Today we take a look at what many regard as one of the most exciting casting announcements from Amazon thus far: staffer greendragon delves into the career of a British national treasure, Sir Lenny Henry.
Sir Lenworth George Henry CBE was born in Dudley (in the West Midlands, England) in 1958. He first came to prominence as an impressionist on the television talent show New Faces, which he won in 1975. This led to work as a stand-up comedian, impersonator, and children’s television host. At the beginning of the 1980s, he moved into the alternative comedy scene, joining the group The Comic Strip. It was there that he met his wife (from 1984 to 2010), comedian and actor Dawn French.
The Lenny Henry Show began on the BBC in 1984, and as a British child of the 1980s myself, Lenny Henry was a big part of my childhood television viewing. From appearing in the final episode of The Young Ones, to his 1990s series Chef!, he was a feature of much of the comedy we loved in that era. A personal favourite of mine was the Richard Curtis penned, Christmas 1991 show Bernard and the Genie; Henry starred in this alongside Alan Cumming and Rowan Atkinson.
In 1985, Henry was a co-founder of the charity organisation Comic Relief, which is still going strong: Red Nose Day 2021 (the 19th such occasion) will be March 19th. (He received his knighthood in 2015, for ‘services to drama and charity’.)
Henry has form in the realms of fantasy and literature: in 1996 he collaborated with none other than Neil Gaiman, to devise the ‘urban fantasy’ television series Neverwhere. (Gaiman later adapted the series into a novel.) Henry’s voice can be heard in the Harry Potter franchise, as ‘Dre Head’, the shrunken head on board the Knight Bus; and at the beginning of this year, Henry played the role of Daniel Barton in the two part opening of Doctor Who‘s latest season.
Henry first branched out into a serious role in 1999, in the BBC drama Hope and Glory. He surprised the critics as an excellent lead in Othello (in the 2009 Northern Broadsides production), and has since played Antipholus of Syracuse in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors at the National Theatre (2011). A man of many talents, who has also been a radio dj, screenwriter, singer, and composer, in recent years it seems to have been his desire to focus on being a more ‘serious’ actor. Since his appearance at the National Theatre, he has trod the boards in plays such as Fences, Educating Rita, and The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui. This makes me think that his casting in Amazon’s series is not a ‘Barry Humphries’ style appearance. The headshot Amazon are using (seen at the top of this article) also makes that pretty clear: Henry is being hired as a straight actor, not as a funny man.
So what could his role be? Now 62, Henry has a gravitas in his face – in the past, always seeming so ready to break into a huge grin – which lends itself to the ‘elder statesman’ type of character. Lately, he often takes on roles of folks who are in some ways worn down by their experiences; or at least, are wiser (if sadder) for the life they have lived. I see Henry playing a Numenorean leader; someone with nobility, courage, but perhaps with troubles or bitterness. Tar-Ancalimon, leader of an increasingly divided Numenor, perchance? Whatever his role may be, I for one am very excited to see one of my favourite performers step in to my favourite fantasy realm.
Editor Note: Join TheOneRing.net as we focus on the recent cast member announcements for Amazon TV’s The Lord of the Rings inspired TV series. Throughout the month, and as part of our Tolkien Advent Calendar celebration, we will be taking a deep-dive into their previous work, relating that to the world of J.R.R. Tolkien. Today’s calendar is below!