As far as proposals go, Emma Corrin’s invitation to join the fourth season of The Crown was indeed fit for a princess. “I got taken to this insane manor house, which of course I’m used to now,” the actor says with a laugh. “But back then it was like, Woah, this is crazy.” After she finished reading an audition scene with Josh O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles, Corrin remembers director Benjamin Caron getting down on one knee: “He said, ‘Will you be our Diana?’” Naturally, Corrin said yes.
Her turn as the Princess of Wales, ages 16 to 28, has earned applause from both Diana devotees and those less familiar with the royal. She plays a young woman trying to find her way in the world, at various points vulnerable, steely, joyful, and stricken. Diana is trapped by a troubled marriage and facing impossible public scrutiny. In Corrin’s hands, she is entirely relatable and deeply sympathetic.
The courtship between Corrin and The Crown was a long one. The first call came when Corrin had just graduated from Cambridge University and moved to London, where she was couch surfing and trying to find work. Her agent said The Crown was looking for people to read Diana’s lines while they auditioned actors for the role of Camilla Parker Bowles.
“I was so new, it wasn’t really intimidating,” Corrin remembers. Her agent told her who would be in the room: The Crown’s creator, Peter Morgan, executive producer Suzanne Mackie, and Caron. “I didn’t know who any of those people were,” Corrin explains. “My agent was like ‘O.K., that’s probably a good thing. You won’t scare yourself.’”
She decided to approach the opportunity as an audition. She memorized the scene despite being told she could reference the script, and she enlisted her mother, a speech therapist, to help her work on sounding like Diana. Corrin spent the morning of the reading speaking her lines from the corner of the audition room. That afternoon, the director asked her to move in front of the camera.
“She was extraordinary,” remembers Mackie. “As she walked out, we all looked at each other and said, ‘We think we may have just found our Diana.’ I just knew in my bones.” Adds Caron: “She was the only person I really wanted. She had that amazing quality of vulnerability and strength. But of course, you have to be sensible.”
By “sensible,” he means thorough. It would be almost eight months before Corrin got the call to audition at the manor. During that period, she filmed the TV series Pennyworth and tried not to worry about her prospects with The Crown. She already possessed an actor’s necessary ability to stay the course, although her experience was essentially limited to theater productions at Cambridge. Even the rejections she received from acting schools after graduating from her all-girls boarding school never made her doubt her path.
Corrin was raised with her two brothers 30 miles from London, in Royal Tunbridge Wells. “I spent the majority of my childhood living in a fantasy world,” she says. “I would create worlds for myself through writing, or by going outside for days on end, living in things I’d built in the woods, and getting my two brothers to play fantasy worlds with me. It was always about acting. I think that requires some kind of blind faith and determination.”
Coming off her Golden Globe and SAG nominations for her portrayal of Princess Diana in The Crown, Emma Corrin will star opposite Harry Styles (Dunkirk) in the Amazon Studios’ romantic drama My Policeman. Based on the acclaimed novel of the same name by Bethan Roberts, My Policeman will be produced by Greg Berlanti, Robbie Rogers and Sarah Schechter of Berlanti-Schechter Films, in association with Cora Palfrey and Phillip Herd at Independent Film Company and MGC.
The story takes place in the late 1990s, when the arrival of elderly invalid Patrick into Marion and Tom’s home, triggers the exploration of seismic events from 40 years previous: the passionate relationship between Tom and Patrick at a time when homosexuality was illegal. Styles and Corrin are set to star as Tom and Marion, respectively.
Tony and Olivier Award winner Michael Grandage will direct from an adapted screenplay by Academy Award and Emmy nominee Ron Nyswaner.
Corrin is best known for her role as Lady Diana Spencer in Season 4 of the Netflix world-wide, award winning hit series The Crown, which earned her Golden Globe, SAG and Critics Choice nominations for Best Actress. Emma joined Season 3’s stellar cast including Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter and Josh O’Connor in the latest iteration of the show that released in November 2020. Emma has also been selected by The Hollywood Reporter as one of their ‘Next Gen’ breakout actors and named as one of Screen International’s ‘Stars of Tomorrow’ 2020. Last March, Emma made her debut film appearance in Misbehaviour, a historical drama film following the story of a group of women from the Women’s Liberation Movement seeking to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition, which took place in London. Cast as ‘Jillian Jessup’, the Miss South Africa contestant, Emma starred alongside Keira Knightley, Keeley Hawes and Gugu Mbatha-Raw, amongst others. Emma’s previous television roles include her appearance as ‘Esme’, a recurring role in the 10-part Warner Brothers/EPIX series Pennyworth.
She is repped by Insight Management and Circle of Confusion. The Daily Mail first reported the news.
Emma Corrin on ‘The Crown’ Season 4 and the Unusual Way She Was Cast as Princess Diana
Plus, how she depicted Diana’s battle with bulimia and had to unlearn how to sing.
With The Crown now streaming it’s fourth season on Netflix, I recently spoke with Emma Corrin about playing Princess Diana in the fantastic series. During the wide-ranging conversation, Corrin revealed the surprising way she was cast, what it was like working with The Crown creator Peter Morgan, what she learned from researching Diana’s life, the way they went about preparing to depict Diana’s battle with bulimia, filming the fight scenes between Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor) and Diana, what surprised her about making the series, and more. In addition, she talked about her school days at St. John’s College (which throws some great year-end parties), the TV series she’d like to guest star on, and the popularity of The Crown in the United Kingdom. Check out what she had to say below.
