Prince Charles & Princess Diana’s ill-fated love story is relived in The Crown

Nathalie Tomada - The Philippine Star
Prince Charles & Princess Dianaâs ill-fated love story is relived in The Crown
In The Crown Season 4 (now streaming on Netflix), Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor recreate how the royal couple Prince Charles and Princess Diana announced their engagement in February of 1981.
Photos courtesy of Netflix

MANILA, Philippines — In Season 4 of the historical drama series The Crown, the ‘70s is drawing to a close, and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family are concerned more than ever with safeguarding the line of succession to the British throne. This means securing a most fitting bride for the 30-year-old bachelor Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor).

Here comes the young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin). Her and Prince Charles’ whirlwind courtship and eventual wedding in 1981 unite the United Kingdom in celebrating the “fairytale” romance.

The Philippine STAR and other press were able to interview British actors Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin who could easily take home the crown with their portrayal of the famous royals in the hit show now streaming on Netflix.

Josh, 30, already played Prince Charles in Season 3 while Emma, 24, is the newest face in The Crown cast.

Photos courtesy of Netflix

The actress was still a toddler when the “People’s Princess” Diana died in a car crash in August 1997. But she brings back memories as she’s on-point with Princess Diana’s coy facial expressions, from the smile to her glances, which were widely-photographed in the press.

Even if you’re not a royal news follower, you will enjoy the electrifying scene where Diana, as a 16-year-old teenager, accidentally meets Prince Charles for the first time in the former’s family estate, as well as the part where they reenact the interview announcing their engagement. Of course, there’s also the (in)famous love triangle with Camilla Parker Bowles.

Josh said that the research and preparation to play Prince Charles in Season 4 weren’t as difficult as in Season 3 because he had sort of lived with his character for two years now and “I guess it gets in your bones.”

The hardest thing, however, was doing other projects and still sounding and acting like Prince Charles. “There was a moment where we were filming quite near my family home and I showed up at my parents and they made a comment that my posture was quite bad, and I caught myself in the window…,” he mused.

“There are a couple of basic things that I would stop and check in on and one was, the arch over the neck pointed out. I started pushing that a bit further, the more weight is pushed on Charles, the more aggrieved he feels, the older he gets and more arched over his back gets, the more the lack of confidence comes through in his physicality.”

Meanwhile, how Emma got cast was an interesting story in itself. “I had been into some small auditions where I had met the casting team but nothing had come of it. That summer I was on a train and I got a call from my agent and she is normally very together and very calm and she sounded really weird. She told me that she had a call from The Crown. They were chemistry reading all the girls for Camilla and they needed someone to read in for Diana and had asked if I was available.

“It wasn’t an audition, she said, they will pay you to read, they just need your help. I decided to approach it as an official audition regardless, you might as well — it’s an ideal, no-pressure situation. The day came and I learnt the lines and I had been working on the voice as well because she has such a distinctive voice.”

When the audition for Princess Diana formally opened, she also went to work on some scenes. After a couple of weeks, she was told to come to the set to chemistry read with Josh. It turned out, in the presence of the producers, she was going to be asked the most important question: “Will you be our Diana?”

Here’s our Zoom interview with Josh and Emma ahead of the series premiere last Nov. 15.

Do you feel like the characters Princess Diana and Prince Charles were misunderstood in any way during this period of time?

Emma: “I don’t know (if) misunderstood. But I think that obviously, everyone knows about them and kind of through the media, and obviously, the media’s portrayal is very misleading, at times very biased. They always want to spin a story, for some reason, so I think there may be (misunderstanding). We will never have an authentic understanding of what they were actually like, but I also don’t think that’s a bad thing. I think we shouldn’t know. It’s none of anyone’s business, but also I guess, The Crown tries to go behind the doors of it, but in a fictional way.”

