by Damon Wise
Inspired by UK playwright Peter Morgan’s critically acclaimed 2013 play The Audience—which enjoyed a brief but successful Broadway run in 2015—The Crown proved a surprise hit for Netflix when the series debuted in November of last year. Starting with the marriage of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip in 1947, a scant few years before her coronation at the age of 25 in 1952, the 10-part first season served as an origin story for the world’s longest reigning monarch.
It also offered an introduction to actress Claire Foy, who—along with co-stars John Lithgow, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Matt Smith, as her husband Prince Philip—received glowing reviews for her performance, which earned her a Golden Globe just over two months after Season 1 aired. In December, the story will continue, acquainting Her Majesty with dangerous affairs in the Middle East and a more embarrassing scandal closer to home.
How did this part come to you?
It started the usual way – I got sent the script. It was slightly tempered by the fact that I was five months pregnant at the time [in the fall of 2014]. So when my agent mentioned it, I was like, “Do you really think I want to have a three-month-old baby and do a nine-month TV series while I play The Queen of England? Are you insane?” [laughs] So I was reticent about it. But my agent said, ‘They just want to talk to you.”
So I went, and it was nice, and they said, “Would you mind coming back and maybe doing a test?” I thought I’d have to go to LA, because it was Netflix, so I said, “Well, that’s not going to happen, because I can’t fly anymore,” but they said, “No, we can do it in London.” So I went back, and Stephen Daldry and I went over a few different scenes. Then they said, “Do you want to do it?” So it was a bit of an odd experience because at no point did I really consider it a serious possibility. And at no point did I really think that I would be who they were looking for.
What were they looking for in your audition? Were they looking for somebody with a strong resemblance to The Queen?
No. Well, we did do a costume fitting, but obviously, with a giant baby bump it was hilarious, because I was wearing a gown and a wig and a crown—I looked like a pregnant toddler. I think, knowing them now, they just wanted someone to discover [the part] with. It was very open. Maybe because I was pregnant, I was just very relaxed. Then, in November, they told me that I’d got it, and we started shooting in the July the following year. We knew that it was commissioned for two series from the off, and that we’d shoot all 10 episodes in one fell swoop. There was going to be no pilot.
What kind of research did you do?
Oh God. I can’t really remember. I think I did what I usually do, which is to buy thousands of documentaries and watch them all, because you can pretend it’s work. And then I got loads of books and read them. Actually, I had a very long time to get used to the idea of playing the Queen. I’ve never really had that before, actually—that expanse of time to get into character. Then we started working with a voice coach, William Conacher, who’s a genius—we couldn’t have made The Crown without him. It all happened very slowly, which was probably a benefit. There was no pressure to make any sudden, mad choices. Continue reading Claire Foy, From ‘Crown’ Jewels To Golden Globe And Beyond