everyone else will be the judge of it, but certainly sitting in the clothes, it feels like a canny piece of casting, because I do feel, I do find similarities between myself and him.

"I think there's no question it helps having had the kind of schooling that I've had to play a King. Just the way, the sort of court structure, hierarchies, the way they're set up, it's something I feel I implicitly understand," Damian added.

He said it was easy to understand the fascination Henry continues to arouse as "a memorable, almost cartoonish king" with the fundamental changes in state religion during his reign and the flourishing of the arts.

Although Damian added: "But of course the reason we're interested, is in the six wives and the fact that two of them were beheaded and the obsession with having a son."

And he said there were misconceptions about Henry.

"I think we all have this understanding that he was this womanising, syphilitic, bloated, genocidal Elvis character. And actually the truth is, though it might be an odd thing to mention, he had a 32-inch waist and he remained that way for quite a long time," Damian explained.

"He was the pre-eminent sportsman in his court. He was much taller than anyone else. His beautiful, pale complexion was often remarked upon by commentators."

Damian added that "the grandiose, more paranoid, self indulgent, self pitying, cruel Henry emerged in the period after this series".

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