Let’s play a little game of word association. First topic: The Tudors. Words that may come to mind include power, religion, deception, heretics, nobility, rebellion, vanity, decadence, loyalty, betrayal. For Season 3, premiering this Sunday on Showtime, British ingénue Annabelle Wallis joins the Tudor clan — replacing Icelandic actress Anita Briem — as King Henry’s third wife, Jane Seymour. Wallis took a moment away from court to give an insider’s perspective on Tudor life.
What were your first impressions of your character? I auditioned for her in London, and I was originally cast for Season 2, but it went back and forth, and they went with someone else. A year later, I got a call saying I had got the part, so it was all a bit of a scramble to get to that. She’s the love of Henry’s life. To be chosen as someone to represent that is an honor because you’d like to think that you resemble some of her qualities. She very much loved her husband, but also knew how to work him, and how to get the things that she wanted at a time when it was very difficult to get anything from him. I think she did it very well and very politically.
She was much better than Ann Boleyn in that respect. You had to be quite an intelligent woman to be at that level of importance in that day and age. Your life was very fragile, and you needed to play your cards right. I think her being a loveable and amiable queen made her seem nonthreatening, and therefore she had, in a sense, more power.
Historically, Jane Seymour was very plain; you are very beautiful and recognizable. Is this a modern twist on Jane? The term “English Rose” was named after Jane Seymour. It’s not that she was plain, but she didn’t come from such a noble background. The whole point of The Tudors is to relate it to an audience of now, and give it relevance in our day and age.
Was it difficult to get around in period costumes? It was. What the people don’t know is that the show is so true to form, and is so historically accurate. When you see us in our dresses, we’re wearing four layers underneath and petticoats and corsets. It’s an incredible weight on an actor. While doing any kind of scene, you become so aware of your costume … it helps and it hinders. It helps with your posture and the elegance, and the constraints make you feel how your character would feel at the time.
How much did the dresses weigh? Oh God … I work in kilos, so I guess a couple of kilos. They’re very heavy, and there’s this scene where I have to get on a horse, and I’ve got all the layers and then this fur cape, and I just was not able to lift myself up onto the horse. It took about ten tries to get on the horse, and then they got a man who literally hoisted me. He was built like a ton of bricks, and it would’ve been impossible to have done it without him. It was the also the last day of my shooting, and it was really hot. It was terrible.
There’s a lot of dancing in court. Who’s the worst dancer in the cast? It’s hard because it takes two to tango. You are as bad as your partner is really. We wouldn’t admit that we were bad, but we were pretty bad. Jonathan and I are good dancers on our own, but together maybe we weren’t the best match. You’re allowed only one leader in a dance, and I think we both were practicing leadership.
What was life like on set in Ireland? It was wonderful. The cast is wonderful, and we all got on really well. It was a very close-knit group of people. Working in Ireland, all of the behind-the-scenes crew and technicians were Irish, and they’re really lively people. Dublin’s an amazing city. It’s vibrant and filled with young people, and it’s close enough to London so if you had work, you could just fly back over. It was kind of a perfect job.
How long does Jane last in the season before Henry marries Anne of Cleves? Five episodes. She dies after childbirth.