Thank you to Netflix for sharing this interview with To Di For Daily. Netflix’s The Crown Season 4 premieres at midnight on November 15th. Emma Corrin plays Princess Diana in the 4th season…
Netflix: How did it feel to be joining such a successful show as The Crown? Were you excited? And were the cast and crew welcoming?
Emma Corrin: Everyone was so welcoming. From day one it felt like that everyone was so invested and really cared about the story they were telling and the show, so immediately I knew I was in good hands. When everyone is really passionate, it is such a great environment to be in and with it being season 4, it is a well oiled machine! It just felt ridiculous to be joining The Crown – I had watched the previous seasons and it was completely surreal and it still is a bit, having filmed it now and waiting for it to come out, it’s like ‘did this actually happen?’
Netflix: Tell us a bit about the casting/audition process, how did you come to read for the part and what did you have to do in your audition? And when you got the part how did you feel?
Emma Corrin: It’s an interesting one! I had been into some small auditions where I had met the casting team but nothing had come of it. That summer I was on a train and I got a call from my agent and she is normally very together and very calm and she sounded really weird. She told me that she had had a call from The Crown. They were chemistry reading all the girls for Camilla and they needed someone to read in for Diana and had asked if I was available. It wasn’t an audition, she said, they will pay you to read, they just need your help. I decided to approach it as an official audition regardless, you might as well – it’s an ideal no pressure situation. The day came and I learnt the lines and I had been working on the voice as well because she has such a distinctive voice. I had also done some research, as I was going to be in a room with Peter Morgan, the Directors and Nina Gold (casting director) so it was worth giving it a good shot.
Halfway through the day, the Director asked if I would like to work on some character stuff for Diana, he gave me some guidance and then put me on camera with Emerald, who was reading for Camilla.
I got introduced to a few more people and when I left I called my agent and told her how it had felt like they were interested but she said don’t get your hopes up. It was a waiting game then for the rest of the year. When the audition for Diana formally opened I went and worked on some scenes and I remember sending a message to my friends afterwards saying ‘if it is only this, if this is as far as I get, that would just the most incredible afternoon so it would have been worth it’
A couple of weeks went by and I got asked to come to set to chemistry read with Josh so I got taken into this insane manor house, which of course I am used to now, but back then it was like ‘woah this is crazy’. I went in and did a few scenes with Josh and the producers, Ben and Suzanne were there. Then Ben just got down on one knee and said ‘will you be our Diana?’
Netflix: What were your impressions of Peter Morgan’s scripts when you read them?
Emma Corrin: Peter has a way of writing that captures all the character’s internal conflicts so well, they are such human portrayals and so sensitive. It shows what is so completely wonderful about every character but also how they are instantly flawed, as we all are. I think that is what he does so well; humanizing people that we don’t know much about, or that we have only seen one side of in the public eye.
The journey that he takes the characters on is really interesting, especially Diana. I play her from around 16 – 28 years old and her arc is incredible. What he touches upon for her, it’s very sensitive and intimate and what I think people will feel is that they get to see a whole new side of her.
Netflix: Tell us about Diana, what kind of person do you believe her to be now that you have immersed yourself in this character?
Emma Corrin: I think that she had this way of giving herself so completely in everything that she did and so she appeared to everyone as this tower of strength and love even when she was ARGUABLY suffering. From my research it seems as though she was always balancing the different sides of herself, she was able to radiate that brilliance and compassion that we all fell in love with even when she was suffering.
Netflix: How does Diana meet Charles and how does their relationship develop?
Emma Corrin: I actually think their families had known each other for a long time, her family had lived on part of the Royal estate so they knew of each other. When she was 16, she met Charles because he dated her sister, so they bumped into each other and then they met again a bit later.
In our version of events, you see Diana attend Lord Mounbatten’s funeral where she watches Charles and sees an immense sadness in him which makes her think, I have this in me, wow, I could help you. We see her offer her condolences when she next sees him and it resonates with him – soon after that they go on an official date – to the Opera, chaperoned by her grandmother!
Of course, things really progress when she is taken up to Balmoral. When you are invited to Balmoral, it’s ultimately a test. Balmoral is where the Royal Family are most at home and so if you are invited you know that is make or break. Diana knew that because she already knew how these things work and I think she, although she was incredibly young and so in a way, naive, I think she also very much knew what she was doing. She knew the rules. she knew why she was here – to be approved and I think she just turned on the charm. Philip in particular really loved her so she was given the seal of approval – he talked to Charles and said she’s the one what are you waiting for.
Netflix: How does Diana cope with integrating with the Royal family? Does she fit in?
Emma Corrin: At Balmoral, she knew what she was doing. She knew the drill, and she won them over very well. But when it comes to her being plucked out of her normal life, without her best mates in her flat and taken to the Palace, suddenly she’s intimidated and almost the lack of warmth of the Firm hits her. I think she is expected to be received with the same informal welcome as she had in Balmoral but it was something entirely different so we see a shift and as the series continues, the warmth deteriorates to icy frosty cold and she realizes that they are not interested in her as Diana. All they are interested in is her role and how she makes the family look.
