Jodie Turner-Smith Opened Up About Race-Related Criticism for ‘Anne Boleyn’

"Anne is a human in history who people feel very strongly about."

Jodie Turner-Smith, who shot to fame after starring in Lena Waithe’s 2019 flick Queen & Slim alongside Daniel Kaluuya, stars as Anne Boleyn in a three-part Channel 5 miniseries that chronicles the last few months of Henry VIII’s most famous mistress. Turner-Smith talked to Glamour on May 20th about the backlash she received when word first got out she’d be taking on the role of Boleyn, noting that the ill-fated queen’s story should not be one defined by race but one defined by humanity first and foremost.

“I had just become a mother and that was what really jumped out at me, the story of Anne as a mother,” Turner-Smith said. “I did know it would be something that people felt very passionately about, either in a positive or a negative way, because Anne is a human in history who people feel very strongly about.”

She continued, More than anything, I wanted to tell the human story at the centre of all of this.

Turner-Smith said that her daughter, whom she shares with Joshua Jackson of Dawson’s Creek fame, was only 6 months old and still nursing at the time Anne Boleyn was filming. “So to have the experience of working with people that have so much compassion for where I was in my journey as a mother, as we were telling the story about a mother, I feel there was just so much more compassion in the storytelling,” she said.

Furthermore, Turner-Smith believes that race cannot come between women telling female-centric stories. “It’s important that women get to tell our own stories—in the same way I’ve relished the opportunity to work with Black filmmakers, because there’s a certain nuance to the storytelling that I don’t find when I work with white filmmakers,” she continued. “When something’s helmed by female filmmakers…there’s so much power in that.”

Anne Boleyn had an all-female production team (save for one man), which Turner-Smith said contributed to “an element of being seen and your character being seen and feeling more alive.” She said, “obviously we pay attention to different things and want to honour the fullness of an experience in a different way.”

Yes, even historical retellings can have race-blind casts, people. At the end of the day, history is still a story that can be told in new ways to open minds to new perspectives and takes on what actually happened. And if the previews tell you anything, Turner-Smith’s take on Anne Boleyn’s tale will break your heart and leave you breathless.

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