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Cromwell is coming: Wolf Hall starts Sunday

Thomas Cromwell, the brilliant 16th-century advisor to King Henry VIII, is coming to PBS on Sunday night in "Wolf Hall."

The series, produced by Masterpiece and BBC2, is adapted from Hilary Mantel's novel of the same name. The book was a hit with readers and critics: a bestseller in both the U.S. and Britain, it won America's National Book Critics Circle Award and the Man Booker Prize in England.

The story follows Cromwell's ascent and maneuverings in the British court. His manipulations helped the king break from Rome, establish the Church of England, divorce and remarry. Some people lose their heads along the way.

"Mantel's abilities to channel the life and lexicon of the past are nothing short of astonishing," the L.A. Times wrote in our review. "She burrows down through the historical record to uncover the tiniest, most telling details, evoking the minutiae of history as vividly as its grand sweep."

In the miniseries, Cromwell is played by Mark Rylance, a top Shakespearean actor, and King Henry VIII by Damian Lewis ("Homeland").

"He is a changeable, volatile, very likable on many levels, brilliant, passionate man, who became increasingly fixated and paranoid on a single issue and a lot of people died as a result of it. So his trajectory is extraordinary," Lewis told The Times.

Henry, however, is almost peripheral in a story that's focused on Cromwell, whose complexity of character is at the center to Mantel's novel -- and its sequel, "Bring Up the Bodies," as well as a third book, not yet published.

"Wolf Hall" begins April 5 at 10 p.m. Eastern on Masterpiece and will air Sundays through May 10.

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