'Masterpiece' series 'Wolf Hall' celebrated with L.A. tea

'Masterpiece' series 'Wolf Hall' celebrated with L.A. tea
From left to right, Damian Lewis, British Consul General Christopher O'Connor and Mark Rylance pose at a Jan. 18 tea in Los Angeles honoring the "Masterpiece" production of "Wolf Hall." (Rachel Murray / Getty Images)

The event: British Consul General Chris O’Connor hosted an afternoon tea Sunday to celebrate “Wolf Hall,” the upcoming six-part TV adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s award-winning novels about Thomas Cromwell and King Henry VIII. The series is to premiere April 5 on “Masterpiece” on PBS.

The crowd: Rebecca Eaton, executive producer of “Masterpiece,” and Colin Callender, executive producer of “Wolf Hall,” cohosted the affair. They welcomed guests including the show’s director, Peter Kosminsky; its stars Mark Rylance, a much-acclaimed British stage actor and three-time Tony Award winner, and Damian Lewis, a Golden Globe and Emmy Award winner for “Homeland.” Other guests were Joanne Froggatt, Laura Carmichael and Lesley Nicol of “Downton Abbey;” Eleanor Tomlinson and Aidan Turner of the upcoming British TV series “Poldark; Juliet Rylance of “The Knick;” Haaz Sleiman of “Killing Jesus” and Jason Isaacs of “Case Histories.”

The scene: Surrounded by posters of the show, a blow-up of an effusive British review and the program playing on a large screen, Eaton stood on the patio of what she described as "British soil," i.e., the gardens of the consul general official residence in Los Angeles, and addressed party-goers.

"I have a terrible weakness for actors," Eaton said, before naming many of the actors present and suggesting that other guests "go straight to them and start talking to them."

More than a few party-goers congratulated Froggatt on her best supporting actress win at the Golden Globes, although she wasn't all that easy to recognize in her bouncy red print mini-dress -- a far cry from the dowdy lady's maid uniform that her character Anna Bates wears in the blockbuster PBS drama.

Lewis cheerfully posed for snapshots and selfies, noting modestly that his role as Henry VIII is a supporting one, compared with that of Rylance's Thomas Cromwell, the new show's center of attention. He said he was pleased to present a more robust than usual image of the Tudor king, whom he described as an expert sportsman, jouster, hunter and archer.

The show: Based on "Wolf Hall" and "Bring Up the Bodies," the first two novels in Mantel's Cromwell trilogy -- both winners of the Man Booker Prize, among other awards -- the television series is set in 1520s England, focusing on Cromwell's role in the court intrigues surrounding the rise and fall of Anne Boleyn.

Quote of note: Unlike the typical two-dimensional portrayals of Cromwell, Callender said "Wolf Hall" depicts the historical figure as complex, complicated and a "consigliere" to the king.

“This is a post-‘Sopranos’ show in a ‘Breaking Bad’ era,” he said.

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