Two years ago, Netflix’s The Crown dominated the Emmys by sweeping all acting races and finally winning Drama Series after three previous shots at the top. Expectations could not be higher as Season Five premieres today as Imelda Staunton (Vera Drake) takes the reins as Queen Elizabeth II in her golden years. Jonathan Pryce (Prince Phillip), Leslie Manville (Princess Margaret), Dominic West (Prince Charles), and Elizabeth Debicki (Princess Diana) join her and will follow the series into its concluding sixth season.
So, what should you expect from The Crown Season Five?
The season largely takes place in the mid-1990s with Charles and Diana’s very public separation at the top of everyone’s mind. We follow Diana through her increasingly bold publicity campaigns thanks to Andrew Morton’s book and the infamous interview with Martin Bashir. But the season imagines what happened behind the scenes with the Royal Family, particularly during an era in which people were calling for Elizabeth to step down (before ruling another 30 years, mind you). We are introduced to the Fayed family from their Egyptian roots to their purchase of the late Duke of Windsor’s French estate. It’s a sprawling, complex, and contemplative season that sets the stage for a presumably emotional sixth season.
To prepare for The Crown Season Five, here are 5 things you should know about the latest season of the Emmy-winning smash.
Elizabeth Debicki was understandably nervous to take on the iconic role of Diana, Princess of Wales
Debicki commented that The Crown feels like an enormous pressure to undertake, but praises the support of the craft and decorum teams that support the actors, helping to ensure they look the part in all aspects. “It’s an interesting process for me. It took me some time to understand that. You’re bringing Peter’s interpretation of this person,” Debicki remarked, “but then the people watching the show come with such attachment and memory and a sense of ownership too over these characters in a way. Not only from the people who’ve played them before, but also from their living memory and their history. So you have to leave a kind of space for that.”
When asked about her research into learning how to play Princess Diana, Debicki references the enormous archive of footage they could review, including archival snippets of footage that was never used in public news. “There’s no voice over it, and there’s no agenda to it. It’s just sort of raw footage of people. As the actor looking at how to access the character, it’s always this sort of little off moments that it’s hard to explain, but sort of like how somebody opens the car door, why they’re doing something with their body, the interaction, the sort of physical language that was fascinating for me.”
One of the biggest challenges in playing Queen Elizabeth II was “holding it in” for Staunton.
Imelda Staunton found that, among the many challenges in playing such an iconic, larger-than-life character, the most interesting aspect was learning to hold in her emotions. Famously stoic, Queen Elizabeth II does have moments of emotional outburst (in a true Queen-like fashion), but she largely remains notoriously impartial to the world around her, the way of the sovereign. Staunton said, “That’s a wonderful acting exercise.There are days I think I might have got it, and then there’s days where I absolutely haven’t got it. I’ll try again tomorrow. It’s hard, but when you’ve got the writing there that does probably about 80 percent, if not more, of the work. The challenge is getting the audience to come inside and see what you’re feeling without showing what you’re feeling, hopefully. For all of us, this family is confined by our behavior. What Peter Morgan is trying to do is give us a life inside that confinement, and that’s really, really satisfying to try and investigate.”
Senan West, Dominic West’s son, plays Prince William, future king.
Dominic West’s son, Senan, plays his on-screen son, Prince Williams. West found the experience very moving, witnessing Senan’s first acting job. “I’ve never seen him act, and he had this amazing innocence to him that was extraordinary to watch as well as the fact that obviously he’s my boy,” West said. He further remarked that the more difficult, emotional scenes were a bigger challenge thanks to the real world bond between the two.
Season Five offers a moment between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret that brilliantly resurfaces old resentments.
The Crown mines much drama from the long history between Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret. Here, in Season Five, Staunton and Manville are offered the opportunity to reopen old wounds when Margaret recognizes different treatments between Elizabeth’s past condemnation of her own previous love affairs and Elizabeth’s acceptance of Princess Anne’s (Claudia Harrison) evolving love life. Manville recalls, “It’s not a scene about a queen and a princess. It’s a scene about two sisters who’ve got things unsaid. Of course, [Peter Morgan]’s written it so, so brilliantly and emotionally. It’s wonderful, tells the story. That’s what I mean about him humanizing. What sisters don’t have a kind of relationship that can be wonderful and deeply profoundly loving, which these two are, but nevertheless there’s always stuff.”
The cast feels that people will flock to Season Five to reconnect with the late Queen Elizabeth II despite initial buzz otherwise.
Prior to the launch of Season Five, a small, yet vocal, audience demanded that Netflix delay the rollout following the death of Queen Elizabeth II. The season debuts today according to plans, but several cast members feel the season will offer an emotional catharsis and continue to honor England’s longest ruling monarch in deep and respectful ways.
“The people who queued and queued and queued… I think they felt such huge respect for someone who kept her promise. She just kept her promise,” Staunton remarked. “Here we are celebrating a woman who just did the job, not anything outside the job, not the stuff around it. Just straight line.”
“I think it was also a reflection of where our society is at at the moment with a lack of trust and a lack of believability in our politicians. That same was happened with Diana’s death. The people said, ;You’re not going to do it, we’re going to do it.’ They came out in huge numbers,” Pryce recalled. “For me, seeing the crowds queuing for the Queen, it was as if they were saying, ‘This is the kind of person we want to be following and leading our country’.”