"The Crown" returns to Netflix this month, to the relief of royal addicts everywhere. This season, though, they've done something you're not supposed to do with a successful show: they changed the cast. The young and glamorous royal couple, played to critical acclaim by Claire Foy and Matt Smith, are out. The more mature Olivia Colman and Tobias Menzies are in.
Time marches on, even for royalty.
Series creator and writer Peter Morgan showed correspondent Mark Phillips around the main set on the Elstree studio lot outside London. It's an imagined recreation of the private family quarters of Buckingham Palace, and it's been a pretty good investment.
Phillips asked of the cast changes, "Why did you feel the need to change horses?"
"Sorry, I just had this image of Olivia and Claire as horses," Morgan laughed. "Are you referring to my actors as horses?"
Well, they do pull the show along, now into the 1960s. And there's only so much makeup can do.
Morgan said, "I think that when you get to middle age, you might be able to replicate wigs or even wrinkles. But you can't replicate life experience. And life experience takes its toll, on our faces, the way we hold our shoulders."
"Is there also a risk, from your point of view, in changing cast?" Phillips asked.
"I think it might take you three minutes, and then you make that transition."
The new, older queen is revealed through a typically clever device: a new postage stamp featuring a more mature monarch.
If anybody can handle the transition, it's Olivia Colman, who's riding a wave of popular goodwill after wining an Oscar this past year forStill, it is a role like no other.
"The moment they offered it, and I went, 'Yes, please!' So, I was very uncool." Colman said.
Phillips asked, "This, of course, is a real character who everybody knows so well. Does that make things different as an actor?"
"Because you're tested?"
"Yes, well, everyone knows what she looks like, knows what she sounds like, so everyone has an opinion and everyone will go, 'Oh, no, she doesn't sound like that' So, I'm trying not to think about it, thanks!" she laughed.
The challenge of playing the real Queen in a show like "The Crown," is to tip-toe along the line where drama meets history. As to what the royal family thinks of this very public, dramatized version of their lives, Morgan was asked if he's ever heard from them about being mis-represented.
"Look, anecdotally you hear things. And I've made a habit of not believing a word I'm told. The only conversation I would trust would be one like this in a private audience with the Queen. And since that's never gonna happen I really don't worry about it!" he laughed.
Phillips asked, "Would you like it to happen?"
"Oh, I'd love to have a conversation with her. I think it would be quite brief!" Morgan laughed.
Among the other changes: Helena Bonham Carter got over her initial reluctance to play the Queen's socialite sister, Margaret. She told Phillips, "I didn't expect to like it before I actually sat down and watched it before I was involved. I thought, 'What is this and how's it gonna work?' And as soon as you watch it, it's so absorbing and I was completely won over.
"I think it's because it is just about a family, ultimately, in extraordinary circumstances."
"But not just any family," said Phillips.
"No, in extraordinary circumstances, definitely."
Life on the set of a successful show can be fun, and "The Crown" has been a monster global hit, extended by Netflix for at least two more seasons. Colman was asked if she has a theory why the show is so popular in the States. "No! I don't know. I suppose, I mean, any sort of royalty is fascinating, isn't it, in any country, because it's so far removed from what you or I know."
So, where will it end? Here's a hint. Phillips asked Morgan, "Taking this from the perspective of an American audience, could you end the story before the Diana thing?"
"You could," he replied. "But that would seem like an act of self-harm!"
To watch a trailer for Season 3 of "The Crown" click on the video player below:
For more info:
- "The Crown" (Netflix) – Season 3 debuts November 17
Produced by Mikaela Bufano.