BBC accuracy row erupts as Wolf Hall returns after hiatus with new-look diverse cast: 'WOKE gone mad!'

BBC accuracy row erupts as Wolf Hall returns after hiatus with new-look diverse cast: 'WOKE gone mad!'

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Alex Davies

By Alex Davies

Published: 04/04/2024

- 14:02

Updated: 04/04/2024

- 14:44

One critic of the period drama's new-look cast called it a "deliberate distortion of history"

Wolf Hall, the BBC and PBS drama based on Hilary Mantel's novels, is heading back to screens after a near-decade-long hiatus.

Set in 16th-century England, Wolf Hall: The Mirror and the Light depicts Thomas Cromwell's (played by Mark Rylance) rise to one of the country's most feared and important figures during Henry VIII's (Damian Lewis) reign.

According to the BBC, the final instalment in Mantel's series "will trace the final four years of Cromwell’s life, completing his journey from self-made man to the most feared, influential figure of his time.

"Cromwell is as complex as he is unforgettable: a politician and a fixer, a diplomat and a father, a man who both defied and defined his age."

Rylance and Lewis will reprise their roles alongside the likes of fellow returning cast members Kate Phillips (as Jane Seymour) and Thomas Brodie-Sangster who will play Sir Rafe Sadler.

Among the newcomers to the cast is Sarah Priddy, a British actress of Bahamian descent who'll take on the part of Lady Margery Seymour, Jane Seymour's mother.

Sir Mark Rylance

Wolf Hall: Mark Rylance will return as Thomas Cromwell


Elsewhere, Seymour’s sister-in-law Anne will be portrayed by mixed-race actress Cecilia Appiah whose CV includes roles in Hijack, The Chelsea Detective and Toast of Tinseltown.

Tudor courtier and poet Thomas Wyatt will be played by Amir El-Masry, an Egyptian-British actor who recently appeared in another BBC drama, Vigil.

Other cast members include Lilit Lesser as Princess Mary, Jonathan Pryce as Cardinal Wolsey, Harriet Walter as Lady Margaret Pole, Harry Melling as Thomas Wriothesley, Timothy Spall as the Duke of Norfolk, Alex Jennings as Stephen Gardiner and Charlie Rowe as Gregory Cromwell.

According to the Telegraph, there is "no historical evidence that the Seymours had non-white heritage".

The publication also claims the BBC hasn't confirmed if it has adopted a policy for colour-blind casting for the aforementioned roles.

It is on record that several people of African descent were within the English population, including Henry VIII's trumpeter, John Blanke.

GB News has contacted the BBC for comment.

The BBC’s chief content officer, Charlotte Moore, has celebrated the imminent return of Wolf Hall, lauding the cast and storytellers who'll star.

Moore said: "A stunning and unforgettable adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s sublime novels, Wolf Hall quickly established itself as one of the all-time great television dramas, with millions of adoring viewers across the UK and around the world.

"Almost a decade on we’re delighted to have reunited this exceptional creative team and lead cast to conclude Mantel’s thrilling saga on the BBC."

After the first-look pictures from the new series were released along with the casting information, debate soon erupted on social media.

Damian Lewis

Damian Lewis: The Homeland actor will reprise the role of Henry VIII


One fan fumed on X, formerly Twitter: "Makers of historical dramas -about real people - pride themselves on the authenticity of the costumes, surroundings and manners. But what’s the point, if you then cast actors of ethnicities which would’ve been completely impossible at that time?"

"It should be about realism," another replied before a third hit out: "This is the deliberate distortion of our history - a social engineering step too far. Divisive tactics by an institution captured by a divisive ideology."

"Historical drama loses credibility if casting does not accurately reflect racial profiling of that era. There is no shortage of diversity in modern drama, so leave alone," a fourth raged while another shared a link to the article and said: "Woke gone mad!"

However, there was still plenty of excitement among the show's fandom, including one person who shared: "Exciting to see the conclusion to this series - the books are excellent too!"

While a second echoed: "Can't wait for this - the original series was wonderful and in the hiatus, I've read the books and The Mirror and the Light is the best (even though it didn't win Hilary Mantel the Booker hat-trick)! #wolfhall." (sic)

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