SPOILERS - Season 4 of the Tudors
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Spoilers for Season 4
If you want to be surprised in the upcoming season,
READ NO FURTHER!
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For more video's check out: The Tudors Season Four - Promo Vids
Times are a changing in
Season 4 of The Tudors.
Come here to learn the newest information
available, or add any juicy new info you may know!
|For Season 3 : Click here|
|Quick Facts at a Glance:|
| Production Listed as: Filming Complete|
|Production location: Ireland|
| Casting calls out for: Extras casting call on May 27 and 28|
|Showtime Release Date: Sunday 11th April 2010, at 9:00|
|New Characters: Catherine Parr; Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey; Ambassador Marillac; Thomas Culpepper , Francis Dereham, Joan Bulmer , Girolamo de Treviso , Lady Elizabeth Fitzgerald, Kat Ashley , Anne Askew , Harry Hurst, Richard Leland|
| New Actors: Joely Richardson, Eoin Murtagh, Torrance Coombs, David O'Hara, Lothaire Bluteau , Allen Leech, Daniel Caltagirone, Frank McCusker, Catherine Steadman, Jake Hathaway , Jody Latham, Moe Dunford|
| Returning Characters: King Henry VIII, Charles Brandon, Katherine Howard, Jane Boleyn, Princess Mary, Princess Elizabeth, Prince Edward Tudor, Ambassador Chapuys, Edward Seymour, Anne Stanhope |
, Queen Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Jane Seymour, Anne of Cleves, Richard Rich ,
| PRODUCTION NOTES: |
About Season 4
The latest and concluding season of the Showtime series The Tudors brings us through the final years of one of the greatest figures of English history. Although he has been in power for many years and should be now well settled in his status and position, Henry’s life and times remain as turbulent, controversial and dramatic as they did when he was the tyro young King of Season I. Creator of The Tudors Michael Hirst sums up the season: ‘We’re coming to the end of Henry’s life but things don’t slacken up - far from going out quietly Henry VIII goes out with an extraordinary bang as a middle-aged man. He was older, but only in his late 40s. He was ill, he had an extremely serious ulcerated leg, and more paranoid but then he marries an extremely young woman, who was totally not the right background to be a Queen. At the same time he goes to war. And then he marries again, for the final time, to a woman who is very capable but who everyone thinks is a heretic and some want to execute. So lots of action right to the very end!”
Producer Morgan O’Sullivan offers an taste of what to expect: “It’s hard to make Jonathan Rhys Meyers look bad but in the costumes we are putting a little weight on him - by degrees - graying him a little and doing some prosthetic work so that by the end of the season viewers will notice a marked difference in his appearance, because Henry is at the point where he has gone out of control. Jonathan lives this part to such a degree and knows the character of this man so well that it’s extraordinary to watch him now after four seasons – how instinctually he plays the role.”
Rhys Meyers has indeed a unique insight into Henry VIII having played more Henry for more time than any other actor in TV or film history. He describes the King’s lust and apparent love for the young Katherine Howard in contemporary terms: “She is the midlife crisis girl . . . the Tudor equivalent of going out and buying the red Ferrari when you are 50 and divorced. Obviously she is ridiculously young; the marriage could never work. But Henry kind of uses her—and I always thought of her as a kind of a leech. I don’t mean leeching off Henry, but is a naiveté about her sexual behavior which I think Henry recognizes and uses her as a leech to draw out the bad blood, you know? There is nothing to test your friends more than if you leave them alone with something that they really want.”
Tamzin Merchant plays the ill-fated and coquettish young Katherine. Why does Henry choose her? “I think Henry sees a young, bright, vivacious, lively girl and an opportunity to have another child, basically. Her purity and naiveté also contrasts greatly with the other people that he had in his life at the time. He’s increasingly paranoid, and increasingly untrusting of people. But Catherine Howard seems to be the antidote to the court, and all of its intrigues.’ But the pleasures cut both ways. “I think that Catherine sees the chance to be loved,” says Tamzin… “and the opportunity for a really good time, essentially, a lot of Jimmy Choos, and Vivian Westwood style dresses and a lot of good times!” Of course, admits Tamzin, “Katherine really doesn't anticipate or really understand the responsibilities that go along with being the Queen. Catherine doesn't even really understand the concept of politics or even what the King represents . . . and that’s her downfall.”
More specifically, it is her adulterous affair with Thomas Culpepper, the King’s groom that brings about her demise. “Thomas Culpepper is a very handsome guy who is infatuated with Katherine,” says Tamzin but he is also really comfort and love for this naïve young woman. In the end he comes to represent everything that the King can't really give her.”
Torrance Coombs plays Culpepper. He explains the nature of the relationship with the Queen: “It starts out very much as a lustful fantasy . . . he fancies Catherine above all else, and that’s the motivation behind some of the crazy things he does. The thing is that she kind of encourages him so although it starts out as a fantasy it gradually becomes more of a reality. What is amazing to me is that historically there is a man that had the audacity to think he could get away with this . . . his lust or, or his love or whatever is so strong that he just doesn’t care. They can’t help themselves, but there is really no way it can end well for either of them.”
