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. Josh O’Connor plays Prince Charles in the 3rd and 4th season…
Netflix: Can you give us an overview of where we find Charles this season?
Josh O’Connor: We left him in series three with the family having manipulated the Charles and Camilla relationship. Camilla is now married to Andrew Parker Bowles so Charles is in his ‘playboy years’ although we don’t see too much of that. We introduce him as a kind of lonely figure, but then of course he meets Diana.
Netflix: Charles’ relationship with Diana is incredibly complex, how did you find the challenge of depicting the developments in their marriage?
Josh O’Connor: I think the biggest thing was just being aware of not playing the end. Unlike many of the storylines, we know almost every beat of the Charles and Diana story as so much of it has been played out in the media. I was always conscious that I wanted to get rid of those thoughts and play it truly as a conflicted love story; that there is a lot of love there for each
other and it’s a conflict because ultimately Charles doesn’t know if it is the right thing to do.
The trickiest element is always that so much of The Crown is getting rid of what we already know and seeing this as a drama, rather than anything historic.
Netflix: In Peter’s scripts and your own characterization of Charles, do you think he felt like he was doing the right thing by marrying Diana?
Josh O’Connor: Who knows in real life, but certainly in Peter’s world, the ongoing message of The Crown is the sense of duty. For me, what Charles has always been grappling with is what it means to be a king in waiting and that sense of duty – and I think the marriage is a culmination of all
I remember going into the series, having done what he had done with Camilla in series three, thinking that I can’t see how he is going into a marriage with Diana believing it is going to be positive or good. However, Peter sets it up that Charles receives a letter from Mountbatten, who let’s not forget, is basically his father figure, and that just pushed it for
me. I felt that for my character, by the time he steps out on the day of his wedding, he does think it is the right thing, although obviously he has doubts.
Of course I can only answer based on Peter’s writing, he produces this world in those early episodes where I think Charles has great affection for Diana and he is a young man trying to work out if that is love or not.
Netflix: How does becoming a father affect Charles?
Josh O’Connor: This is one of the things that united Diana and Charles – that they both wanted their children to have as normal an upbringing as possible. It united them but yet still caused conflict because in the case of Charles he could see that the whirlwind around Diana put the spotlight on William and Harry.
I really enjoyed the moments of unity between Charles and Diana with the children. As you know, people see in Charles in the previous series, and his lack of relationship with his parents, so doing the antithesis of that was really exciting.
Netflix: Tell us about Charles’ relationship with Camilla in this season…
Josh O’Connor: What I love so much about Charles and Camilla in this series is that they are almost closer, they are essentially best friends and their relationship has clearly continued in a spiritual, friendship way.
As Diana and Charles start to live their life as a public couple, in the background Camilla is someone who Charles loves and who loves Charles but in a complicated way. I think that in Charles’ head, in order for the Diana relationship to work, there are things that Camilla can’t give Charles that Diana can and there are things that Diana can that Camilla can’t. It
is that combination that produces this very complicated triangular relationship. I would describe them more as best friends and confidantes.
Netflix: How does Charles cope as Diana becomes more famous and eventually becomes the ‘People’s Princess’?
Josh O’Connor: What was really helpful for me was having played the character in the last season in which I had the episode in Wales where it feels like Charles finds the spotlight. There are elements of him finding his own voice, becoming an icon in the Royal Family sense. At the beginning
of the series, Charles was a bit of a sex icon, people were mad about Prince Charles, and he probably enjoys that. What Diana then presents, and the way she grows into this role as the ‘People’s Princess’, is incredibly difficult for Charles and makes his relationship with Camilla very difficult. Everything he does is to avoid the spotlight, to live a quieter life in
Highgrove and everything that Diana does is, as far as he is concerned, is not that. She wants the spotlight, she wants to be seen in the celebrity world and that doesn’t feel like Charles. Essentially he really struggles and that is one of the biggest downfalls of their relationship, as the series goes on Charles realizes he is no longer the King in the waiting, and actually he is supporting Diana as opposed to her supporting him.
Netflix: What do you think matters the most to Charles – duty or love?
Josh O’Connor: There is a great speech just before the Charles and Diana wedding where the Queen just lays down the law to Charles and I think in that moment, the realization for Charles, is that one of the curses of this role is that you can’t really choose love or duty.
In her own marriage, with Phillip it seems that the Queen has luckily fallen in love with someone who fits the mould. So for her, she feels that you can have both and you can forgive issues and you can turn a blind eye. But for Charles, love is more important but he has to suppress those ideas and those thoughts because I don’t think he has a strong enough will at this point.
