With Season 5 of The Crown on Netflix just a day away, Imelda Staunton who plays Queen Elizabeth II and Jonathan Pryce who plays Prince Philip revealed how they hope the audience will react to the show, following Her Majesty’s death.
“I think it's bound to affect their perception of what we do but I’m kind of confident that the numbers will grow even bigger,” Pryce said at a press conference on Tuesday. “After the Queen died, the viewing figures went up 500 per cent for previous [seasons] of The Crown.”
“I think people will…gain a bit of comfort from seeing her embodied again.”
Staunton referred to the Queen’s funeral, where people lined up to pay their respects, as a representation of how much the public “admired” Queen Elizabeth II as a woman who did her job and “kept her promise.”
“I think they felt such huge respect for someone who kept her promise,” Staunton said.
“I just thought, ‘God you really admired this woman’… Here we are celebrating a woman, with her own face,...who just did the job, not anything outside the job, not the stuff around it, just straight line."
Pryce added that the public showing their admiration for Queen Elizabeth II is reflective of society’s “lack of trust” in their politicians.
“I think it’s also a reflection of where our society is at, at the moment, with a lack of trust and a lack of believability in our politicians,” he said. “Same as happened with Diana's death, the public, people said, ‘You're not going to do it, we're going to do it,’ and they came out in huge numbers.”
“I think part of, for me, seeing the crowds queuing for the Queen was saying, ‘this is the kind of person we want to be following and leading our country.”
The Crown Season 5 takes place in the 1990s, in the midst of the divorce between Princess Diana and Prince Charles, and a time when the relevance and necessity of the monarchy was being scrutinized.
“I feel sort of lucky that we're looking at their lives when it was very difficult and that, as an actor, you've got more stuff to do, and therefore extremely satisfying, and it's dramatic,” Staunton said. “Peter [Morgan] writes great drama and he bases it around events and real people, but he gives them heart, soul, brains.”
“It's not dramatic being nice and being easy, it's dramatic when things start to go wrong, and how those people deal with those difficulties. He investigates all of that and we get to do that journey.”
'It's an enormous challenge'
Stepping into the shoes of the Princess Diana for Season 5 of The Crown is Elizabeth Debicki, who not only has a striking resemblance to the late princess but she was also tasked with developing a version of one of the most popular, beloved and observed people in history. Debicki admitted at the press conference that she was nervous about taking on the role.
“It's an enormous challenge,...and it took me some time to understand that you're bringing your interpretation to Peter's interpretation of this person, but then the people watching the show come…with such attachment and memory, and a sense of ownership over these characters in a way,” Debicki said. “Not only from the people who've played them before, but also from their living memory and their history.”
“So you have to leave a kind of space for that and it's sort of a dance between all those things. It's a beautiful process but it's also very challenging, and very rewarding, I think, too, because we get to work with each other and get to do these wonderful scenes.”
'I hope everyone gets a fair hearing'
Alongside Elizabeth Debicki is Dominic West as Prince Charles who, particularly in the ‘90s, was facing significant criticism and backlash in the media, and from the public. West said he hopes The Crown provides the audience with some “perspective” and everyone “gets a fair hearing.”
“He's one of the most scrutinized, publicized lives in the world, so it's hard to know what people know about him,” West said. “This period covers a time when,…because it was a divorce and there's always two sides in a divorce, that I suppose viewers saw, heard one or other, and hopefully there's a bit of perspective now and I hope everyone gets a fair hearing.”
“I think that's part of the reason for doing it and I obviously love the guy… Inevitably you take their side or you give them the benefit of the doubt, and I hope that will maybe happen when people see Charles in this, I don't know.”
Princess Diana’s close relationship with her children, in particular, has been well documented but for The Crown, West’s son, Senan West, is actually playing a young Prince William.
“It was very moving, actually, he's never acted before because COVID stopped any school plays or anything,” West said about his son. “He had this amazing innocence to him that was extraordinary to watch, as well as the fact that, obviously, he's my boy.”
“It's very difficult when you act with children to have a physical intimacy, obviously, and with him that was sort of obviously not a question, which made it much easier. But then I found when it was more emotional, or when it was more difficult, the scene, it made it much more difficult and you were slightly split in your head between, OK we're acting this part, but that's a bit weird, isn't it? I'm talking about your mum, but not your real mum. So that I found quite difficult, but generally, it was really moving and I think he enjoyed it.”
So close to the premiere of Season 5 of The Crown, West said he's feeling "a bit of relief."
"I feel quite relieved that we sort of got here and that the dreadful anticipation is over," he said.