Josh: “Yeah, I agree. I think it didn’t take long for either of us, when we were researching our parts, that it’s literally impossible to find the truth on this marriage, just as it is with any marriage in the world, right? There will always be one person who thinks this and the other person who thinks that, and this person has 100 friends who will think that this person is guilty and this person has 100 friends who think this person is guilty. It’s literally impossible to get to the truth. And that’s also incredibly liberating overnight because it means, you know, we can create what we want and make the decisions we want to make.”

Photos show scenes from The Crown Season 4 (clockwise, from top left): Princess Diana (Emma Corrin) comes face-to-face with Camilla Parker Bowles (Emerald Fennell); Britain’s royal family led by Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) poses for a portrait; Princess Diana (Corrin) and Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) spend family time with little Prince William and Prince Harry; and Princess Diana gets ready for her wedding (which was famously broadcast around the world back in 1981).

You play people who have a challenging and complicated relationship in real life, but what was it like working together?

Emma: “It was great. We had a good old time. We had a really good time, man.”

Josh: “Most of the time, we were angry or hating each other. You just know that as soon as it’s called cut, we’re like talking the heck out of each other, and laughing, playing games, so it’s all good.”

Jumping from the previous question, what was the scene that was most difficult to film emotionally?

Emma: “There was an argument seen in the last episode which we really struggled with just because it’s kind of the first time that they’ve really lost each other and it sort of signifies the end of their relationship. And it was very difficult to get to that place after becoming so close on set, Josh and I, and having never explored that particular dynamic between them before but we worked it out.”

Josh: “Yeah, I think that was definitely a tricky scene to film because ultimately, for me, I always cited that scene as the end, like he says in the scene, I washed my hands a bit. I was like I’m done. And I feel like it was kind of closure for both of us. It was like, we’ve gone on this journey, we’ve been filming together for like six to eight months, and we shot it near the end. It just felt like everything that both of us wanted to say to each other, in that moment, it just came out, and it was like it was bottled up for so long. What was hard then, you know, on camera, it’s like literally shouting in Emma’s face and then off camera feeling really good.”

What sort of pressure did you have about playing these royals, especially because people have strong opinions about them? In the case of Prince Charles, he’s still around and as for Princess Diana, people have very fond and strong memories about her.

Emma: “Yeah, there was a lot of pressure. When I was doing my research, I became very overwhelmed by the amount of information there was, and how much it was quite misleading. I think what really helped though with taking away that pressure was just getting on set and starting to do it. We had amazing movement coaches and dialect coaches and it made it feel much more accessible and I guess understanding the story that we’re telling also helped.”

Josh: “Yeah, I think there is a bit of pressure. But I guess, it is about removing, making a distinction between the character and the real person. And I suppose there are aspects of Charles and there are aspects of Diana that we kind of wanted to be specific about and so that people feel safe in the knowledge that we are playing those real people.

“But actually, the interesting bit as an actor is all the creation, the stuff you create around those characters and I think, as soon as you start delving into that and seeing it as a fictionalized version of these people, the pressure kind of lifts, I think, because it’s about interpretation rather than replication.”

What was the most surprising that you’ve learned about Princess Diana and Prince Charles in the course of making the series?

Emma: “I really was surprised to learn how much she loved to dance. I think those are some of my favorite scenes to film and certainly I just find that really fascinating. I often dance when I’m trying to like, work stuff out. And I think she did that, too.

“And I think I relate to her love of meeting people. I love being around people. And I really enjoy meeting people. I think also, it’s something that we experience a lot in our job as actors. We’re constantly in new situations where we’re meeting a lot of people.”

Josh: “Well, there are two things. One is the real Prince Charles. I loved finding out about his views on the environment in the ‘60s and ‘70s that was sort of laughed at and he was seen as a bit of a kind of joker. And now look who’s laughing. So that was quite interesting. And then I think in terms of our characters, I think the big discovery for me was how much love there was in their world, that it wasn’t doomed to fail, they were misaligned. So yeah, those are my two kinds of major discoveries.”

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