Actors From ‘The Crown’ Talk About What It Was Like Portraying The Royal Family

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Vote up the most interesting comments about playing a royal.

Playing historical figures is never easy; actors must balance staying true to the script, being accurate to history, and dealing with the pressure of playing a real person - a pressure that doubles if that figure is still alive and can watch their portrayal

In the case of The Crown, the actors who portray the royal family are embodying some of the most prominent figures in recent memory. From minor characters who appear in only a scene or two, all the way to Queen Elizabeth II, stepping into these roles is a challenge. 

What's that process like? We've rounded up what the actors who starred in The Crown actually said about the characters they played. Vote up the most enlightening accounts.

  • 1
    27 VOTES

    Erin Doherty Wanted There To Be More Princess Anne

    Erin Doherty Wanted There To Be More Princess Anne
    Photo: Netflix

    In a show about the royal family, you expect certain characters to take center stage - Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Philip, Prince Charles, and Princess Diana, namely. But in Season 3 of The Crown, Erin Doherty stole the show as the often-overlooked Anne, Princess Royal. 

    This popularity isn’t entirely unwarranted. According to Doherty, there are so many interesting stories about Princess Anne that The Crown could have told. For one, she’s an Olympian, and two, she once singlehandedly fought off a would-be kidnapper. Of that second story, Doherty was certain it would be covered in The Crown, telling Town & Country:

    Even before we started blooming filming, I was like, “There's going to be the kidnapping, surely. As an actor I wanted to do that, but you have to relinquish control. There are so many different facets to Anne, and Anne's personality, and why she is the way she is. As an actor, you can put that in regardless of what people are talking about. You get to portray who these people are, and I don't actually think we lost out on anything. I just didn't get to do a kidnapping scene.

    Even though some of the more compelling aspects of Anne’s life were left on the drawing-room floor, the character made a lasting impact on Doherty: 

    I feel like she taught me so much about just being honest. And that's actually what any given situation probably needs, even though it's the hardest thing to do. So she's had an impact on me, subconsciously, in that way.

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    25 VOTES

    Matt Smith Liked That Prince Philip Did What He Wanted

    Matt Smith Liked That Prince Philip Did What He Wanted
    Photo: Netflix

    Prince Philip was no stranger to controversy, from his German heritage when his betrothal to the queen was announced to remarks he made throughout his life. Despite this, Matt Smith, who played Prince Philip in the first two seasons of The Crown, was a big fan of the royal consort. He revealed to The Guardian   

    And that's what I love about him: he's done what he wants, when he wants, how he wants, with whom he wants. He hasn't asked permission. And his wife's the queen.

    Further, when preparing for the role, Smith realized Prince Philip’s reputation didn’t match his research

    And actually all the research I did found him to be brilliantly funny, very clever, very popular. In the royal house he's the most popular of all of them. If you've talked to any of the staff, Philip's the one they all love really. I think more than a lot of them, he's a bit more of a man of the people.

    Smith portrayed Philip during a period of transition. Suddenly, his wife was the monarch when they believed they’d have much longer to prepare. His role in life had to change and The Crown depicted the internal struggle that came in those moments. Namely, when Philip had to kneel to Queen Elizabeth II and when the two argued over a five-month trip. In both instances, Smith related to Philip, saying of kneeling: 

    And also, I kind of sided with him, which is controversial. I felt, “Yeah, I wouldn't really want to kneel to my wife.”

    And of arguing over the five-month trip: 

    I challenge anyone if their partner said, “By the way, you’re going off for five months,” to not go, “Whoa, hang on!” And I defy anyone to be married as long as they have and it be plain sailing the whole way. As human beings, they’ve struggled.

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    20 VOTES

    Emma Corrin Felt Less Pressure Because We Didn’t Know Young Diana

    Emma Corrin Felt Less Pressure Because We Didn’t Know Young Diana
    Photo: Netflix

    Emma Corrin’s run as Princess Diana in The Crown was much-anticipated, as it brought with it an era of royal history fraught with controversy and speculation. Corrin portrayed Diana as she entered the royal family, which, according to Corrin, who uses the pronouns they/them, mirrored their own entrance into the show. They told Variety:

    I came in as Emma to a very established group of people, most of them insane household names, and I think it played to my advantage in crafting this character and how she would have felt. There were moments where I felt very out of my depth. I was always made to feel at home, but it was an interesting situation.

