The third season of The Crown finds an older and wiser Queen Elizabeth II navigating the modern era, and a line-up of new faces in the House of Windsor.
OLIVIA COLMAN as Queen Elizabeth II
No stranger to portraying royalty, Olivia Colman won the Oscar for Best Actress in 2019 for her performance as Queen Anne in The Favourite. Inheriting the British throne from Claire Foy to play the older Elizabeth II in the third season of The Crown, Colman received the 2020 Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series – Drama.
“It’s definitely more daunting to play someone that everyone knows,” Colman told Deadline. “The beauty of Queen Anne is that no one can tell me she didn’t sound like that, but everyone can tell me what the Queen sounds like, and that’s slightly annoying… It’s much harder to play people that everyone has a vision of, a picture of, and has ideas about. I’ve never joined a show that’s already been up and running and successful. But I was such an enormous fan of the show that I didn’t really think about it.”
Creator Peter Morgan had no doubt that Colman could do it: “I loved what she brought to it,” he told Indiewire. “Olivia has this boring everywoman quality. That’s who Olivia is. Even though the Queen is the grandest person in the country, she is the woman at the bus stop. If you stripped the fact that she was the Queen and put 50-year-old Elizabeth Windsor at a bus stop you wouldn’t think twice. For example, Kristin Scott Thomas looks like a Grand Duchess, wherever you put her. She’s too aristocratic to be the Queen, so aquiline. Our Queen came to a point in middle age when she became every woman. That’s what so remarkable about Olivia. She’s a four-quadrant connectability woman.”
HELENA BONHAM CARTER as Princess Margaret
The Harry Potter star and Tim Burton regular takes on the role of the Queen’s younger sister (previously played by Vanessa Kirby), whose stormy marriage to Anthony Armstrong-Jones, the First Earl of Snowdon, ended in scandal.
Bonham Carter took researching the role to another level – another plane of existence, in fact – telling the Cheltenham Literature Festival that she had visited a medium to discuss the part directly with the late Princess.
“She said, apparently, she was glad it was me. My main thing when you play someone who is real, you kind of want their blessing, because you have a responsibility.
“I asked her: ‘Are you OK with me playing you?’ and she said: ‘You’re better than the other actress’ … that they were thinking of. They will not admit who it was. It was me and somebody else. That made me think maybe she is here, because that is a classic Margaret thing to say. She was really good at complimenting you and putting you down at the same time.
“Then she said: ‘But you’re going to have to brush up and be more groomed and neater.’ Then she said: ‘Get the smoking right. I smoked in a very particular way. Remember that – this is a big note – the cigarette holder was as much a weapon for expression as it was for smoking.’”
JOSH O’CONNOR as Prince Charles
Season three paints the Queen’s eldest son as a flawed and sympathetic character, says the 30-year-old actor whose prior TV credits include roles in Peaky Blinders and the mini-series Les Misérables.
“It’s a difficult situation for him because ultimately, the Queen’s not wrong when she says duty comes first. So that’s a tricky dynamic. But I think certainly, my aim was for people to feel an understanding of the predicament that Charles is in, which is a really difficult one and profound one,” he told Town & Country Magazine. “The emotional significance of a son waiting for his mother to die for his life to take meaning? That’s quite bold.”
ERIN DOHERTY as Princess Anne
Playing the only daughter of Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Erin Doherty puts a modern spin on Princess Anne – an independent royal who likes to sing along to David Bowie.
“She’s like this royal rock star. She doesn’t really care about the repercussions of her actions because she’s doing what she believes to be right every step of the way. If someone is not afraid to push the boundaries, it’s so much fun to play,” Doherty told Elle.
Although the Princess is far removed from Doherty’s own personality, she did find some common ground. “I found it really easy to relate to Anne, not knowing how on earth to handle this new phase of her life, being thrown into the deep end and fulfilling this duty. I linked my situation with getting the part, because I felt so out of my depth. Like, ‘Oh my God, now I’m going to be in a room with all these people, and I have to make out like I know what the hell I’m doing, whilst I’m quietly having a panic attack.’ I might as well make use of it.”
TOBIAS MENZIES as Prince Philip
Taking over the role of the Duke of Edinburgh from Matt Smith is the actor Game of Thrones’ fans will recognise as Edmure Tully.
“I really enjoyed playing someone who is alive and real,” he told Deadline. “To have so much footage to watch and audio to listen to, I’d not experienced that before. You end up saying lines and doing stuff that you wouldn’t come up with otherwise. There’s also the technicalities of how someone talks, and the intonation they use. I found that kind of liberating in a strange way.
“He’s enjoyably a debunker. He pokes at unnecessary pomp and circumstance, he’s funny. What Olivia and I built with the texture and atmosphere of that marriage I also came to really like.”