Isn’t all this sex kind of racy and modern for a period drama? Rhys Meyers has a definite opinion on this: “People can fall into the trap of doing something period that thinks that everybody and everything slows down. It doesn’t. Now certainly, it’s not as fast‑moving as our world today with airplanes and computers and all of that. But you know, just because it’s period, people don’t walk slower, they don’t talk slower . . . or lower. As an actor you have to put all those conventions out of your head; people are still people and they still live”.
What about historical accuracy? Michael Hirst believes that The Tudors brings out into the open the gaps and contradictions in the historical record that academic history shies away from. “Of course, there are certain facts which are incontrovertible,” he says, “but beyond that there’s just interpretation and there are surprisingly few sources. So I discovered that the truth is variable and I also discovered that most historians are very bad psychologists: They don’t tell you very much about the human relationships in history. I’ve discovered that nearly all the caricatures of Henry’s wives for instance, are nonsense or only tell a little bit of the story.”
One such caricature he identifies is Anne of Cleves (Joss Stone). “There’s no doubt - reading the records and between the lines - that he was impotent when he married Anne of Cleves,” says Michael, “and that was the problem. She wasn’t ugly and smelly. Which accounts for his rage and accounts for getting rid of her.” Jonathan Rhys Meyers sees another dimension to the reconciliation of the King and his former wife in Season 4: “There is no pressure when he sees her the next time. So he really enjoys her, and he actually kind of finds her quite attractive. Anne of Cleves just seemed more the woman—and he says it— ‘she is a woman who doesn’t play the woman’. Which is very attractive to him at that time. He plays cards and talks… when you are the top man, when you are the King, who do you talk to?
As he approaches death, two of Henry’s relationships – in a life filled with relationships and betrayals – remain steadfast. The first is his oldest and most loyal friend Charles Brandon (Henry Cavill) who has been with him since the beginning. The second, his sixth and final wife, Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson) nurses him and provides patient comfort.
Henry Cavill explains that Season 4 is a turbulent one for Brandon. “He’s certainly not in a good way - last year he killed thousands of innocents during the suppression of the rebellion and that weighs on his shoulders. And then he went down a path which was completely contrary to who he is - the dogged pursuit of Cromwell and his death. And then his wife decided that she loved him no longer. These things would leave any man in a bad place, in a dark place. So at the beginning I think he believes his life is winding down to an end and this is how it’s supposed to be.”
Michael Hirst explains that although Brandon is often referred to in the history books, little is known of him. “I thought he was a very interesting character to think about: All the historians simply comment that he was Henry’s oldest friend, but there isn’t a great deal written about him. We do know that Henry is always appointing him a General if there’s a war going on, that he became massively rich, and that his son played with Henry’s son, but we never get a full portrait. I had to fill in a lot of the gaps; I had to imagine what it would be like to be Brandon and what the relationship might have been like. He was obviously extremely loyal to Henry and from a dramatic point of view I needed someone to be the conscience to react to the savagery that Henry descended into after the pilgrimage of Grace.”
Both Brandon and Henry recover something of their youth during the Siege of Boulogne, the big outdoor set-piece at the centre of Season 4. “He’s found a reason to live again,” says Henry Cavill of Brandon. “He’s back doing one of the things he’s good at - leading men, fighting. He’s chasing his youth and he finds it in Boulogne. And in the young woman Brigitte he meets there: his heart opens again and life, the color comes back into life.”
“War gave Henry back his raison d’etre [purpose]”, says Michael Hirst. “Going to war was a macho thing, he said that he felt better and people said of him that he looked healthier, he was animated again.” But, as Jonathan Rhys Meyers notes, it was the idea of war and not political ambition that was the point of the exercise: “Once he gets Boulogne he pulls back. Charles Brandon comes to him and says, “What’s happening? I thought we were going to take over France…” And Henry has to explain to him— “I don’t have the men, I don’t have the manpower; I don’t have the money to own all of France.” He has what he wants and so he goes home.”
Just before heading to France, Henry marries the twice widowed Catherine Parr who has been very capably acting as Regent in his absence. “I don’t think he marries her because of love” says Rhys Meyers, “And it’s not because of sex; it’s basically they are equal and he can talk to her on that level. He is not looking for love now; he is looking for a partnership.
“I think all her life has been duty”, explains Joely Richardson. When we meet Catherine Parr she’s fallen in love with Thomas Seymour – perhaps the first love of her life. “She’s totally lost her heart to him when Henry takes an interest in her and she gets married because she doesn’t have a choice. Initially she definitely doesn’t want to be with him. And when she starts to receive presents from him and his attention, it’s the worst thing that could happen to her. But then she becomes fascinated by him, she sees something lost in him. She’s still frightened of him of course. And I think she gets fascinated by court life and because she is an incredibly intelligent woman, I think she starts to ask how can she influence it in terms of her religion, in terms of helping Henry run court life better. So she gets interested by all that and forgets about Thomas Seymour – although of course in reality she went on to marry him after the death of Henry.”
