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After news broke that The Crown‘s Claire Foy, who played Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s sweeping British royal drama for two seasons, earned less than co-star Matt Smith, who played her husband, Prince Philip, producers apologized to the duo and promised pay parity going forward.
At a For Your Consideration Emmy panel Friday night for the show’s second season, Foy indirectly addressed the controversy while answering a question about how she has responded to the women’s empowerment movements of the past year.
“I have had the most extraordinary sort of revelation about myself and womankind. It’s sort of amazing, the conversations that people are having now — people think we’ve always been able to have [them], but we haven’t,” the actress said.
Foy not only feels supported by the women around her and other women in the industry, but she also feels more confident knowing that she is able to speak up for herself.
“It’s about being able to feel you can be your own advocate, and you can make a point and you can say something without it being you being difficult. It can actually just be you supporting yourself,” she said. “Having an opinion as a woman is something that I’ve never felt I had the right to, and I’ve felt that happening and it’s extraordinary.”
Foy’s co-star Vanessa Kirby — who played Princess Margaret — said she loved working on The Crown because it puts its female characters front and center. “I think I took for granted how little women are at the forefront of something, especially written by a man,” she said.
Foy and Kirby were joined by The Crown creator Peter Morgan and costume designer Jane Petrie at the Television Academy’s headquarters in North Hollywood, packing the theater so full that a small group of unhappy guests who were turned away once the event hit capacity tried futilely to talk their way in.
After the crowd screened the second season finale, Foy, Kirby, Morgan and Petrie discussed the strangeness of the royal family — mused Morgan: “They are just like us and they are nothing like us, and that’s probably their agony as well” — deciding which iconic outfits are important enough to copy (Margaret’s wedding dress was one Petrie knew had to be re-created exactly, and it was so down to the wire that Morgan didn’t even try on the gown until the day of shooting) and what Morgan wishes he could write but probably never will (fight scenes).
Unfortunately, since the royal family is so polite, the closest he’ll get to an actual fight is Elizabeth aggressively putting cream and jam on a scone.
“That scone was my fight scene,” he joked. “She buttered a scone irritatedly.”
While it’s ultimately Morgan’s choice that every role in the series is being recast for the previously announced third and fourth seasons — Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies are set to play Elizabeth and Philip — he did lament his decision.
“It’s really hard, because for me now, I got used to how Claire is. I just hit my stride in writing for her,” he said. “I feel it’s like writus interruptus. We work with all these wonderful actors, and you discover what they can do and now — it’s the same with Vanessa, how much I would like to continue writing for her. A new cast offers new challenges, and it’s hard enough without new challenges.”
But aging actors more than a certain number of years means hours and hours in the makeup chair, which wouldn’t be very practical. Said Morgan, “I don’t think it’s fair to ask an actor to age more than 20 years.”
After the half-hour discussion, audiences dined on a buffet that included British staples like fish and chips and shepherd’s pie, and a dessert table that included flourless chocolate cupcakes, mini English trifles and cranberry orange scones. There was no cream and jam served with said scones, so thankfully the security guards didn’t have to worry about passive-aggressive scone-buttering.