Netflix: How does Peter convey the breakdown of their relationship in his scripts?
Emma Corrin: Peter’s writing is so nuanced that – basically you get the sense from the script that they were incompatible because essentially they needed the same thing from each other. So essentially Charles has always lacked a maternal warmth in his life, he’s never had a strong maternal figure and I think he was looking for that in who he is with, someone who could support him. But Diana needs support so she could never support him in the way that he needed. And in turn, she needed a strong male figure in the way that she wanted to be loved and Charles was still hurt from everything that happened in his life that I don’t think he could give that to her. They basically both needed the same thing so they couldn’t be the right person for each other. You kind of realize, how, this is like two magnets and it won’t work.
What you come to realize from the series is, it was never going to work, no matter what mistakes were made after the marriage, and I think there were mistakes made on both sides, neither of them were perfect in any way.
Netflix: As the marriage starts to fall apart, what happens to Diana?
Emma Corrin: I think something incredibly interesting happens to her because it coincides with Diana growing up, becoming a woman, discovering who she is, her sense of self and her voice. And so, you have these two things running in parallel, which is the mounting tragedy of her marriage failing, and also her growth and popularity and celebrity in the world. There is this tipping point in episode nine, where she realizes the marriage is essentially over and she’s reached rock bottom. I remember Jess, who directed the episode, talking about how she’s gone so far past despair and that she basically picks herself up and says no. That she is stronger than this and won’t let this be the end. In an interview I think she says, “I realized I had a duty and I had a role to play and my work wasn’t done”. She realized that she isn’t going to give up and I think that’s a beautiful thing, where she finds that strength at her lowest, lowest point.
Netflix: How do you approach playing such a famous and real-life person?
Emma Corrin: It’s so mad, I think it’s incredibly overwhelming and I feel a huge sense of responsibility because no matter how well we do this it is always going to step on this family’s sense of loss because it is real and it is so sad, the story – and also so recent. However I think you have to put that aside because Peter’s writing, The Crown, for all that it stands up for facts in real life, the characters are a fictitious portrayal. I did the reading, I did the research for months and then when I got the script, I found that the research didn’t really matter anymore. I had done it and that was great but now I could set it aside and concentrate on the material I had in front of me – the scripts and the character that Peter had created in a sense and that was really helpful because it felt like it was now up to me to flesh this person out. I worked a lot with the dialect coach on her voice, was a key part of her and the movement coach as movement really helps characterization as we spent a long time on how she moved through the worlds, how she would stand in a doorway. Those little details helped so much to make it less scary. It is a huge responsibility and also a huge honor.
Netflix: What research and preparation did you do?
Emma Corrin: I read quite a lot of books and there is a documentary on Netflix called Diana: In Her Own Words. , which was incredibly helpful because it is narrated by her using the secret interviews she did that helped me so much, to hear your own voice telling her story. I must have watched that, I hate to think, over 100 times.
There is also an amazing research team that we have on the Crown and I think that if I wasn’t an actor that would be my dream job because you get to research incredibly interesting things and I’m such a nerd. They gave me this huge binder and they had sifted through all the books, and all the contacts, friends of hers who wanted to help and compiled all this information in this huge file. Everything is color coded and in different sections, it was so great, it really helped.
Netflix: Did you speak to anyone who knew or was close to Diana during that time in her life?
Emma Corrin: During this year, knowing I’ve got the part and everyone else knowing as well, any time I go anywhere, everyone has a story. I think it is a phenomenon. It is essentially the same story each time, about one of their relatives sitting next to Diana at a dinner party but it is wonderful because that was her essence, she was there, she was relatable. It shows how she touched so many people.
In terms of through The Crown, I talked to Patrick Jepson who was her Private Secretary when she was a bit older, and a character who features in the series. He has such good insight – the kind of things that only someone who knew her very well would know. He said she was so much fun, she had a sense of fun that was contagious and that was so wonderful to hear.
Netflix: Did you learn anything about the Royal Family that you didn’t know before? Did anything surprise you?
Emma Corrin: The struggle that each of the Royal Family go through, coming to terms with their own roles, how conflicted everyone is about finding their sense of duty. I found that really interesting because I guess it is very easy to see them as symbols, see the public side of them and not actually realize the things they are dealing with having landed this weird kind of role.
Netflix: What was it like working with Josh and what does he bring to the role of Charles?
Emma Corrin: Josh is amazing. I couldn’t ask for a better companion to spend those months with. We got on incredibly well, he’s got a huge sense of fun which is brilliant to take you out if you have been doing intense scenes. He is such a detailed and subtle actor I feel like I learnt so much watching him. He really captures Charles’ ongoing conflict – between his duty in his role, what his heart wants and what he feels like he should do. With Peter’s scripts too, I think you do feel sympathetic to both Diana and Charles but also frustration with both of them.
