A week before the premiere of The Crown season four, we sat down (over Zoom, of course) with Josh O’Connor and Emma Corrin who plays Prince Charles and Princess Diana respectively and talked about what actually went down while filming the hit series.
Emma, can you tell us about the process of casting for this role of Princess Diana?
Emma Corrin (EC): It was quite a long process, taking up a huge part of the year. I was initially invited just to read to help with the casting of Camilla, and then I helped read the role of Diana. I wasn’t officially auditioning then, but had prepared with the producers and directors. Eight months later, I was actually invited to audition for the role of Diana and had a wonderful afternoon. A few weeks after that, I got invited to come on set to read with Josh and yeah, they offered me the part in the room that very day! Josh did a lot of screaming, and I was just stunned in silence. It was a long process, and when it really did happen, I couldn’t believe it.
How well did you know your characters before you were cast in the show, and was there anything that surprised you about Prince Charles and Princess Diana?
Josh O’Connor (JOC): I spent a long time doing creative prep. I mean, we’re all actors, not mimics, and so the interest comes from everything beyond what we know of Prince Charles. How can we create a character that is believable and goes beyond just the perception of these icons? Because none of us really knows what Charles was like, or what Diana was like. It’s our job to make decisions about their character.
I was surprised by how much love there was in the relationship. Emma and I were interested in finding the kind of love and joy that they shared together. It was rare, but it was important, because if not we’d just go to the end, and we all know how it ends. We had to try and convince you that there was love at different points.
EC: I really enjoyed working with my movement coach and dialogue coach—getting the voice and mannerisms and figuring out why those things existed in the way they did. I was also surprised and learned about the nuances of their relationship, and yes, how much love existed there.
This season, we see the Princess suffer from depression and bulimia—mental health is a topic that is quite difficult to accurately portray on screen. What was going through your mind while you were filming, and how important were those scenes to you?
EC: The scenes depicting her bulimia and mental health were very important to me. Princess Diana spoke very candidly in interviews about her experience with bulimia and how she struggled especially in the later years in the marriage. I thought to do justice to her story, they had to be included and depicted in full on screen, of course under the appropriate warnings.
Josh, you have rounded shoulders that become more distinct through the season. What was it that you wanted to bring across as Prince Charles?
JOC: For me, it was a case of trying to understand the complexity of this young man’s life. This was more explored in season three, but hangs over in season four.
Every aspect of his life is basically shared with the entire Commonwealth from the moment he was born. He’s waiting for his mother to die for his life to take meaning, and to me, that concept kept ringing. He’s in a state of purgatory his whole life—he’s in a horrible position.
There’s the weight of that and the weight of not being able to marry the woman he loves. He marries someone who’s very young, whom he has great respect for, but that doesn’t work out and there’s a great amount of pain there. Both he and Diana need something from each other but neither are equipped to offer it to one another. Through each episode, it was just more and more responsibility and pressure weighing down on him.
Related article: The Crown Season 4: Insights With Costume Designer, Amy Roberts
What was the most tragic element you found in your character?
EC: I suppose the sense of isolation and loneliness that she felt. I found that incredibly acute for me in episode three when she leaves her flat and embarks on what she thought was going to be the happiest journey of her life. I, myself, have lived with four of my best friends for the past four years, and I can’t imagine leaving and entering a world where I wouldn’t really see them again in the same way. Diana’s basically forced to grow up and assume a role that I don’t think she was really ready for, and the lack of support and isolation really touched me. But then I became interested in the fine line of vulnerability and strength that she had within her—it was really empowering.
What was your favourite scene together?
EC: Probably the dance scene we did in Australia. That was fun!
JOC: That was fun, because I am rubbish at dancing. The fun in that was that poor Emma had to drag me around when I was supposed to take the lead! I also kept humming to the tune of the music, and the crew had to keep reminding me to stop doing it and just dance!
Both of you had really powerful scenes with Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies. Can you talk about how it’s like working with them?
EC: They both have very different ways of acting and getting into scenes—it was like having a masterclass in acting, honestly. It was really interesting. They’re both brilliant off-screen as well. It was a very pinch-me moment.
JOC: I have loved Tobias for a long time. I remember seeing him on stage when I just left drama school, and have always been a huge fan. We’ve got one scene together, and it was such a treat!
If you remember, in season two, there’s an episode where Matt Smith (who played Prince Philip) sent his young son off to Gordonstoun (a boarding school in Scotland)—it was one of my favourite episodes in the earlier seasons.
Tobias and I were always asking for a scene together, to sort of check in with those characters. We got that in episode one this season, and it was an important moment for both of us.
On the Netflix interview with Emma and Oliva Colman, you guys talked about how the cast would play music while getting your makeup done. Which song was played most often? Is there a common favourite amongst the cast members?
EC: Helena (Bonham Carter) always had some sort of soundtrack on, or some sort of very obscure instrumental doing quite haunting solos. It was bizarre.
JOC: In terms of music, we had this one occasion where Emma and I were sharing a car at the end of filming. I had my headphones on, and Emma was at the back of the car with hers on as well. Emma either overheard or saw my playlist and she asked me what I was listening to. I said, well, Max Ritcher’s recomposed version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons.
She was listening to exactly the same thing! Not just that, we were listening to the exact same movement at the same time! It was so weird. We both clearly have the same great taste in music.
(Both started humming to the tune of Recomposed by Max Richter: Vivaldi – The Four Seasons)
The Crown Season 4 is currently airing on Netflix.