Queue gears up for what’s next.
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Millions of royal watchers’ patience will be rewarded on November 15th, when the highly anticipated fourth season of The Crown premieres. The year is 1979, Margaret Thatcher has just been elected prime minister, and a young woman named Diana Spencer is set to marry her prince.The fourth season reunites an award-winning cast that includes Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, and Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, as well as Josh O’Connor and Erin Doherty in the roles of Prince Charles and Princess Anne. The season also introduces two new stars to the mix: Gillian Anderson arrives as Thatcher, and Emma Corrin plays Diana.As ever, The Crown Season 4 focuses on both political events and private moments behind palace walls. This time around, that balance is embodied by the relationship between two of the world’s most powerful women: Thatcher and the queen.
“On the face of it, Elizabeth and Margaret should get on,” says Colman. “They are the same age, have the same drive, the same devotion to their fathers, the same work ethic. Yet they don’t. It’s not the beautiful friendship that the queen hopes it will be at the beginning.” Adds Anderson: “Where the queen leans back, Thatcher leans in; where the queen does nothing, Thatcher takes action.” It is this conflict, says Crown creator Peter Morgan, “that is at the heart of Season 4.”Central for the actors is the knowledge that this will be their last hurrah as an ensemble. Since the series’ genesis, Morgan has been clear about the importance of rotating in a new cast every two seasons. “The choice is simple,” he explains. “You can put lines on someone’s face or maybe digitally age them, but you can’t breathe the fatigue and bruises of life into a face.”“It’s like a relay race,” he continues, describing this changing of the guard, “and you pass the baton.”The cast isn’t getting weepy just yet. Says Colman: “I have enjoyed this job so much, and I will miss sitting with and laughing with everyone on set so much. But we really are having the time of our lives.”In anticipation of all the upcoming fun, we’re taking a look at what it means to join the cast of The Crown, remembering some of the best moments from Season 3, and possibly getting a little ahead of ourselves.
Even before they made their unhurried entrances on set, the stars had their work cut out for them. To play Princess Margaret, Bonham Carter pored through books and interviewed Margaret’s friends. Hair and makeup designer Cate Hall even arranged an educational meeting between Bonham Carter and Margaret’s former hairdresser, who treated them to a “tiara-application master class.”Anderson, for her part, admits to “watching and reading everything I could.” She worked with movement and voice coaches to perfect Thatcher’s signature walk and manner of speech. “I listened to her voice a lot in private,” she says, “and spoke in that voice out loud when no one could hear.”Corrin also had a movement coach, who counseled her on the minutest details, including how to stand in a doorway as Diana. Dance lessons helped the actor tap into the princess’s joy, and a meeting with the royal’s former private secretary, Patrick Jepson, revealed not only how much Diana suffered in her unhappy marriage, but also her essential effervescence: “He said she had a sense of fun that was contagious,” reveals Corrin.As for Menzies’s study of Prince Philip? “I started by listening and watching him loads, which was kind of fine,” he says. “And then your eyes and your ears start to bleed a bit.”
The biggest stumbling block for some of the cast was their lack of horse sense. “I had that classic chat in my first audition where I just said, ‘Yes, I can ride!’” remembers Doherty. In reality, she had never been on a horse in her life, though that didn’t stop her from trying out for the role of Anne, who was an Olympic equestrian. “I wasn’t going to take myself out of the running,” Doherty says with a laugh. “For the first year I got away with it, and then they said they would give me lessons.”O’Connor likewise learned to ride in order to be convincing as Prince Charles. But Andrew Buchan got a free pass when it came to portraying Andrew Parker Bowles on horseback. “Andy had just had a new baby and wasn’t in any kind of state to be learning to play polo,” explains director Sam Donovan. Instead, production had a contraption built that looked like a horse and rested on top of a quad bike, enabling Buchan to look like he’s riding in close-ups.Zooming out, any Crown fanatic would be hard-pressed to find fault with this meticulous and marvelous world. “It’s the most childlike thing when you come onto the fantastic sets, like being in a play” says Menzies. “That’s been a particular joy.”
WHAT TO EXPECT
IN SEASON 5
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