Netflix: Diana’s journey is an incredibly emotional one. How did you switch off between scenes/takes?
Emma Corrin: I think it is a really good thing to have downtime, you need it as it can be so intense. The cast are amazing – it is like a family Christmas as everyone plays games and we will just break out into rock, paper. scissors or a game of fives. Its’ so fun.
Of course, there were intense days, especially with Diana, it’s so dark so much of the time. I remember there were two days in a row, with the dance and then the song that Diana performs for Charles. On the second day we did the song and they got in the actual west end cast to support me. I am a singer, I can sing, but I hadn’t done it for a while and it was incredibly exposing to be on this stage with these professionals. The tempo of the music was different to the version I had learnt so it was terrifying and I thought I wouldn’t be able to do it. At the same time, this is the scene in which Diana goes through something hugely emotional, this is her reaching out to Charles to show him that she loves him, and I very nearly couldn’t do it. The ADs/director were like, we get it, this is huge, take all the time you need. Feeling that support of everyone around is so great, you know that they have got you, you know they understand what we are creating.
Netflix: What did you think of the fashion and did you have any favorites from Diana’s wardrobe?
Emma Corrin: My favorite thing was working with Sid and Amy from the costume team. We had such a fun time. Diana’s Wardrobe is like a character in itself to go through that and do the fittings, with the wedding dress making, it was so fun.
The wedding dress was a huge huge thing. It went on very gradually, so they had to put it all together and there were so many fittings for hours. When we finally did it all and got it on, it was crazy. It was one thing to try it on without my wig but when I put my wig on, it was almost quite terrifying because the significance of that image for people is massive. It was a weird moment, when we were filming that scene in these three huge rooms, the crew were all sitting up at one end and at the other end, I had the ten people trying to put me in this dress with the train which was so long and no one had seen me and then these doors open everyone fell silent because I think everyone felt, out of respect you shouldn’t speak.
But she had so many outfits, especially in the later episodes when she started taking more risks and being more playful with fashion, she had this YSL bomber jacket which was so great. I loved her casual stuff, the jeans and jumpers were very her. There were two jumpers which were also replicas – one was a sheep jumper that one of which is in the V&A and we got the only other one in the world. There was another one she wears in episode one – a pink jumper – and the original makers hand made one for us.
Her fashion marked such a change in the Royal Family it kind of modernized them quite a lot and she took it to another level, working with designers, going to the Met Gala.
Netflix: We see a lot of Diana’s love for dancing – have you danced before or was this a skill you had to work on for the part? What did you think or feel that dancing meant to Diana?
Emma Corrin: I have never had dance training and always been quite uncoordinated so never really stood a chance, but it was an incredible challenge and it was amazing because I learnt so much that I got so much more confident in dance and what I could do. I was taught by some amazing people and it was fun. I did everything – I had tap, jazz and ballet lessons, Josh and I learnt a duet and then there were some great moments where I could just freestyle and that stuff I love, especially for Diana. In those moments she just loses it and moves and you can just tell that she is so stifled in her environment that this is her way of expressing herself. I think expression through dance is something that is so beautiful and so therapeutic. I remember in one scene they offered to choreograph but I asked if I could just go for it and lose myself as she is supposed to be doing. I decided I wanted to dance to Cher, Believe, so they put that on in this huge insane hall and everyone was like, that looks so therapeutic, I want a go! That’s the thing, it was for her. That was her last straw of wanting to get this pain and frustration out. She loved dance, she wanted to be a dancer but I think she was too tall and it was something that she had taken from her life before so it was a source of comfort.
Netflix: Also overwhelming, maybe, possibly not, was joining this family of The Crown and this incredibly ensemble of talented actors, my goodness. How was that experience for you?
Emma Corrin: It was very daunting and also, especially because when I was little, A Room with a View was my go to film. I have grown up with Helena in such a big way. They’re kind of the most lowkey, the warmest group of people that you could imagine. And at no point have I ever felt overwhelmed, or even really star struck, to be honest because I just very quickly felt at home. I can’t even really remember the first time I met everyone, it was just immediately comfortable and at ease and then the feeling like you’re joining a very warm, happy family.
Netflix: Were you a fan of seasons one to three?
Emma Corrin: I actually do remember the first time I ever watched and episode of The Crown, I was in Uni in second year and my friend from school messaged me saying ‘Emma you’ll love this series’. I remember I was short with work, but I was like okay, I’ll watch an episode. And I don’t think I stopped watching, I think I had to watch the whole series, I was obsessed.
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RELATABLE! We are obsessed too! Netflix’s The Crown premieres at midnight on November 15th. We will be live tweeting under the handle @kinseyschofield – watch with us!