On November 4th 2016, master storytellers Peter Morgan and Stephen Daldry bring Netflix viewers inside the decades-long reign of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown.
The series stars Claire Foy as the young Elizabeth, and the first season spotlights her life before she becomes Queen, her marriage to Prince Philip, played by Matt Smith, and the beginning of her reign.
Claire Foy and Matt Smith spoke with the TV Critics Association via satellite from London.
What was Elizabeth II like in her youth?
Claire Foy: I think it was a lot to do with duty. And, I think for her, the right thing and the thing that you want to do are two very different things.
I think at the beginning of family, and her love (for) her husband and her children, she’s realizing that that’s not necessarily what her job is.
The acceptance of that job is a very difficult thing to have to deal with, while also grieving for the loss of (her) father.
I think people forget when someone comes to the throne, it’s because a family member has died. That’s a terribly sad thing for her and for everyone.
After immersing yourself in the character, what is your impression of Elizabeth?
Claire: I’ve got to say that immersing myself in Peter Morgan’s queen and the real queen are two separate things.
From a research point-of-view, finding out about her was so interesting, there wasn’t a lot. She doesn’t express herself. That’s sort of part of the job.
So that’s where the other side of it is, (where) Peter Morgan’s side came from. Emotionally, I just had to imagine what it’s like being a girl who wanted to live in the countryside with her husband, and have horses and dogs and children, and who was a shy, retiring type.
Suddenly, she’s given the top job in a weird way, and she’s the most unlikely person to have it, and what that means dynamically in the family and in a marriage.
But essentially, I just think she’s a very good person who has given her life for her country, whichever way you look at it, and has done the most incredible job. Obviously, I had to forget all that, because we don’t know where it’s going in the fictional land of fiction. But I’ve got a huge amount of respect for her.
Matt Smith: Yeah, me too.
The queen’s husband is someone who we forget about and we don’t know much about. How much did you know about Prince Philip and what did you find interesting as you got into it?
Matt: God, so much is interesting about him. To be honest, I was rather ignorant. I was aware of the royal family, but I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to them.
Philip’s story particularly is remarkably interesting; particularly the history of his emergence toward joining the royal family is fascinating; just his life from Greece and coming over to live with Mountbatten. What happened to his sister? What happened to his mother; she was estranged. His father went off to Monaco.
I just fell in love with his certainty about life. And I thought that Peter had written such brilliant entitlement to him, I suppose, in many ways.
He was very sporty. I like that. He was just charismatic and there was a maverick-ness to him, but also the conflict of him. He was a great family man. And when she became queen, his life changed as much as hers did. Both their lives changed irrevocably.
He then had to walk two steps behind her for the rest of his life. And he did it with grace, dignity and wit. And that’s what Peter’s written, and a bit of sulkiness, which I liked as well.
I’ve grown really fond of him, as I have of all of them, to be honest.