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When Claire Foy signed up to star in The Crown, she knew she’d only be playing Queen Elizabeth for two seasons. But the news may have come as a shock to many viewers of the Netflix drama who came to love the breakout actress’ portrayal of the young royal.
“I’m quite philosophical about these things, and I think the amazing thing about the show is the fact that it will go on and that it hasn’t ended badly. It’ll go on and have another life,” Foy tells The Hollywood Reporter. “I can’t wait to watch it, and I just think whoever they get to play that part, they’ll be extraordinary. I will never watch it with any sense of bitterness or regret. I will feel what I will feel now, which is so happy and lucky for the experience.”
Foy hopped on the phone with THR to further discuss what it feels like to leave the character behind as the drama looks to recast an older actress, her upcoming film with Damien Chazelle and how she’s adjusting to her newfound fame.
Since you wrapped shooting on the second season, do you get a bit of break now?
Well, we didn’t have much of a break because we went and did reshoots. So I went to New York for a bit and came back and did reshoots. But now it’s officially done, and so I’m just at home being mom and getting my washing done and seeing some plays. It’s amazing suddenly having that because it’s been two years of my life. I’m now catching up, which sounds dull but actually it’s really exciting. (Laughs.)
You had your first child right before the first season of The Crown. What was it like diving into motherhood and the show at the same time?
Yeah, I never would’ve planned it that way, but then I suppose that’s life. I had no idea it was going to pan out like that. But I think becoming a mother for the first time is a whirlwind in any situation that you’re in. I think mine was just slightly more mental in a sense that I was working long hours and my baby came with me to work, and not everybody has that luxury. So it was such a different way of working. I had been working for about 10 years before I had a child, so I knew the parameters as far as that was concerned, but I suppose this was the biggest job I had done up until that point. So I was aware going into it that it was quite a lot to take on, and I think I’m only realizing now coming out of it just how much pressure I put myself under unnecessarily. (Laughs.) But I think all mothers at a certain point look back and go, “God, I was mad. Why did I stay up until 4 o’clock in the morning making pureed food? What was I doing?” I buy it. They have a packet. But that’s just what you do because this is the guilt, the amazing guilt. The amazing, amazing mother’s guilt.
You were able to bring her to set with you most of the time, yes?
Yeah, I mean, especially because I fed her for a good year, so she sort of had to be. But to be honest, film sets are not particularly interesting places for anyone other than the people who are making the film to be. My sister once came on set and she will never come again. She was like, “This is the most boring thing I’ve ever done.” (Laughs.) And I’m like, “Yeah, see. See. We’re in a car park in London.” So I think it’s only fun for a certain amount of time.
When you first signed on to The Crown, did you think it would catch on the way it appears to have?
No, not a clue. I knew it was very, very special. I knew that the people who were making it were people I really looked up to and respected and admired. So I knew that I was very, very lucky to be doing it, but you never know the outcome of something. You never know how it’s going to turn out. It’s kind of a chemical reaction when you get all of those people together and see what comes out of the other end. I don’t think we can ever really judge what’s going to happen. So I’ve been continually surprised and overwhelmed and amazed and proud and just feel ultimately really, incredibly lucky that I have been part of something that people have appreciated.
Along with that, you’ve seen your career suddenly blow up. How have you been handling your newfound fame?
Well, I’m one step removed from it, in a way, because I’ve seen it with friends and I’ve seen it from the outside and I’ve seen people suddenly be in something that gets them an overwhelmingly positive response. So I’ve seen that. And, in reality, not a lot changes. I’ve seen it from the outside enough to not be overwhelmed too much by it, I suppose. And also, my life has stayed very, very much the same. I think it’s more of the fact that you notice the difference in people you’re talking to and the roles you’re going up for. That’s the real difference. I’m like, “Oh, this is nice that I’ve been suddenly allowed to talk to you.” (Laughs.) It’s a funny thing. But also, I’m well aware that it’s not something that you can keep up for a long time. I’m not taking it all too terribly seriously.
Speaking of the roles coming to you, you landed a part in Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic, First Man. And there are reports that you’re starring in The Girl in the Spider’s Web as well. Is that true?
Any other projects you’d like to share?
God, no. That’s enough. That’s quite enough for me. I’ve done a couple of things that will come out, but that was a while ago. But I’m so, so, so excited about First Man. I just think she [Armstrong’s wife, Janet Shearon] is amazing, and she’s just an absolute cracker, so I feel very, very lucky, and I can’t wait to start doing it. But yeah, I’ve got quite enough on my plate. (Laughs.) I’ve got an awful lot of work to do.