After playing four seasons as the most infamous monarch in English history, how does Jonathan Rhys Meyers assess Henry VIII? “He did some very, very important things for England. Most importantly, he gave them Elizabeth, who I think is England’s most important monarch. He puts things in motion that years later would come into fruition. And he was a very intelligent man — but he was racked with ego, vanity, his thoughts of his own divinity. You know, absolute power corrupts absolutely, so he was very corrupt. So on the one hand I have empathy for him and a degree of admiration — but not much. I think he makes great television; but he was not, in the final analysis, a great king.”
| Michael Hirst: Writer of The Tudors |
Michael Hirst is writer and executive producer of The Tudors. In envisaging the series, he took the best known period of English history and dramatized it in a way no one had ever done before. With the unstinting support of Showtime, Michael set out to revisit and re-imagine a pivotal historical moment, a moment where one man dared to step outside the medieval world view, challenge the authority of the church and make himself the centre of authority. Showtime’s The Tudors has been compelling on many levels – the remarkable sets and costumes, the performances of gifted actors, the sexual intrigue, the ongoing, Machiavellian struggle for favour and power – but most of all perhaps, for Michael Hirst’s unmatched talent in imagining the drama and pulse of history.
Why were you drawn to this period of history to begin with?
Michael Hirst - The Tudors is a particularly interesting and dramatic period in English history because so much happens in such a concentrated time and, not only in an English sense but also in a global sense, the fact that the whole religion of England changed and you have the Reformation. But there was almost constant drama and commotion throughout the Tudor period – from Henry’s father – Henry VII - seizing the throne on the battlefield basically, right the way through to his daughter Elisabeth’s momentous defeat of the Spanish Armada. The constant insecurity during his reign meant that Henry killed over 70,000 of his own people (out of a total population of 1 million). The turmoil really only went away with Elizabeth – Henry’s second daughter. She reigned much longer than any other monarch and there was period of calm at the end, but of course she never married and never had children, so the Tudors came to an end with her.
What is the relationship of the show to actual history?
MH: Well, I’m not a historian - I rely on books written by historians - but I quickly discovered that all historians contradict each other, if you read enough of them, so the idea that there is one forensic truth and I at times depart from it isn’t really correct. The fact is that they all depart from it and contradict each other all the time. Of course, there are certain facts which are incontrovertible, but beyond that there’s just interpretation and there are surprisingly few sources. Most of the historical sources are tainted or in some ways not to be trusted. So I discovered that the truth is variable and within the period of The Tudors that I was working on I also discovered that most historians are very bad psychologists. They don’t tell you very much about the human relationships that, for example, Henry had with his wives, they always write off Anne Boleyn as rather shrewish, grasping and the ‘other woman’ and most of them have a huge distaste for her. Catherine of Aragon is usually a rather dull pious figure. They take Henry’s own valuation of Anne of Cleves that she was rather ugly and smelly, they say that Catherine Howard was very young and stupid and I’ve discovered through reading and thinking that nearly all these caricatures are nonsense or only tell a little bit of the story.
How did you go about structuring the 4 seasons?
MH: Well it wasn’t so much a plan as something that developed from season to season. I thought that the young Henry had never been never properly explored in film or TV so I began to try to imagine his relationship with different women and the court and then the whole arc of the character going from the young idealistic king to the old tyrant emerged over time. It was structured around time periods and significant events so the first season ends for instance with the death of Wolsey which was hugely significant for the young Henry. And when I came to think about the second series, I then was looking for another significant marker along the way which fairly quickly became the death of Anne Boleyn. He divorced his first wife who died of natural causes, but we know that Henry killed a lot of his wives, and Anne was the first one. So when he killed Ann Boleyn, he became a murderer from that moment. Then the marriages after that came quick and fast and the time began to concentrate, and that’s when I thought ideally I’d like four seasons to get the story told. I didn’t know if we’d get them, but I thought I needed four seasons and thankfully Showtime have supported us every step of the way.
Apart from his interest in power what else interested you about Henry VIII?
MH: The Tudors is also meant to be an extended essay on love – which might surprise some people! Marriage and sex is part of love, and he has different sorts of love affairs with his wives and with other women and they are different because he is changing all the time. So I was interested in marking those moments and as a viewer you see he is changing more through other people, through his relationships with those closest to him. There’s plenty to admire about Henry almost to the end although he becomes this monstrous figure but then his monstrosity is intriguing. He is always charismatic; you always want to know what he is going to do, partly because he has this power but also because you have followed him all this time.
It is very unusual for a single writer to write every single episode for four seasons of a series. What can you tell us about the writing process?
MH: I was scared to start with because I’d never written a series for TV and I’d no idea how to do it or if I could do it. But I found a facility within myself and particularly enjoyed the domestic drama and spending time with all the characters. It was a great joy to discover – as we went along - that a lot of the central characters went through a lot of the period with him so I could really get into their skins. It was never easy to write but it was always hugely enjoyable. I would spend a lot of time researching, reading and making notes also reading lots of footnotes because you find a lot of fantastic jewels in there. And then I’d spend a good deal of time just thinking.
