7:00am PT by Jean Bentley
'The Crown' Season 4: All the Details (So Far)
[This story contains spoilers from the season three finale of Netflix's The Crown.]
From the beginning, Netflix's royal drama The Crown was always meant to run for multiple seasons, with different casts taking over the roles during three separate periods in Queen Elizabeth II's life.
Creator Peter Morgan told The Hollywood Reporter that while initially he thought of his series as a three-season story taking place over 60 years, with a new cast dramatizing a different period in the British monarch's life each year, he quickly realized that compressing 20 years of British history into a single season of television would be too large an undertaking.
"I don’t want you to think that I was audacious enough to go somewhere and ask for a six-season pitch," he told TV's Top 5 podcast hosts Daniel Fienberg and Lesley Goldberg during a November interview mere days after season three launched. "I really never imagined that, and barely imagined it getting recommissioned to even do the middle-aged, as it were, part. But it just seems to have worked out."
Netflix renewed The Crown for two seasons back in 2017, and when the third season premiered Nov. 17, the fourth was already in production in the U.K.
The Hollywood Reporter has gathered everything to know about the upcoming fourth season, along with what Morgan has said about the royal drama's future. Bookmark this page as The Hollywood Reporter will continue to update as more details become official.
The Time Period
The first two seasons, which starred Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II, covered around the first two decades of the titular monarch's reign, beginning with her ascension to the throne in 1952 and ending shortly after the birth of her fourth child, Prince Edward, in the mid 1960s.
Season three introduced Olivia Colman as Elizabeth, Helena Bonham Carter as her younger sister Princess Margaret (originated by Vanessa Kirby) and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip (originated by Matt Smith). The 10 episodes focused on the 1964-70 and 1974-76 terms of Prime Minister Howard Wilson, ending with the Winter of Discontent in the late 1970s, right when Princess Margaret's marriage was crumbling.
Season four will take place during the 1980s, and will introduce two important historical figures: Princess Diana and Margaret Thatcher. One important historical event that took place during the era, which coincided with the term of Britain's first female Prime Minister (from 1979 to 1990), is Charles and Diana's wedding.
While The Crown has not been officially renewed for fifth and sixth seasons, Morgan said Netflix is "interested." And he is right, per what Netflix content chief Ted Sarandos said in 2016: "This is going to take Queen Elizabeth from age 29 to, presumably, the current day. We'll see it lay out over decades. The idea is to do this over six decades in six seasons presumably, and make the whole show [run] over eight to 10 years."
Morgan told THR that when planning each season, he maps out the timeline first and then narrows down the events he wants to cover.
"The first knee-jerk ideas you have when you think of a decade are shaped by all the reductive nonsense that we do when we reduce a decade to its barest, least interesting components and then we pack it up and wrap it up and call it history," he said — but then he goes back and takes a deeper look at what happened during the time period he's covering. (Listen to Morgan's full interview with TV's Top 5 above, starting at the 32:16 mark.)
"You have to then go look at others. At the same time, you do still need that decade to be recognizable as that decade by not going too obscure. And so that’s what I try and do. I try and find both a handful of these [well-known events]…and then hopefully [find] a whole lot of things that have been forgotten by history."
One thing he has found: an end point for the series — and it's something that has already happened.
"You need at least a decade, in my view, to separate yourself from the events that you’re writing about," he said. "Something has already happened that I think is the end, but you can’t ever say what the end is because things change and the minute things change historically you begin to have to respond in some shape or form, even in your thinking. So I have an idea — but it’s only an idea."
Returning Cast: Season 4
Colman, Bonham Carter and Menzies are set to return as the royal trio in season four, as will Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles and Erin Doherty as Princess Anne. Also returning: Marion Bailey as the Queen Mother and Killing Eve season two showrunner Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles.
New Cast: Season 4
Newcomer Corrin, who made her feature film debut in 2019 historical drama Misbehaviour and her series regular TV debut in Epix's Batman prequel Pennyworth, will play the future Princess of Wales.
"Emma is a brilliant talent who immediately captivated us when she came in for the part of Diana Spencer. As well as having the innocence and beauty of a young Diana, she also has, in abundance, the range and complexity to portray an extraordinary woman who went from anonymous teenager to becoming the most iconic woman of her generation," Morgan said in a statement announcing her casting. Read her first interview about the role here.
While initial reports presumed Anderson would take on her latest high-profile role in season three, the Iron Lady will not be introduced until season four debuts on Netflix. The X-Files alum Anderson — who has been dating creator Morgan since 2016 — will take on the part.
"I am so excited to be joining the cast and crew of The Crown and to have the opportunity to portray such a complicated and controversial woman," Anderson said in a statement when her casting was announced. "Thatcher was undoubtedly formidable but I am relishing exploring beneath the surface and, dare I say, falling in love with the icon who, whether loved or despised, defined an era."
New Cast: Season 5
Despite the fact that seasons five and six have not been officially ordered, Morgan has begun thinking about who he'd want to play the Queen. "You can’t go to the actor’s agents and say, 'We want to approach such and such' because I haven’t had a green light yet. But at the same time...I think Netflix are interested and...we did start with this idea of all three, so of course the hope is that there will be a final installment."
At the time he spoke with THR, he hadn't been able to approach anyone for the role because he didn't want to approach seasoned actors without a firm offer — and that can't be done until Netflix officially renews it.
"I think if they were young, untried and untested actors you probably could start that process on a speculative basis, but you can’t with serious professionals of experience," he said. "And their agents are ferocious and wouldn’t let you. So right now it’s a blank sheet."
However, Imelda Staunton is in talks to take over the role of Queen Elizabeth from Colman. Netflix downplayed the report as technically seasons five and six have yet to be formally announced. This post will be updated when any casting news is official.
Production on season four began before season three premiered, which means it's likely to follow the same release pattern as seasons one and two. Season one aired in November 2016 followed by season two in December 2017; with season three's release in November 2019, season four should arrive in late 2020. A formal return date or window has not yet been determined.
Bookmark this page as THR will continue to update it as more information, including a return date, becomes available.