The Crown’s Prince Charles, Josh O’Connor, reveals why he’s worried he’ll get hate mail, and Emma Corrin explains how she got inside Princess Di’s head.
The Crown’s Prince Charles, Josh O’Connor, reveals why he’s worried he’ll get hate mail, and Emma Corrin explains how she got inside Princess Di’s head.

Charles and Di’s secrets from The Crown

Josh O'Connor says his life hasn't changed too much since making such an impact playing Prince Charles in the third season of the global hit drama The Crown.

A few more heads might turn in the street as the London-based actor goes about his business, but he says he's grateful for job that the make-up and wardrobe departments do to transform him into the monarch-in-waiting, which means he often doesn't get recognised by people until they are halfway through a conversation.

"It takes some time for people to notice," O'Connor says with laugh.

"So in that sense I have been quite fortunate. But season three is slightly more sympathetic to Charles so I don't know if this season there is maybe going to be a bit more hate mail. Hopefully not."

The fourth season of Peter Morgan's award-winning historical drama about the Royal Family spans the late 1970s and 80s, with Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) bumping heads with the Queen (Olivia Colman), and pressure mounting on the heir to the throne to put his playboy ways behind him and find a suitable bride.

Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor and Prince Charles and Princess Diana in a scene from season four of The Crown.
Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor and Prince Charles and Princess Diana in a scene from season four of The Crown.

History records that while he found his fairytale princess in Lady Diana Spencer and a royal wedding watched by millions around the world, there would be no happily ever after. Charles continued an affair with the married Camilla Parker Bowles and Diana chafed against tradition, struggled to find common ground with her older and more worldly husband, and eventually developed a serious eating disorder. So whereas the Prince of Wales cut a sympathetic figure as he fought to find his voice and identity in season three, he comes across at times as a distant, petulant, even cruel figure in the new season.

O'Connor is at pains to stress that his eerily accurate portrayal of Charles is fiction, and he feels a sense of distance and detachment from the real figure, but he was told exactly where the story was going when he signed on to the show and knew that it wasn't always going to be pretty.

"In season three, my job was to make us have some sympathy for Charles and the reason is so we understand why it's so hard for him in season four," O'Connor says.

"But as an actor, you don't play an unlikeable character as unlikeable - you have to believe in everything that they do and every decision they make, and how they behave. That's why I always feel sympathy for Charles, which is difficult because I feel great sympathy for Diana.

"On the surface I can see that there is a villainous side to Charles but if you hark back to what we have seen in season three - and we had a big joke on season four that every time Charles walks into a room to speak to the Queen, he never actually says anything.

Emma Corrin says the press attention she received after winning the part of Diana helped her understand how the princess felt.
Emma Corrin says the press attention she received after winning the part of Diana helped her understand how the princess felt.

"He'll come in and say 'Mummy can I speak to you?' and he's told to go away. So, when you break it down you see that he has no voice, he has no real status and he's still a lost boy. But because he's more grown up, we have less sympathy for him."

Diana is played by relative newcomer Emma Corrin, who was less than two years old when the princess was killed in a Paris car crash in 1997. While she had some trepidation about signing up to play someone who would become one of the most famous and scrutinised people in the world, she realised early on that she would have to set the weight of expectation aside and make her portrayal an interpretation rather than an imitation.

"I would never be able to do good work while carrying that responsibility," she says. "I will always hope that I have been able to do her justice and that I will have done a good job for her - that means the world to me. But we got the scripts and I started doing research and I was very quickly comforted by the fact that The Crown is fictional to some extent and we are portraying Peter's versions of these people and this is my interpretation."

Such is the popularity of the show - and of Diana - that her casting last year sparked a flurry of media interest and paparazzi pursuit trying to snap that first picture of Corrin in costume. In a case of art imitating life, Corrin put the unsettling experience to good use, to discover just a taste of what Diana endured for decades.

Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles cuts a much less sympathetic figure in season four of The Crown.
Josh O’Connor’s Prince Charles cuts a much less sympathetic figure in season four of The Crown.

"One of the directors took me aside and said 'anything you experience from now onwards, like paparazzi following you home or your face ending up in the newspaper or feelings of being overwhelmed or anxious about impending fame and this role you are about to carry - use it, because that's exactly what she would have been going through'," Corrin says.

Once cast, Corrin says she was inundated with stories from people whose lives Diana had touched, however peripherally, and also spoke with Patrick Jephson, who had been Diana's private secretary from 1988 to 1996.

"He said that she was a very happy person," Corrin says.

"He worked with her up to and around the divorce and he said that even when that was happening he knew her well and he knew how to make her laugh - and she had such a ready laugh. And she could go from being miserable to being happy again very quickly. And that was lovely to hear."

Both Corrin and O'Connor have now farewelled their roles on The Crown, which have been recast for the final two seasons. Corrin says she's keen to chat to her replacement Aussie Elizabeth Debicki if she gets the chance and O'Connor is thrilled with the choice of his mate Dominic West as an older Charles.

"I'm delighted, he's so good and will be brilliant," he says. "And I am honoured - I don't think people think that I look like him, but if I looked anything like Dom West, I would be pretty pleased."

The Crown Season 4 is streaming from Friday on Netflix

 

 

 

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Originally published as Charles and Di's secrets from The Crown


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