How would you describe the arc of Season 4?
MH: Well we’re coming to the end of Henry’s life but things don’t slacken up - far from going out quietly Henry VIII goes out with an extraordinary bang. He’s in his late 40s which was quite old for the time and he marries an extremely young woman, who I think historically was 14 and totally unsuitable to be a queen. At the same time he finally goes to war – something he had always wanted to do. And then he marries again, for the final time. So it’s more turmoil and action to the very end.
Was the Siege of Boulogne some kind of mid-life crises?
MH: I think so. It was as if he’d bought that sports car. In a sense his marrying Catherine Howard was addressing this issue too, there’s no doubt reading the records that he was impotent when he married Anne of Cleves, and that was the problem, she wasn’t ugly and smelly. Which accounts for his rage and accounts for getting rid of her. So that’s why then he got involved with this young over sexualised woman and rediscovered his sexuality. Then going to war was another macho thing, he did say that he felt better and people said of him that he looked healthier. When he came back it all fell away. He felt sick again almost immediately.
What are your feelings about Henry by this stage of his life?
MH: Henry was at this stage unquestionably an unpleasant tyrant; it would be very hard to forgive him for his actions. I’ve tried to think of him as being aware at least sometimes of what he used to be and what he has lost. I think in killing Thomas Moore he tried to murder his conscience, I think he lost his idealism, he became persuaded by his own significance that he was just about as close to God as anyone in the world. Abroad he was referred to as the English Nero. In England, funnily enough, he has never been called to account for his monstrosities, which is interesting. I think we have convinced ourselves that he is the father of the Reformation and this was a good thing leading to Elizabeth, Shakespeare, the Empire, freedom of expression. We think of Henry therefore on the right side of history and forget what an appalling tyrant he was. But partly that’s because we’re still living in his legacy.
His last wife, Catherine Parr (Joely Richardson) is interesting in many ways – she seems more mature than anyone since Catherine of Aragon and also more Reformist than Henry.
MH: Yes, there a slight hint of a more motherly figure, someone who will take care of him. You do have a scene where she looks after his leg. That’s an iconic scene which you find in the historical record: A courtier comes and finds him with his leg in her lap and she’s just making him feel better, and stroking his leg.
As regards the Reformation there’s a big struggle by this time between the reformers, people we would now call the Protestants and the old guard the Catholics and at one stage one party seemed to have the upper hand, and fairly soon afterwards the other side would have the upper hand. Nobody really knew which side Henry came down, he probably played both sides against each other. But his Catherine Parr got caught up in the whispering campaign and it seemed for a moment that he had signed a death warrant for her. But there’s no question, she was a heretic, she rather openly discussed reform of the church. Why she felt she could get away with that I don’t know, she was an interesting woman, she was probably a very brave woman. In the end she was human, she broke down she screamed and shouted and pleaded for her life and Henry gave in.
The final moments of the season belong to the Dutch painter Hans Holbein. Why does he figure so prominently at the end?
MH: He was a device in the sense of someone who could comment through his painting on the court, so I identified with him. Just as he was painting pictures of the court, so I was telling my story. I always had a poet or a painter in every season and they were deliberately there because they were both in the action and outside commentating and I identified with each of them. So Holbein is me in a sense - right at the end drawing my picture and saying this is my Henry. People have got terribly confused and the wrong idea that I was doing some historical documentary. If I was doing a historical documentary I would have done it a different way, but with Holbein I’m saying that history has a lot to do with propaganda. How it comes to us is through other people, through painters, through people writing letters, it’s an amalgam of lots of things, there’s no such thing as a true picture. There are just versions you know, so it was a great delight for me to use Holbein in the end to make that point. I kind of sign off on that.
Tom Conroy has been Production Designer for all four seasons of The Tudors and the exceptional quality of his work on the show has brought two Emmy nominations for Seasons 2 and 3 (‘Outstanding Art Direction for a Single Camera Series’) along with nominations from the Art Directors Guild and Gemini Awards. Surrounded by scale models, hundreds of drawings and props in his studio workshop we asked him about the tasks and challenges in bringing Season 4 to the screen.
Tom Conroy: I suppose the biggest challenge was a battle scene over 2 episodes, The Siege of Boulogne in 1544. It was Henry’s last hurrah as a sort of warrior king and he won but at quite a great cost, both of men and materials – and almost bankrupted himself. They surrounded the walls of the city then dug tunnels underneath and planted explosives. So we’ve recreated the whole siege which was quite complex and required the largest set we’ve yet constructed. We recreated the tunnel with the opening on the siege set and then the rest in the studio so we could take the side and the top off for shooting and we had collapsing sides for the explosion. The design is important but there’s also the technical elements of shooting which required a lot of discussion and planning.
Is there still a site there in Boulogne, did you have any actual references to work from?
