Jodie Turner-Smith shot by Lelanie Foster

“Sometimes a ‘no’ is the best thing in the world”: Jodie Turner-Smith on the power of boundary-setting

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Anne Boleyn star Jodie Turner-Smith appears on the cover of Stylist magazine to talk about learning to say no and her new role showing the human side of a historical icon. 

After a breakthrough role in Queen and Slim, actor Jodie Turner-Smith is taking on her next big challenge: playing Anne Boleyn, in a new three-part drama about the second wife of Henry VIII. It’s a story that’s been told many times, but this version centres the woman behind the myth during the last few months of her life. 

Turner-Smith appears on the cover of Stylist this week (which you can buy here) to talk about the significance of this retelling.       

While Turner-Smith has quickly become one of Hollywood’s brightest stars, she tells Stylist the way she has learnt to look after her well-being is by setting boundaries. And that’s something that’s become non-negotiable since she gave birth to her daughter last year, with husband, Dawson’s Creek and Little Fires Everywhere actor Joshua Jackson, at her side.

“There’s something about the instinct to protect another life, when you begin to understand all that you need to take for yourself in order to protect and nurture that other life that setting boundaries becomes unquestionable,” Turner-Smith tells Stylist. “Certain things just don’t fit anymore. It’s nothing personal, nothing to be angry about with someone, but sometimes a loving ‘No’ is the best thing in the world.” 

In 2019, Turner-Smith posted a powerful Instagram message saying: “I’m humbled when I look at this girl. 17 year old me. not just because of how I look on the outside, but because I remember how I felt on the inside. I remember how badly I hated myself and hated the dark skin that made people call me ugly. how I turned my helplessness at being unable to change my outward appearance inward, by constantly cleaving away any and all parts of myself that I was told made me unacceptable to others.”  

And boundary setting is also the way Turner-Smith, who was born in Peterborough, but moved to the US age eight, began to heal after those years of self-hatred, telling Stylist it’s been a “journey of shedding all of the calcified layers of inauthenticity, fear, self-loathing and low self-worth.”

Anne Boleyn, which comes to Channel 5 later this month, was cast in an ‘identity conscious’ way meaning it was about making the monarch’s experience a human one and shows that what she endured: being vilified and othered was not specific to either the time period or her race. This confronts the backlash that sprung up about Turner-Smith’s casting as a Black woman. 

 The drama also examines the value placed on women purely as agents of reproduction and not having the right to decide what happens to their body - something we’ve seen examined in the likes of The Handmaid’s Tale, but is also being questioned this week with the US Supreme Court announcing it would hear a case that could challenge Roe v. Wade, which enshrined a woman’s right to abortion in 1973. 

 “In Anne’s case, whether her body works according to the patriarchal demands was a matter of survival for her,” says Turner-Smith of Boleyn who was cast aside, and ultimately killed, after failing to provide a male heir for her husband. 

Jodie Turner-Smith by Misan Harriman
Jodie Turner-Smith by Misan Harriman

In fact, Turner-Smith reveals she sees Boleyn as a proto-feminist: “I was so interested in the fact she was this feminist figure. It’s interesting how much she was before her time,” she says. “It was radical what Anne believed women should be allowed to do and were capable of,” says Turner-Smith. “The way that she felt that they should have a seat at the table, in politics, in culture.” 

Jodie Turner-Smith in Stylist magazine
Jodie Turner-Smith in Stylist magazine

Read the issue here where the actor talks about taking on the famed monarch, her Big Virgo Energy and her enduring love for Tom Cruise.  

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Anne Boleyn is on Channel 5 later this month 

Images: Lelanie Foster, Misan Hariman, Instagram, Channel 5 

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