Thalissa Teixeira says that the inclusion of actors of colour in Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn cast is definitely not an example of colour-blind casting.
The actress plays King Henry VIII’s mistress Madge Shelton in the upcoming historical thriller, which made headlines for casting Queen & Slim star Jodie Turner-Smith as Henry’s most famous wife, the ill-fated Anne Boleyn.
Speaking exclusively to RadioTimes.com, the Trigonometry actress stressed that the diverse casting in Anne Boleyn was – instead of being colour-blind – identity conscious, helping to highlight how certain characters were ‘othered’ by the Tudor court.
“[The downfall of Anne is] a tragedy. And we often see it as this kind of quick-paced murder but it was very thought through, and it was very, very well plotted by [Thomas] Cromwell and Henry. I think the casting [of Jodie Turner-Smith] has something to say for that as well. We’re talking about the idea that… she was different from the rest of the people in the court – this kind of othering of her, this horrible sense, awful sense of sort of witchery and witchcraft. That seems like very much like an Othello storyline,” says Teixeira.
She says, “I think colour-blind casting is actually an old, old term that we should try and eradicate really, as well, because I don’t actually think there’s such a thing. Because it’s impossible to avoid someone’s race in a story. And I think if you’re trying to ignore the fact that we’ve cast those people in those roles, then you’re not understanding the concept of retelling a story that goes beyond that. And we’re not consciously doing a historically accurate show, of course, because otherwise the casting would look completely different.”
She continues, “We’re embracing the fact that we are obsessed with these stories still, we’re still telling stories about Anne Boleyn. And it’s everyone’s history. It was a British history, and Britain looks completely differently now. And I think that we can tell a story that goes beyond what we’re saying. We’re not just talking about Anne Boleyn. We’re talking about stories about faithfulness, and sisterhood, and brotherhood.
“I know that a young Black girl might see the storyline and not even think about Anne Boleyn historically, that actually [it’s] just looking at a Black Queen, and the relationship between her and her husband. But because we know the themes, it’s quite useful to use that as a starting point and a block to then say, look how little or how far we’ve come in history.”
On her casting as real-life historical figure Madge Shelton, Teixeira said: “Actually, when I went to my casting, and I asked Kharmel Cochrane [casting director] why I was there, she was like, ‘I just can’t wait. I just want to cast BAME people’. And then we can start seeing them more, and then we’ll maybe write some more stories about Black storylines. It’s a movement, of course, but I don’t think it’s something that takes away from what we’ve already got. Because I just think it’s really beautiful to be able to say we’re telling parallel stories in one.
“Never any moment did I think, ‘Oh, I’m not brown,’ whilst I was playing Madge. I’m still me. Granted, the the themes might shift if we were doing a modern telling, but we’re just using the themes of Anne Boleyn to tell a completely different story, I suppose.”
She added that she believes there’s a place for “historically accurate” period dramas – “have your Downton Abbeys”– but that, simultaneously, broadcasters need to ensure “that every channel is diverse”.
“I’ve never thought of myself as a minority, and maybe in the UK [I am], but I’m a global majority,” she says. “But for me, it’s not about taking up space that would have been there before; I think we’ve actually just expanded the genre of the ways that we can tell stories. I still think that you should have completely historically accurate [dramas] – have your Downton Abbeys, I love them, but then also make sure that every channel is diverse.”
Want more show content? Check out our location guide to where Anne Boleyn was filmed.