TC: No, but I did have one very good reference. It was a contemporary engraving that was rediscovered in the British library only a couple of months ago, which turned out to be amazing timing for us. Because this year is the 500th anniversary Henry’s birth some scholars had been re-examining the library and one turned up an etching which showed how the Siege of Boulogne was staged – in terrific detail - so that basically became our guide. We were incredibly lucky – the drawing had been ‘lost’ for over 400 years.
Tell us a bit more about production design of the Siege of Boulogne
TC: We had to build a large tented encampment and construct defences for Henry’s army. We came up with the idea of making the initial defenses with giant bales of hay, so we bought enormous 8x4x4 bales that we installed with cranes and then covered them with earth and created traditional willow wall fencing all around them. We took all this from the etching. Overall the battle set was about three football pitches in size. Of course visual effects would have made a lot of that possible but it was felt that it would work better to shoot for real as much possible. We wanted the actors – and the audience – to feel the mud and the slog of warfare as tangibly as possible.
Did the design of the encampment come from the ‘lost’ etching too?
TC: Yes it did. We had a spectacular tent made for the king as well as an interior set and we commissioned another twelve tents of the heraldic type. Then we augmented that with old marquees which we added little bits to. We had the main tents all made in Rajasthan in India where they have a thriving industry in making large tent structures. They’re made from modern waterproof canvas of course and then we appliquéd beautiful fabrics to the exteriors. This all requires quite a bit of planning and a lead-in of about three to four months for design and shipping that you simply wouldn’t have on a feature film.
How did you set about designing the weaponry?
TC: Well, we found some cannon barrels but they were all cannons from a ship so they had a different type of wheel casement underneath so we also commissioned new wheels and shafts to be made in India by a foundry that still make cannons – so they’re almost functioning. Again we did lots of research on how they were used and how far away they would be from the walls and the mechanics of their warfare.
So do you think your set for this was historically accurate? For a battle that was fought 500 years ago?
TC: Oh yes, absolutely. It’s very detailed in everything . . . the wicker barrels, the trenches, the cannons, arrows, shields . . . and we’re the first people to recreate it which is a bit of a thrill.
Whitehall palace obviously remains the central set for The Tudors. How was its design altered for this season?
TC: Overall, the sets remain the same but different allowing for the passage of time and people’s circumstances. There is this ongoing layering that reflects the increase in the wealth of those in power.
More specifically, Henry gets married to Catherine Howard so we felt - both from the way the action was described in the script and from the way Dearbhla Walsh, the director of those particular episodes, saw the character of Catherine - that we needed a much bigger and brighter set for the Queen’s apartments, to allow for much more movement. Because she was only 17 we wanted to give her much more scope to be a younger woman with a lot of youth and vitality.
Then when Catherine Parr came on the scene, we took the same chambers and gave them a much more sober look, using less colour and frill and excitement to it.
Do the sets change in the final episodes of the season, as we approach Henry’s death?
TC: Yes, the great thing about working with Michael Hirst is that there’s a very open relationship with him. He doesn’t write all the episodes at the start but he gives us a sense of what’s coming. Quite early on he gave us an indication that the final episodes were to be quite contained and much more psychological in a way. He wanted a situation where the sets would almost reflect Henry’s state of mind which is a bold thing to do because it doesn’t always work.
So what we did was to make the tone of everything much darker, but we still retained elements of gold and silver and come out of the darkness and gloom. And again we reconfigured the sets to make the King’s apartments to make them bigger and give them the sense of a figure in a large room which feels quite lonely and reflects a sense of isolation.
What were the other challenges in season 4?
TC: Well, the season starts with the King going on a ‘Progress’ around his kingdoms, like a royal tour. In those days something like this would take a few months and he’d have a huge entourage with him. We did a huge entourage with all the people he’d need to carry his belongings, cooking implements food and everything else. We had to have a lot of carriages and carts as well as a crowd of people. You have to think of it like, how do you read a column of people in a landscape. So basically we had about 200 people and what we did was gave them large vertical banners to hold at regular intervals in the crowd, so as you looked down you could see spots of colour in the background, so the whole thing became a quite impressive heraldic progress.
We also had to tell something of Catherine Howard during this part of the season so we tried to make the spaces work to suggest that she was being observed. She was naïve and very young and she tried to conceal her affairs but was being watched. So we constructed sets in such a way that there were key foreground elements but there would be someone in the background observing, so gradually the tension built up through these physical observations.
| Directing The Tudors|
Ciaran Donnelly is one of three directors (Dearbhla Walsh, Jeremy Podeswa) working on Season 4 of The Tudors. Overall, Ciaran has directed directed five episodes from the current season and over half of the total episodes for the series. We asked him about his role in bringing Michael Hirst’s vision to the screen.
Given that The Tudors is such a writer-led TV show, what is the job and responsibility of the director, and how does it compare to other shows that you’ve worked on?
