The Crown’s new star Olivia Colman may be ruling the latest cover of Entertainment Weekly as Queen Elizabeth II, but when season 3 of the show launches Nov. 17 on Netflix, she’ll be joined by an extraordinarily talented and acclaimed array of actors. They include Helena Bonham Carter, who plays the Queen’s sister, Princess Margaret; Ben Daniels, who has been cast as Margaret’s louche husband, Lord “Tony” Snowden; and Outlander actor Tobias Menzies, who portrays Elizabeth’s husband, Prince Philip, the role taken by Matt Smith in the first two seasons of the show.
So, what’s it like working so closely with Colman?
“Really terrible,” Menzies tells EW, chuckling. The actor, whose many other credits include Rome, The Terror, and Game of Thrones, adds, “No, she’s one of the nicest people you could meet and work with. She’s a real delight. Incredibly generous, hard-working, humble. Yeah, she’s thoroughly sickening.”
Read on from more from Menzies about what to expect in the new season.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What can you tell us about Philip’s notable highs and lows in season 3?
TOBIAS MENZIES: I guess, broadly speaking, there’s less of the kind of on/off-ness of the relationship [between Philip and Elizabeth]. The marriage is in a more settled place. Their challenges come from outside for both of them. Philip’s mother comes into this season, [played by] a great actress called Jane Lapotaire. She comes and lives with the family, and that raises various complications for him. Sort of buried emotions, I think.
[In] his teenage years, his mother went through various mental health issues, and religious delusions, and quite a lot of stuff went on, and essentially he was just farmed around to extended family members. So all that stuff comes back to roost, and that’s folded into the start of the decline of his relationship with the press, which obviously has been like a consistent drumbeat since I’ve been around. He makes a misstep and tries to positively reframe the family, make it more outward-facing, more press-savvy, and gets pretty burned.
And then later on in the show, we see an episode where he hits various midlife crisis questions, and Peter [Morgan, writer and showrunner] framed it around the moon landing, which Philip becomes very obsessed with. It raises thoughts in him of “What have I done with my life?” when he sees this sort of apogee of heroism in these men. Part of him kind of goes, “That’s what I could have been, if I hadn’t chosen this path, if I hadn’t married this person, if I hadn’t become who I’ve become,” which was never his intention, to be this kind of functionary. So the questions and the challenges for both of them are coming from outside, a bit more existential, really, rather than marital.
How does the season deal with the relationship between Philip and his son Charles [Josh O’Connor]?
In a way, through its absence, actually. We spend very little time together, and I think that’s very much what Peter feels is the truth of that relationship. It’s interesting, I’m constantly sort of trying to warm it up a bit, because I think I might ever so slightly disagree with that idea. I think he is a difficult father, but I don’t think he’s a negligent father or a disinterested father. I get the sense that they’re very different people and his fatherly concern for Charles manifests as slight bullying. But I don’t think he’s uninvolved. But anyway, with this season, yeah, we don’t see a lot of that relationship.
We see more of him with Anne [Erin Doherty]. There seems to be a lot of evidence that Anne is a lot more like him, and he gets on a lot more easily with Anne. She’s more of a chip off the old block, as it were, more similar in personality, whereas Charles is much more sensitive as a human.
Has appearing on The Crown changed your view of the British royal family?
To be totally honest, I had not taken a great deal of interest in them. I think I’ve learned a lot. I’ve certainly found Philip a lot more interesting than maybe I knew, because of his childhood and his journey, that he’s an outsider, and also, actually now I realize, he’d done an interesting job of carving out his position. I think you can imagine a much sort of flabbier, less interesting version of that. He’s been very engaged and active, taken his role and his duty seriously, and that has to be admired. It’s a sort of weird position, and he’s given it a lot of attention and energy. Now, obviously, there are lots of privileges with it, but I can imagine someone being a lot less engaged. That’s interesting.
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