When speaking with actress Claire Foy, who plays Elizabeth II on Netflix’s The Crown, the first thing you’ll notice is that she sounds nothing like the real-life character she inhabits on the show. The voice proves to be so key to the transformation from Claire to Queen.
“It was a big task,” says Foy, about nailing down the voice, “and if I thought about it too much, I definitely would have had a bit of a breakdown. It’s like a muscle. I really had to entirely change the way I spoke. We had an incredible voice coach [William Conniker] who was really supportive. It was a very slow, gradual process where I just tried not to freak out essentially.”
In essence, the first season of the critically acclaimed Netflix series is about metamorphosis and the effects a huge position of power can have on relationships and marriage. Foy’s Emmy-submitted episode, “Assassins,” hones in on Elizabeth’s relationship difficulties with her husband Philip (Matt Smith). One of the most memorable scenes involves the two fighting in a car with no dialogue or sound other than the soundtrack.
“I think it would be incredibly difficult for anybody to be so consumed by something as she had to be and what was required of her. If you’re anyone’s partner and suddenly they disappear, that’s pretty hard thing to stomach, and it takes a very strong person not to resent them in any way, shape, or form and not to say, ‘Hello, do you remember me? I’m the person you’re married to. Do you want to pay any attention to me at all?’ ”
The relationship also highlights interesting gender dynamics. In most male-in-power relationships, depicted on-screen and off, the female spouses are simply expected to adhere and step aside. Boozing with buddies and engaging in carefree carousing, Philip essentially rebels against what these “secondary” women have been dealing with for centuries.
“I don’t think any woman behind a man is ever just sitting there going, ‘I feel great about myself just being here.’ There’s that human aspect of feeling left behind.”
But spoilers for history: Elizabeth and Philip aren’t going to break up on the Netflix series in Season 2 (in real life, they’ll celebrate 70 years of marriage in November). Another important thread of this show is the #couplegoals these two inspire.
“You can’t underestimate the amount of love in the relationship that Peter has written. They care very deeply for each other, and so that will always make it more difficult because you can’t just hate that person and take it out on that person because you do really deeply care about them. It’s a very complicated and very true of relationships and marriage.”
Like any romantic rapport, it’s important for on-screen spouses to have chemistry. Luckily, Foy and her on-screen husband Matt Smith immediately clicked. While watching these two, you can’t imagine them with anyone else.
“We had it from the first audition really. We just got on. We made each other laugh. It’s one of those things that’s either there or isn’t, and if it wasn’t there, neither one of us would have gotten the part. I think we’re very lucky that it actually worked, and that it was something that was natural. It wasn’t anything we had to work at—thank God!”
“Assassins” introduces Lord Porchester, aka “Porchey” (played by Joseph Kloska), a one-time possible suitor for Elizabeth who still may hold a torch for the Queen. But this romantic foil only highlights Elizabeth’s love for Philip, a love she confesses to her husband in an impassioned speech in the episode.
“As much as someone can be really great friends and a lovely person, that doesn’t mean you’re going to spend the rest of your life with them. And with all his faults, Philip is still the person that she wants to spend her life with and who she loves. You really can’t choose who you love. I think that’s the amazing thing that she’s never going to give up on him and he’s not going to give up on her either. But I think if it would have been a more conventional relationship or time [period], he might have possibly said, ‘Well, I’m off.’ At the same time, who else would ever be in a situation where your wife is queen?”
“Assassins” hits a huge Season 1 climax with the retirement of Winston Churchill (Emmy-nominated John Lithgow, Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series), who’s been Elizabeth’s antagonistic advisory for much of the season. In a crucial scene, he says to Elizabeth, “I have nothing more to teach you, which is why it’s time for me to leave.” With all of the pushback Churchill gave her, most of what he taught her is what not to do.
“Purely by her recognizing his behavior, he realizes she’s ready to be on her own. She can’t be manipulated because she’s her own person now. She’s able to do what she believes is right.”