Are you looking to do more film than television now?
No. I’ve never in my entire career thought, “This is what I will do now, and this is what I will do…” because I just don’t think life works like that. I don’t think you can predict anything. So I’m much more of, if I can see it, then I will make a decision about it. Also, my gut is my guide in the sense that if it doesn’t feel right, regardless of whether it makes a lot of sense, then I just can’t do it. But luckily with Janet Armstrong, I thought it was right. On paper, I’m not the prime candidate; I’m an English woman. (Laughs.) But I just thought that it was right. Thank God Damien did as well.
What’s the process like of having to say goodbye to your character and then see someone else take her on?
I don’t really feel like I have yet because there’s so much postproduction to do and publicity. I think once the show’s on and once I start First Man, I’ll really be like, “OK, it’s over. It’s over.” I’m quite philosophical about these things, and I think the amazing thing about the show is the fact that it will go on and that it hasn’t ended badly. It’s not like we’ve done two seasons and they said, “No, we’re pulling the plug.” It’ll go on and have another life. Someone else will take on this amazing role, and I’m not the first person to play that part. I have taken that role on from other people who’ve played it before. So it’s in the nature of the role that it will keep reincarnating and that that story will keep being told. I can’t wait to watch it, and I just think whoever they get to play that part, they’ll be extraordinary because they’re an extraordinary team. I will never watch it with any sense of bitterness or regret. I will feel what I will feel now, which is so happy and lucky and thankful and grateful for the opportunity I had with that role. It’s been amazing for my life.
If you could cast the role in the next iteration, who would you want to play her?
I can’t possibly do that. That’s so unfair. No way. I can’t. (Laughs.)
How have you seen your character evolve over the course of the two seasons you’ve played her?
God, if I think about it, she was a child when she got married. In a way, when you look at her life, she was so young when she came to the throne. And then you watch her be stranded and confused and feel inadequate, and then find her strengths. It’s one step forward and nine steps back in that early part of her reign. And then you see her come into her own, really, and realize the limitations and realize her role and duty. Then it’s another set of challenges. She realizes that, but then the world is changing around her and she can’t keep up really — and the monarchy can’t keep up. Also, she’s in a different part of her life. She’s moving into middle age, and her marriage is changing. So you do follow someone from infancy to adulthood in that way. She was so naive and sheltered to get to a point where she sees the world more clearly — and that can be quite a humbling experience. I feel like I’ve lived with her through that.
There’s been a lot of speculation over whether the Queen has watched the show or not. What do you think?
Well, we definitely know that some people [close to her] have watched. They definitely have. I’m sure that Netflix in some way would be able to find out if they were under some massive breach of security, and they could see if the Queen has a Netflix account and that she was active at 11:00 p.m. on the Thursday night. But I don’t know what to believe more than anyone else. In my head as me, I like to believe that she hasn’t watched it because it makes my life easier and it makes me not have to consider that aspect of it. There’s also the likelihood that she has — but I’m living in the world of ignorance, where I think that she hasn’t watched it. It’s a nice place to be, and I shall stay here living in the idea that maybe she hasn’t watched it. (Laughs.)
What’s the biggest misconception about your character?
That she doesn’t feel. That she’s a distant, unfeeling person. I think she feels everything — she just doesn’t express it. That’s my idea.
If you could switch roles with any other Emmy nominee in any category, who would it be and why?
John Lithgow. (Laughs.) I’d like to play Winston Churchill. Why not let a woman have a crack at it?
If your character in The Crown had to join another show or film, which one do you think it would be and why?
Big Little Lies just because she’d be part of the sisterhood and she would be great in that group of women.
If your character was male, how would she look different?
It would just be same old, same old. Wouldn’t it? It would just be a story of a man in a powerful position of his country. Nobody wants to watch that. (Laughs.) Christ. History is full of that. We could do without that.
What’s the strangest fan interaction you’ve had?
I’ve got two actually. I had one the other day. I went to a fish and chips shop — the most English thing you could ever possibly do — and a woman had been out on a Tinder date and she was quite drunk, and we were talking about her Tinder date. And then I got a Facetime call from my mom halfway through, and for some reason, me talking to my mother made her realize that she’d watched me on TV, and she started crying. I was like, “Why are you crying?” That’s really a peculiar reaction, for me anyway. I’ve never had anyone just cry at me unless they’ve been really upset because I’d done something. It was an odd experience but lovely. I think it was because she was a bit drunk. She was not really expecting to see me in a fish and chips shop. It was the date, it was the fish and chips, it was the alcohol, and it all got a bit much. It was the only one I’ve ever had weirdly, but it was a special one.
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