The Netflix drama series The Crown captured audiences in its first season, and talk about, as well as filming of, Season 2 has begun. While spoilers for the royal family’s story are literally in the history books, the actresses’ insights into the women they play are not. There are unique challenges to portraying the private life of a public figure, especially when that public figure is royalty. Claire Foy and Vanessa Kirby play Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret respectively on The Crown and both they and creator Peter Morgan have come to know the real-life-based fictional characters better than anyone else. All three are passionate about the show and these two roles in particular.
The Crown creator Peter Morgan has to know a lot about every aspect of the story he’s telling, but told Hollywood Reporter that he doesn’t really know what the show looks like, or even what the show is, until the editing begins and choices are made about what to keep and what not to keep, what is true to what he’s trying to accomplish and what strays from his vision, which evolves throughout the creative process.
“You really don’t know what it is until it starts appearing, being shot. You work on the episodes but they’re nothing more than a conceptual drawing, really, and then once the footage starts coming in, you start cutting it together, you think, ‘Oh, I think the show is this,’ and so you’re pretty confident that it’s this… In all truth and honesty, I still think you just instinctively know, ‘That is our show’ or ‘That is not our show.’… I can’t quite put my finger on what it is, but I can put my finger on what it isn’t, if that makes any sense.”
He has high praise for The Crown star Claire Foy, who plays Queen Elizabeth, saying she is flawless and that every take with her is perfect. He even compared her to the legendary Helen Mirren and called her “this generation’s Judy Dench.” The big challenge he sees for her, which she meets expertly, is to communicate passively. The Queen Elizabeth of The Crown is very subdued but very powerful, not an easy thing for an actress to portray.
Foy told Vanity Fair that part of her preparation for the role was watching home movies of the royal family, videos that were shot with that camera we saw her Crown father give her in an early episode. She also watched several documentaries about the queen. She did get to speak with some people who had worked for Queen Elizabeth, but Foy says they remain very loyal and tight-lipped about their experiences. She also talked about how it was to work with Vanessa Kirby, who plays Princess Margaret, especially the scene in which Claire’s character has to do something she knows will hurt her sister — tell her she can’t marry Peter Townsend.
“I think nothing hurts more than hurting your own sister, and that is true for everybody, especially if you’re an elder sibling. The idea of your younger sibling being in pain and realizing you are the cause of that pain is unbearable. But in order to make her happy, Elizabeth would have had to go against everything that she held as a core belief—she would have also had to betray her father, betray God. She was no longer in a position where she was able to do that.”
She believes Margaret understood that but also believed Elizabeth was doing it to spite her.
For her part, Vanessa Kirby says she has fallen in love with Princess Margaret. She is especially interested in the real-life affair portrayed on The Crown between Margaret and Peter. She, like Foy, watched hours of videos. She also did a lot of reading about Margaret and Peter, including his memoir, Time and Chance, in which he talks about how they both were vulnerable and fragile, qualities they shared with each other. A favorite story of hers from that book is a time he was sunbathing with a towel over his face and Margaret pulled it away from his face. Peter said that in that moment he knew how very much he loved her.
Kirby talked a bit about what Season 2 of The Crown will hold for Margaret, saying it isn’t really spoiling anything as it’s part of history. She will fall in love with a very free spirited and liberal man by the name of Anthony Armstrong-ones. She calls their relationship “exciting, dangerous, volatile, dysfunctional.” And yes, she ends up marrying him. This should be interesting.
You certainly don’t have to know a great deal of British history to enjoy The Crown. The story is fascinating and stands on its own regardless of your level of knowledge in that area. A date has not yet been announced for Season 2, but it will likely be around November of 2017.
[Featured Image by Netflix]