Jean-Louis coaches James Frain for his role on Showtime’s “The Tudors”

Photo courtesy of James Frain

The first season of The Tudors deals with the early years of Henry VIII, his love affair with Anne Bolynn and his subsequent divorce from Katherine of Aragon. It details how this motivated the seismic split of the English Church and State from Rome and changed the character of England from Catholic to Protestant. The foundations were laid to the American Revolution 250 years later.

In 10 one-hour dramas, we delve into Henry’s court and private chambers and discover a world of intrigue and power that revolve around a ruthless and charismatic ruler with extraordinary sexual charisma. Henry is usually portrayed as the overweight figure familiar from his later years. The Tudors shows the athletic and youthful star king of Europe at the begininning of his ascent to total power over his reign. Jonathan Rhys-Myers plays Henry, Sam Neil plays Cardinal Wolsey, and Jeremy Northam plays Thomas More.

Alexander Techworks student, James Frain, plays Thomas Cromwell who rose to prominence after Thomas More was executed for opposing the King’s wishes and refusing to recognize the divorce from Katherine. Cromwell was a primary influence in using the King’s “great matter” as leverage to institute the Protestant Reformation of England. He instituted the revolutionary seizure of land and wealth from the monasteries and instituted an unsurpassed series of reforms in Parliament. He was either a Tudor Tyrant or an early forefather of the commonwealth according to your perspective. He is a controversial and complicated character to unravel.

I have been particularly concerned to use the Alexander principles while working on The Tudors to find an ease and grace in the movement of Cromwell. The costumes are restrictive if not inhabited as they were designed to be worn – with an uprightness of posture – and I am keen that there is no stiffness to Cromwell’s physicality. I find that the consciousness of upwardness, expansion, inhibition and release I am learning from the Alexander Technique are crucial in imagining myself into the world of the Tudor court. Cromwell was a social outsider who had to learn to adapt to aristocratic mores and my sense is that he would have wanted to be more gentlemanly than the gentlemen “to the manor born” and not display any awkwardness. I have a sense of him gliding through the court almost effortlessly – a man at home with the machinations of power.

“In my own life the experiences of release I am having with the technique are revelatory. I have studied Alexander Technique before but much less successfully than with Jean-Louis who has helped me unlock years of habit with comparative ease. I am discovering an economy of expression and a freedom from pain and tension that I had not thought possible and it is transforming my own sense of comfort in myself. I was intrigued to hear from Jean-Louis that some other actors I admire use Alexander Technique in their character preparation. I feel I have had a glimpse into the secret of their poise and confidence onscreen and I look forward to developing my understanding of the practice further. The Alexander principles are, slowly, subtly, with consistent and gentle encouragement, lodging in my body and mind. I am determined that they are here to stay!”

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