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Few historical dramas have enthralled viewers the way The Crown has the last five years. The Netflix drama, created by Oscar- and Emmy-nominated scribe Peter Morgan, kept up that intrigue with one of its buzziest seasons yet last fall, which marked the much-anticipated debut of Princess Diana.
For the creative team behind the show, this season — with its introduction of not only Emma Corrin’s Lady Di but also Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher — felt like many years in the making. “Even back then in season one, we were talking about this moment,” says director and executive producer Ben Caron during a Q&A with THR Presents, powered by Vision Media, about the show. “We’ve been waiting five, six years to get to here.”
Caron feels that sentiment was reflected onscreen as well. “We just hit a sweet spot this season,” he adds. “I think all the episodes individually were fantastic and then as a collective they all sang together.” The fourth season of the series covers the time period between 1979 and 1990, depicting such events as Charles and Diana’s 1983 tour of Australia and New Zealand, the Falklands War and Lord Mountbatten’s funeral.
Of course, the cast switches out every two seasons as the show pivots to a different period in Queen Elizabeth II’s life. And that serves to keep everyone on their toes. “It never feels like you’re coming back to the same show,” says cinematographer Adriano Goldman. “You’re coming back to the same family, which is a privilege, but there’s always something new for you to face — and it’s a very interesting exercise of improving from season to season.”
For Caron, this was the easiest season to make so far. “I’ve had many sleepless nights over the seasons but, finally, four seasons in, I actually worked out where the steering wheel was,” he jokes. Caron feels like there were storylines building all the way back from the first season of the show that all led to season four, which largely centers on Charles and Diana’s marriage.
Given the subject matter, hair and makeup designer Cate Hall knew the season would strike a nerve with audiences, even if they already knew the whole story. “The fact that everybody knows where it ends doesn’t diminish the drama along the way,” says Hall, who was responsible for recreating Lady Di’s iconic blonde crop with various wigs Corrin donned. “Us getting to play with that narrative was a bit of a dream.”
For Josh O’Connor, this season offered him a chance to take center stage, portraying the nuances of Charles’ relationship with the two key women in his life: his wife and the Queen. Morgan often says he sees his actors grow more comfortable in their roles in their second season on the show. O’Connor insists that having strong scene partner in Corrin helped that be the case for him. “Charles gets his playmate in Diana and then it all started to fizz,” he says.
When asked about Prince Harry having seen The Crown, O’Connor acknowledges that it must be strange to see any kind of history related to your own family shown onscreen. “Someone was telling me that Harry was like, ‘Well obviously it’s drama,’ and he’s made a really interesting point that there’s more truth in The Crown — or at least The Crown wasn’t hiding behind the truth — as opposed to the media that we also portray in this series that would make up lies about this family and have done for their entire life.”
After all, their family matters being publicized isn’t new to new to the Royals. “The difference here is that there’s nothing where we’re saying, ‘This happened.’ This is pure drama,” O’Connor explains, noting that it’s hard to know exactly how things went down. “It’s just a story at the end of the day.”
This edition of THR Presents is brought to you by Netflix.
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