The Crown returns to Netflix with Emma Corrin playing Princess Diana, while Olivia Colman and Helena Bonham Carter play Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret one last time in season 4

Claire Foy, as the young Queen Elizabeth, Olivia Coleman as the queen in her later years and Imelda Staunton, who will be the third and final actress to portray the British monarch on Netflix series The Crown. Photo: Netflix/AP
Netflix series The Crown, which follows the reign of Queen Elizabeth, might offer viewers a peek into a modern royal family’s life and times – or at least an engaging dramatisation. For the cast, however, it’s meant the lofty equivalent of gig work as the historical drama ticks through the decades.

Claire Foy played Britain’s young Queen Elizabeth for the first two seasons, with Olivia Colman stepping in to chart her middle years last season and in the 10 new episodes coming out this weekend. Imelda Staunton will ascend to the throne for the final two chapters.

When Diana Spencer makes her pivotal entrance this season, which is largely set in the 1980s, i t’s Emma Corrin in the part opposite Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles. Corrin’s job is one and done: Elizabeth Debicki takes over in seasons five and six as the bound-for-tragedy Princess Diana, opposite a new, yet-to-be announced Charles.
Rate your Margarets, rate your queens, rate your Philips
Helena Bonham Carter, Princess Margaret’s actress in The Crown
Claire Foy as the young Queen Elizabeth in The Crown. Photo: Netflix

A role in The Crown is akin to a relay-race baton destined to be handed off, said Helena Bonham Carter, back for her second whirl as the tempestuous Princess Margaret. The actress is sandwiched between Vanessa Kirby of seasons one and two and Lesley Manville, who will take Margaret across the finish line.


“I’m very sad that it’s over, but it’s time that she was played by somebody else at some point … She’s just a great gift of a part,” Bonham Carter said during a joint interview with Colman and Tobias Menzies, returning as Prince Philip.

“Rate your Margarets, rate your queens, rate your Philips,” she said, comparing the process to “who wore it best” celebrity fashion critiques.

Colman called Staunton’s casting “amazing”, then suggested the newcomer could overshadow her. “It’s almost, ‘wish she wasn’t quite good,’” she said, smiling. That prompted Bonham Carter to predict a battle of the stars after the series ends.

Colman was asked if she had any advice for her successor. Her terse reply: “Good luck. The wig’s itchy.”

Casting director Robert Sterne, a veteran who won three Emmys for his work on HBO’s Game of Thrones and a 2018 trophy for The Crown, said swapping out actors wasn’t preordained when he began working with series creator and writer Peter Morgan.

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It was an open question “whether we aged-up actors across their lifespan or were bold and we cast each time,” Sterne said in an interview. Choosing the latter option meant a series of challenges and opportunities, both for the show and its parade of actors.


“You spend a lot of time looking at the pictures and images of people at particular stages of their life,” he said. “You also have to take into account the way that the previous actor portrayed [the role]. Who do you think can take that baton and run with it?” He described this as reinventing the role, “but hopefully not in a jarring way”.

Who do you think can take that baton and run with it?
Robert Sterne, casting director of The Crown

Every move, especially a major cast change, is a critical one for the popular series that reportedly cost more than US$100 million for its first two seasons alone.

Actors, including illustrious ones, have been happy to accept hand-me-downs. Colman came to The Crown after winning an Academy Award and other honours for 2018’s The Favourite, in which she played a far earlier British monarch, Queen Anne.

Staunton was an Oscar nominee for Vera Drake; Manville for Phantom Thread; Bonham Carter for The King’s Speech and The Wings of the Dove, and Jonathan Pryce, the future Prince Philip, for The Two Popes.


John Lithgow, another Oscar nominee and a rare American in the primarily British cast, had the part of political leader Winston Churchill to himself and snared an Emmy Award for it.

All those playing the pivotal role of Queen Elizabeth are able to to convey “an ordinary woman put in extraordinary circumstances,” Sterne said of the queen as portrayed in The Crown.


It requires an actor “who can carry you along … and make you feel for them and believe in the reality of it. They’re all really extraordinary at that,” he said. Foy won a 2018 Emmy for her performance.


There’s also room on the royal family tree for younger, less familiar talent, including Corrin and Erin Doherty, who plays the queen’s feisty daughter, Princess Anne, and proved a revelation.

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“Actors will have this incredible connection with this character that you don’t see coming,” Sterne said. When Doherty auditioned, “she just had such a connection with that character. She’d watched a lot of YouTube videos [of the princess] and said, ‘I just love this woman, I just know her, I think she’s great.’” She delivered in her try-out and in the series with a “really excellent” performance, Sterne said.


Corrin was put on the spot in her audition by acclaimed writer Morgan (The Queen, Frost/Nixon) to sing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s All I Ask of You. Sterne called up a karaoke version on a computer and offered to sing along.

“She was blushing as she was doing it, and sang it completely beautifully,” Sterne recounted. “It was incredibly sweet and kind of encapsulated the spirit of Diana that we were looking for … I thought, ‘Well, this part isn’t going to go anywhere else now.’”


O’Connor said he relished his time on the series, including saying goodbye to a role he knew wasn’t for keeps – just as with Shakespeare’s works.

“If you play Hamlet, you know that there are 100 people who’ve played Hamlet before you, there’s going to be 100 people after you,” he said. “And they’ll all do it differently, and that’s the joy.”

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This article originally appeared on AP.


Emma Corrin’s Lady Diana and Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles take the spotlight in the new season of the beloved British royal family drama – released by Netflix on November 15 – while Helena Bonham Carter and Olivia Colman take their final turns before ‘passing the baton’