CD: What’s unique and interesting about The Tudors is that most TV is formatted but this show is not. What that means is that episodic television tends to be highly repetitive: the same kinds of things happen at the same points in each episode. The Tudors isn’t like that; it tells one long narrative story of the life of Henry VIII. That means that there is no format to follow, so when a director comes into work on this show there is something new in each script - new characters, new storylines, new locations and so on. If you look for example at the first four episodes of season 3 which involves the rebellion, the so called Pilgrimage of Grace, there hasn’t been anything like it up to that point and the same thing is true of the Siege of Boulogne in Season 4. These are entirely different kinds of production from the scene set in the studio. But The Tudors is also different from many shows in that it has a huge visual element. Partly this is because of the amazing sets and costumes that comes with a period piece of course. But its more than that; the style of the show has evolved from what we, as directors, have done with what’s in front of the camera.
Has the style of The Tudors developed over four seasons?
CD: When I first went to meet (Producer) Morgan O’Sullivan I asked him if there was a fixed style for the show and he said ‘no’; that the style was the sets and the costumes and that provided a freedom within which to work. So the visual style has evolved with the directors as well as the designers.
Does your direction on the show have a particular style?
CD: I shoot in a way that one of the producers described as ‘cinematic television’. It’s hard to explain what that means but my direction on The Tudors is a combination of large scale shots (as opposed to lots of tight close-ups of characters talking all the time), keeping the camera moving, blocking the camera moving in such a way that keeps the acting and the scene edgy and dynamic. Of course, its dictated by what’s happening in the scene, but generally I try to use the camera as a storytelling tool, not simply something that observes the action. Traditionally, TV directing is most interested in covering the actors and the dialogue but we’re tried to move this closer to cinema. We have really amazing costumes and sets and part of the directors job here is to show that off and enhance the scripts in as visual a manner as possible while also giving each storyline its own tone - be it political, personal or whatever.
The extended narrative of The Tudors moves in cycles: Henry has a succession of enemies, advisors, wives and executions. Is repetition an issue over such a long period?
CD: Yes it is. I’ve done quite a number of executions over the course of the past four seasons and each of them has its own individual visual style; otherwise the audience is simply going to think, ‘oh well here’s another execution’ without seeing the particular meaning of each one. So for instance the execution of Thomas More (Jeremy Northam) I was very much trying to get the terror and loneliness of what it might feel like to be up there on that platform before some man is about to cut your head off. At that time there was a lot of awful news coming out of Iraq about beheadings and I suppose that influenced the very in which I thought of the scene from the point of view of the person about to be executed. So in that scene we shot it from the platform looking down at the crowd. In this season we have the execution of Katherine Howard which I took from a very different point of view. My interpretation of the scene and the character is that she has been used and in fact lusted after by the men of Henry’s court. She’s a very young girl who has been offered to the King as a kind of plaything. So I see her as a lost innocent in a very masculine and cruel world. Normally we stage our executions within the walls of the Tower of London but in her case we’ve moved it to a town square where there will be a much bigger and more varied crowd who kind of stand in for the audience. I want to show a sense of collective bewilderment and even horror that such a young girl should be executed by the King at his whim. So, this execution has a very different feel: the shots are quite slow, the editing has its own pace, and the crowd is totally silent. Its also staged in such a way that she is executed after her lady in waiting which only serves to underline her own terror as she approaches the bloody block.
By way of contrast, the executions of her former lovers Dereham and Culpepper are rowdy, riotous affairs - like some kind of Saturday afternoon football match, reflecting the fact that no one felt any sympathy at all for them. The camerawork in those is all hand held and shot right down amongst the crowd so we feel what it might have been like to go out and ‘enjoy’ an execution - shouting, throwing vegetables and all the rest - in Tudor times. it’s a total circus.
Do you spend a long time preparing your shooting?
CD: Yes, going through the script and thinking about the ways in which each scene might be shot and what would work most effectively. And then, anything that takes place outside the studio sets will be storyboarded - the executions, fighting, the uprising and so on.
What has offered you the most pleasure in Season 4?
CD: Well, there has been great variety in the scripts this season and great scope for doing interesting things. But the last two episodes are particularly wonderful and extremely visual. What’s interesting in the way we portray Henry VIII are the glimpses of a very mortal, vulnerable being and in the final scenes there is a suggestion that Henry beings to see himself in a more vulnerable light than at any time over the 4 seasons. I don’t know if Jonathan Rhys Meyers would agree with that interpretation but I see my role as mediating the story for the audience.
Joan Bergin is one of the great off-screen stars of The Tudors. Her extraordinary costumes have come to define the show’s tone and visual style and have won her plaudits from audiences, critics and peers. Her work on The Tudors has garnered many awards including three Emmy nominations (‘Outstanding Costumes for a Series’) and two wins (2007, 2008).
Looking back over the four seasons of the show what were the principle design challenges?
JB: The scale of the task. When we started and I read the script, I thought we couldn’t possibly put this up on screen: it seemed too dense, too complicated. I’m not saying that it has become so easy that we are singing while we work, but it is astonishing to me that as if making the clothes wasn’t enough, we’re now making the crowns, the jewellery, the shoes, and the armour! So it has become like a medieval workshop and everybody has been challenged and stretched by it. So at the end of four years, it’s almost an agony to leave it. A part of you realises that the rest of your life cannot be about the problems of Henry VIII, but at the same time people have acquired such skill that it’s quite sad that it has come to an end. What has happened with The Tudors which doesn’t normally happen with episodic TV is that it has entered a realm that is so handsome and detailed and so big, it’s quite extraordinary. Showtime have stayed with it and believed in it and allowed us to continue on improving and bettering it.