    And though playing Princess Diana would be a daunting task to anyone, Corrin portrayed her in her younger years - an era Corrin believes is not nearly as well known as the older ones. They told The Daily Beast

    It’s almost like it’s two separate people. That’s how I was approaching it. Generally, we have a much better understanding of what older Diana was like than younger Diana - there’s hardly any footage of her when she was younger, living with her flatmates before she got married.

    Corrin also mentioned to The Daily Beast that their performance got a seal of approval from someone who personally knew Diana after they watched an early screening - an indication their preparation and research, despite portraying a relatively unknown version of the princess, paid off.

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    15 VOTES

    Claire Foy Focused On Who The Queen Was In Relation To Her Family

    Claire Foy Focused On Who The Queen Was In Relation To Her Family
    Photo: Netflix

    Claire Foy played Queen Elizabeth II in the first two seasons of The Crown. Before she was the established monarch the general public knew, Elizabeth was a 25-year-old young woman with two small children - where she was when Foy introduced the world to The Crown’s version of her. Foy focused on who the queen was as a person as she prepared for the role. She told Vogue:

    I never really considered how she came to the throne at all. I just always accepted the fact that she had always been there my entire life. Sort of like your grandparents, you sort of accept that they were never young. So it’s that thing where you have to take a step back and think, Okay, let’s have a little look, and then you start realizing all the things you never really considered. She was a 25-year-old woman with two children and a husband, and she thought she had another 25 to 30 years to go.

    She further explained how, as a British citizen, she never really considered the royal family as anything but a figurehead until she took on the part and began researching: 

    I think it’s easy to put [the royal family] on a pedestal, or lambast them and think they’ve got loads of money and houses. It’s easy to do that and turn them into something disconnected, but it’s not easy to look at them on a human level because it takes a huge amount of compassion and sympathy. But I think it’s worth doing, because I think they’re an amazing family.

    Foy’s more personal view of the queen continued well after she departed the show. When reflecting on Queen Elizabeth II’s death, she said:

    My main feeling is just thinking about her as a mother and a grandmother and a great-grandmother, really. I’m very honored to have been a teeny-tiny, small part of her story.

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    32 VOTES

    Elizabeth Debicki 'Didn’t Overthink' Playing Princess Diana

    Elizabeth Debicki 'Didn’t Overthink' Playing Princess Diana
    Photo: Netflix

    Princess Diana’s place in the zeitgeist is firm; she was one of the most famous people on the planet in the '90s, so playing her is a major undertaking for any actor. Elizabeth Debicki picked up the Princess Diana mantle from Emma Corrin in Season 5 of The Crown, which covers the years 1991-1997. This was a tumultuous time for the royal family, and at the center of it all, Prince Charles (now King Charles III) and Princess Diana’s marriage fell apart in front of the global masses. Accurately capturing Diana’s life during this period is no easy task and welcomes outside criticism, but Debicki “didn’t overthink it,” telling The Guardian

    I’ve watched this show and loved it for years. I knew I was stepping into working with people who were extremely intelligent and very sensitive about how they went about creating the script and making decisions. So I never felt like I’d jumped on unstable ground.

    Despite this level-headed approach, Debicki noted before filming that playing Diana was “a dream role,” albeit a daunting one: “I’m overwhelmed, I’m terrified, and I’m excited. I can’t wait to start.”

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    29 VOTES

    Dominic West Said He Couldn’t Make Moral Judgments Playing Prince Charles

    Dominic West Said He Couldn’t Make Moral Judgments Playing Prince Charles
    Photo: Netflix

    King Charles III is widely regarded as one of the most unpopular royals, due largely in part to how his marriage to Princess Diana fell apart. Which is exactly the phase during which Dominic West portrays the now King Charles III in the fifth season of The Crown

    But when it comes to playing such a controversial figure, West revealed to The Hollywood Reporter that because he was playing Charles, he rooted for the character, and avoided making any “moral judgments”:

    You have to be on their side. You have to put yourself in their shoes and that’s the role…

    When it comes specifically to portraying the more controversial parts of Charles's life - like the leaked private phone call between him and Camilla - West put in a ton of research. In preparation for the role, West rented a cottage on Charles’s Cornwall estate and made a concerted effort to meet with people who had met the king. As for the specific moments covered in The Crown, West explained his method for bringing Charles to life:

    …and so I suppose you approach them by learning all the facts around this and then using your imagination and then, which of course is handled by a really good dramatist’s imagination, to sort of imagine or really speculate on what was going on in that person’s head or what led up to any of the events, which is really what the drama in front of The Crown is all about.