Netflix: How do Charles’ marital affairs impact on his, already strained in some ways, relationship with his own parents? Does he blame them in some way? Or does he understand his and their position?
Josh O’Connor: In series three, there are lots of scenes I would go into and if I needed an easy access point I would often think, what would Charles want from the scene, let’s play it like what he really wants is a hug from his mum and that was through line throughout series 3.
In series four what he really wants is his parents to say we are so sorry, we’ve got it wrong, and some sort of back up basically. I think by playing that it meant that you could see this awful conflict of the parents ramming the old sentiment of ‘duty duty duty’, but with Charles desperate for them to acknowledge there is a nuance here and this marriage is a total disaster and unless we call it what it is, actually we are defying duty. All those conflicts and battles make the friction between Charles and the parents worse.
Netflix: In series three many viewers felt compassion for Charles. How do you think they will react to him this season?
Josh O’Connor: My goal in series three was to make everyone feel sorry for Charles and as far as I know most people have felt that, and that’s great, job done. This series is slightly more complicated because I always had, as I think a lot of people had, a prejudice of, a very two dimensional view of how that marriage broke down or why that marriage broke down and I think the friction between love and duty often makes people think it is all the royal family’s fault.
What is really interesting in this series is seeing a man desperately trying to get out of this mess. I hope, through that, people are going to come away actually thinking that these are two very lost souls and that they had been manipulated. They both needed something they couldn’t give each other and it didn’t work.
I think because of Peters’ writing, people are going to go on a rollercoaster of feeling for Diana and then for Charles and understanding his frustration, understanding her frustration so I hope people will come out very balanced and sympathetic for both.
Netflix: This time around, how was the research and preparation for you?
Josh O’Connor: I have sort of lived with Charles for two years now and I guess it gets in your bones. I think the hardest thing is going to other projects and it sounding like Charles! There was a moment where we were filming quite near my family home and I showed up at my parents and they made a comment that my posture was quite bad, and I caught myself in the window… There are a couple of basic things that I would stop and check in on and one was, the arch over neck pointed out. I started pushing that a bit further, the more weight is pushed on Charles, the more aggrieved he feels, the older he gets and more arched over his back gets, the more the lack of confidence comes through in his physicality.
I’ve never been hugely interested in playing Charles in reality or doing an impersonation, the thing that is more interesting for me is taking what Peter has created, I wanted to start to see Charles, turning into Phillip. And that’s not like he is like that in reality but I think in this story it felt like it.
Netflix: This is an incredibly talented ensemble, how is it working with them?
Josh O’Connor: For me, it remains a dream come, true. When you look down at the call sheet every day and you see Olivia Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies, Charles Dance, it’s endless. On top of that you have the actors who come in for an episode, like Tom Burke, there’s so many, Jane Lapotaire last year, all these extraordinary actors, Jason Watkins, did half the season last year. So, you have got this kind of, who’s who of British actors, really, and that feels so joyful. Particularly for young actors, like myself, Emma and Erin, the younger generation, Emerald, we’re all sort of soaking it in like sponges all this information. You find yourself saying ‘oh look, Helena does it like that’ and ‘Tobias does it like that’, I’m going to nick that and I’m going to nick that. I just find myself basically stealing all their ideas all the time, it’s great.
Netflix: Are there any particular scenes during season four that stick in your memory as being particularly challenging or fun to play?
Josh O’Connor: There are two scenes that I really sort of mark as scenes that I loved doing and one was, in episode one with Tobias, I think it’s just after Charles hears the news about Mountbatten.
He comes back to the Palace and Philip’s there and he’s been drinking and it’s a real kind of dark, painful scene between the two of them. I love that, partly because Tobias and I don’t have much to do together and we’re very good friends so that was really fun.
The other one was in episode ten, right at the end of the series Charles comes back after Diana’s had huge success in New York and Charles confronts her and basically lets out all the feelings that he’s felt for the whole series. I think there is a line where he says, “I refuse any longer to be blamed for this grotesque misalliance”. It’s so painful. It’s the most awful scene to play. Poor Emma, sort of stands there taking this abuse. I found that really tricky because on a personal level there’s nothing angry or aggressive or violent about me so that’s always unnatural.
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Hello. That last paragraph gave me goosebumps! Netflix’s The Crown premieres at midnight on November 15th. We will be live tweeting under the handle @kinseyschofield – watch with us!