Has it been quite a dynamic process working with the actors?
JB: Oh yes, very much so. I think the person who gave me the greatest enjoyment, apart from the King, was Anne Boleyn (Natalie Dormer). You needed to understand what she was about to become was so amazing that you didn’t come out with all guns blazing, that you had to leave her fairly simple, fairly coy and attractive but not ‘wow’. Not the Anne Boleyn she became, so you had somewhere to go.
What did you especially enjoy about designing the costumes for Henry VIII?
JB: Well his was an extraordinary journey – I would say unrivalled in film or TV - in costume terms because it begins with a concept of him as a kind of rock star of his time. You know, this young man, everybody was affected by him and that it was the dawn of a new Camelot. And we took him right through to the state he is at the end of season 4 which is a sour, decaying, disillusioned and disappointed king. And the actor (Jonathon Rhys Meyers) is unusual in that you have someone who both looks so good in these costumes, but also has such an understanding of clothes and that helps enormously.
This year has probably been the most interesting in costume terms because we had to find some way of showing that Henry was older although the actor is still 32 years of age and slim. So we built up this system of padding from 1 to 5 and then we added a lot of furs and lots of gold so that the opulence masked the disillusionment. We grew him into a look that demonstrated that he really wanted to show the power of his kingdom until he became seriously ill which is historically true.
The set designers have reduced his world to a wonderful gothic black and gold and purple which is opulent, but you have to strain to see him in it and I went with that very much for the costuming. So it was like somebody who put on fine clothes but was no longer interested in them.
But the greatest thrill for me was making the costume for the famous Holbein portrait that everyone knows of Henry VIII. I think everyone thought that we would deliver a version of it, but what we delivered was every exact detail, so that when he walked onto the set the gasp was very wonderful! We even made the jewellery to match the portrait. It was just wonderful
In the first part of the season he marries a very young woman, Katherine Howard. How did you approach the costumes?
JB: That was just the most fun. There wasn’t anything in the writing so I came up with this very girly thing, Henry would arrive into the room and she and her ladies would be in the middle of a maelstrom of clothes everywhere and would think ‘Oh my god what have I done, here are all these 17 year olds screaming and trying on dresses!’ The actress playing Catherine Howard (Tamzin Merchant) was absolutely wonderful which made it even more fun. It couldn’t have been more different from what went before: the beginning season 4 starts with him being reborn and trying to live up to this young one who wants to dance every night. Catherine’s wardrobe is all girly flowery pinks and blues. Her rooms are absolutely beautiful and filled with embroidered turquoise silks.
Where do you find these amazing fabrics?
JB: I came across the majority of the fabrics for this season in a most extraordinary place. An American woman named Anne Bullitt was the daughter of an American ambassador to Africa and she married a horse trainer and lived in Ireland for many years. When she died recently she willed a large portion of her clothes to a local Children’s hospital. I went along to look at them at auction and one of the auctioneers, who was a huge fan of The Tudors told me that the woman had also left two huge trunks of fabrics, and so I got these exquisite fabrics! That has been one of the huge things this year. They came from Paris, Japan, silk damask and silks made in Thailand. I also bought the most amazing jewellery. So in a way a lot of this year’s costume work has been hers. This treasure trove gave great inspiration for this season. She would have done most of her shopping in Paris and New York in the 1950s. It was from the shops that would have supplied couture houses like Ungaro, Givenchy and Chloe; shops which no longer exist today.
What were the biggest challenges for this season?
JB: Well this was really a heavy year, because there’s nothing as heavy on costumes as battle. That was huge and we made most of the armour and the military clothes in the workshop too. There’s a surprising amount of research material available and we did everything quite authentically. One of the problems with armour that I was trying to avoid was to have the soldiers look too generic on horseback, so I really worked very hard with Liam Rodden who is our head tailor and the influence I took was the Japanese warlords to make people gasp when they saw the King. His costume is extraordinary – like something from a Kurosawa film. Then for the big battle scene we discovered someone in the UK who had Laurence Olivier’s original Henry V tabard (coat of arms) and that’s what our Henry rides into battle with. So there’s this connection with that great actor and film.
How did you go about dressing Henry’s sixth bride?!
JB: Well, the clothes were so magnificent and gilded I was kind of begging that they prolong the wedding scene because you can’t make quick wedding clothes, you put all that work into them and she had a magnificent gold coat and a train, and that was it, it was not seen again. Even the front of the dress had a hundred year old Japanese Obie belt cut into panels, but they did get a great shot of the back and they zoomed in on the front, so it was short but detailed.
Henry’s daughter Mary finally comes of age in this season. What does her costume tell us about her?
