Jonathan Rhys Meyers would be relieved to see “The Tudors” end before his character, King Henry VIII, transforms from a robust young man to pudgy old ruler.
“I wouldn’t be very good at putting on a lot of weight. When I played Elvis (a young Presley, in the 2005 TV movie “Elvis”), I really had to struggle so I would have Elvis’ puppy fat,” Meyers said. “I had to keep eating.”
Meyers’ portrayal of an energetically trim Henry is in sharp contrast to portraits depicting a mature, full-faced monarch, one with an apparent appetite for food as well as marriage.
“The Tudors” is in its third season on Showtime. It has unfolded as a flashy chronicle of the early and middle years of Henry’s political and domestic life, which included an infamous six wives and the beheading of two.
Henry’s health has been hobbled as the series progressed, but the cause is a leg injury and not weight.
“It doesn’t seem to have affected his sexual prowess,” Meyers observed. “Of course, Henry wasn’t as sexed up as the show is. But we’re not selling it to a 16th-century audience.”
Meyers has two scripts in hand for the fourth and final season, scheduled to begin production in June, and has yet to discover how the tale will end.
“If I was going to make a suggestion, just go to a certain point and then you have a placard saying, ‘Henry continued to rule and died in the year 1547,”’ he said.
The Dublin-born actor has relished playing the colorful king, whom he views as an “arrogant, selfish man” who was driven to folly because of his romantic obsessions and determined pursuit of a male heir.
Meyers has the intense, pouty-lipped look that makes him a natural for bedroom scenes. But the episode he singles out involves a grief-stricken Henry and the court “fool,” whom Meyers describes as the only man in England who can speak truth to power.
He’s played by David Bradley, “a wonderful actor,” Meyers said. The episode, the season’s fifth, debuts May 3.
“We get plastered drunk ... and I’ve never done that before, never had to act drunk. It’s quite difficult to get it right,” he said.
So that encounter trumps filming Henry’s flings with a succession of lovely women?
“Doing the erotic stuff, it is what it is,” Meyers said. “But it’s not really where you get the best of your acting. I have a girlfriend, these girls have boyfriends. So where’s the respectful line in doing a sex scene if you really want to do a good one?”
He recalled being asked by the director in the first season to touch an actress’ breast, and being cautioned by her that she had a boyfriend.
“Not anymore,” a cheeky Meyers replied.