JB: Mary (Sarah Bolger) ended up with the dress of the season because there was a short period, between wives, when she was her father’s hostess at parties and she became incredibly confident and close to him before Catherine Parr arrived. The dress appears at Christmas when she hosts for the king and in some of the diary notes from the time that she had worn a peacock dress. Anjelica Huston had given me a peacock scarf years ago and I most reluctantly surrendered it and it was cut up for the dress. For a short period she is radiant. And gradually I had to show that Mary realised that she would never be Queen and that worst of all England would turn Protestant so the curls and the low necklines gave way to more sombre colour and darker things.
How did you dress the final scenes that end the season and the show?
JB: The final great moment is the reappearance of Henry’s wives so I went for the whole gothic look, black and big veils. They appear in costumes that we haven’t seen before; I thought it was important to have a particular look to have them as almost a separate poster for the last 2 episodes to show him as old. He got the most wonderful makeup from an LA makeup artist to show him old. So they are kind of angels of death really, all black and white.
We got all the jewellery once again from the wonderful people in Sorelli. It was my final homage to them; I dress him in Sorelli but also I made the crowns out of their earrings and bracelets.
Where we last saw him/her
King Henry VIII...............Jonathan Rhys Meyers
| When we last saw Henry, the world was as unfair to him (in his own mind) as usual. His leg killed him, his wife was ugly, and his minister had betrayed him in setting up the Cleves marriage. At least one thing seems to be looking up - he reclaimed his manhood with a young new dish - Katherine Howard.|
| Charles Brandon....... |
| Having just participated in the plot against Cromwell, the Season 3 finale leaves us to believe that the Duke is not terribly pleased with what he has become. His handling of the Pilgrimage of Grace eats at him in the form of hallucinations, and it can't feel great to have your wife eye you sitting with the Seymours and Bryan |
|Katherine Howard.............Tamzin Merchant|| Twirling around on a garden swing (in her birthday suit), Katherine Howard was last seen giggling with Henry VIII in bed over Cromwell's downfall. That hesitant reading of Cromwell's cry for "mercy, mercy, mercy" makes us hope that Katherine might have realized what she is getting in to when she becomes Wife Number Five to Henry.|
Anne of Cleves..............................Joss Stone
| Having just been told she was no longer queen, Anne of Cleves seems to be getting a pretty sweet deal compared to Henry's previous three wives. This one is a true "Survivor."|
Edward Seymour...............Max Brown
| Seymour's, his wife's, Bryan's, and Brandon's scheming brought down Thomas Cromwell. He seems to be ok with Bryan sleeping with his wife, too. Gotta wonder about that competitive look between him and his brother at the end of the season, though, especially considering that Prince Edward is often under his hawk-eye watch.|
|Thomas Seymour ................Andrew McNair|| Thomas Seymour spent most of his time as Francis Bryan's right-hand lackey last season, chasing after Reginald Pole. Rumor has it he is attracted to a new character this season - Catherine Parr.|
Princess Mary...............Sarah Bolger
| At the end of Season 3, Princess Mary stoically carried on as Phillip of Bavaria was sent back to his homeland by her father. Luckily, she is back in her father's favor and currently looks after her sister, the Princess Elizabeth, in her household.|
|Princess Elizabeth.......Laoise Murray|| Princess Elizabeth showed a bit of a feisty streak last season, telling her sister the Princess Mary that she didn't think their father loved them any less than their brother, Prince Edward. Time will tell when the next season begins.|
| Prince Edward.............Eoin Murtagh |
& Jake Hathaway
| Prince Edward is a very protected little boy - you would be, too, if your dad ordered that your room be scrubbed from top to bottom every day. We look forward to Edward's relationship with his older sisters this season.|
|Jane Boleyn....... .....................Joanne King|| We last saw Jane Boleyn serving Queen Jane before her untimely death. Word on the streets says she will be a Lady in Waiting to Katherine Howard - we look forward to seeing how that will turn out.|
Hans Holbein......................Peter Gaynor
| Hans just painted a nice portrait of Anne of Cleves. Too bad Henry didn't think it compared to the flesh version of Anne, but we doubt Henry will give up on Hans because of that.|
Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey...............David O'Hara
| Howard is a new character. Historically, he was the Duke of Norfolk's son and a friend to Thomas Wyatt.|
|Thomas Culpepper....................Torrance Coombs|| According to some sources, Culpepper is a returning character from last season (Episode 8), although you wouldn't know it without some dandy detective work. Culpepper will be doing his best wooing for Katherine Howard this season...we'll see how that works out.|
|Ambassador Marillac.....Lothaire Bluteau|| As an alliance with the Holy Roman Empire is formed, a war with France looms. Ambassador Marillac will no doubt be in negotiations (or perhaps intrigue?) with Henry and his councilors for a good portion of the season.|
| Catherine Parr......... |
|A survivor...Henry VIII's sixth and final wife makes her debut this year.|
|Girolamo de Treviso .......... Daniel Caltagirone|
| Risley ( Thomas Wriothesley) ........... Frank McCusker |
|Richard Rich ......... Rod Hallett|