Collider: So I got a bunch of questions for you, but I want to start with a fun one, which is, I believe you went to St. John’s college.
EMMA CORRIN: I did.
So two of my very close friends went to St. John’s college, and I’m probably the only person you’re talking to that actually went to a May Ball.
CORRIN: Oh, my God. How did you know? You went to John’s May Ball, as well?
Yeah. I went to St. John’s May Ball.
CORRIN: Oh, the best one.
That’s what they would say.
CORRIN: Seventh best party in the world, according to Time Magazine.
Right? That’s what I wanted to actually get into, for people that don’t understand. There is a competition in Cambridge about who puts on the best ball.
CORRIN: Yeah. It’s 100% John’s.
My friends who went to St. Johns wanted to know if they still do the pennies and no hands dessert at formal hall?
CORRIN: Yeah. That is a thing. Yeah. That is a thing. Also, they do the thing where if you are in formal hall and you are sitting next to someone, if you put a penny in their drink, they have to down it. They also do that. There are so many ridiculous things.
I don’t want to spend too much more time on St. John’s, but I will say that for people that don’t know what the May Ball is, it’s a pretty epic night.
CORRIN: It’s insane. Yeah. It’s the best party you’ll ever go to. It’s great. It’s crazy. Yeah.
I know you just got to do, The Crown, but what TV show would you love to guest star on?
CORRIN: That’s an amazing question. What have I watched recently that…everyone’s talking about Succession, aren’t they? I feel like I’m just saying that because it’s really good. Maybe Selling Sunset.
If it makes you feel any better, a lot of people I’ve been talking to, I asked these same few questions of everyone, and Succession is usually the popular answer.
CORRIN: Yeah. I’m going to change it to Selling Sunset though. I think I’d have a lot more fun on Selling Sunset.
I think there’s a good possibility on that one. And my other thing is, what movie have you seen the most?
CORRIN: Oh, that’s such a good question. Oh, probably my favorite film, which is, You’ve Got Mail.
The Crown in America is a very popular show, but how is it in England for people that don’t live there?
CORRIN: It is very popular here as well. I think they do a different kinds of popularity. I think in America, people have this, I think you guys have an obsession over the Royal family in a way that we don’t. Because I guess we just live with it. But it’s very popular here. Everyone loves it, I think. Though, saying that, a lot of my friends are like, oh, I’ve never watched it.
That’s going to change.
CORRIN: Yeah. Well, I’ll make them watch it.
I am curious about the casting process for you. Can you talk about the auditions and how badly did you want this role?
CORRIN: Well, my casting process was very unusual, I think actually. I’ll explain it, but I feel like any young actor listening should not think that this is how it normally works, which is that, so I went in August 2018. Got a call from my agent. She said, The Crown are doing a chemistry read between the girls they had found to play Camilla potentially, and Joshua O’Connor. But obviously they’re reading scripts that are from season three and also season four, which was obviously in the pipeline. And they need someone to read for Diana. And so I went in and I was paid and obviously, it wasn’t an audition for me. I was just helping out, but it weirdly turned into an audition, because they started putting me on camera and they were obviously enjoying what I was doing. And it was quite strange.
And I remember calling my agent afterwards and being like, Maya, I really think something shifted in the room. I think they really liked me for Diana. She was like, Emma, don’t be ridiculous, they haven’t even started filming season three yet. Don’t be an idiot. And then about five, six months went by, and we heard murmurings of things. They kept checking to make sure that I was still available or what I was up to. I started doing another job, but I remember I sat down at the cast welcome dinner, and everyone was a bit drunk and the director goes, oh, congratulations on that Crown job. And I was like, what? And he was like, shit. No, don’t worry about it. It was very strange and it was a lot of that thing where I was like, am I being not told something? But obviously there’s nothing I could do.
So I very much from the get-go tried to not get my hopes up. And then actually the part was announced and people started auditioning and I went in for a few additions, which was so much fun. I loved it. It was just me, Peter, and one of the directors, Ben, just spending a lot of time talking about Diana and what we loved about her, and the nuances of their relationship. Then I got invited to set to chemistry read with Josh, and I had to go to where they were filming. They were doing some pickups in season three and we ran the scenes a couple of times. And then they offered me the part in the room, which was very special. I have no memory of it, because I think I blacked out from shock. But Josh says it was the closest to X-Factor he’ll ever get. He said it was very fun. So very strange process. In retrospect, obviously worked out very well. At the time, it was very, very stressful.
So for actors that are reading this, if you ever get the opportunity to just be in the room take it.
CORRIN: Oh, yeah. Take the opportunity 100%. Yeah.
I am a huge fan of Peter Morgan, and I’m curious if you can sort of talk about what it’s like collaborating with him, working with him, maybe what surprised you also.
CORRIN: He’s a genius. I fully think he’s a genius. The way he writes has a weight to it that is fully Shakespearian, and an intelligence to it that’s funny Shakespearian. I think he’s masterful the way he can communicate all the different sides of a person, so you see them. I mean, for instance, I watched some of season four with my friend recently, and we’re all very liberal and obviously not at all fans of Margaret Thatcher, quite the opposite. But we sat down to watch it, and my friends were having a crisis because they were like, why am I being made to understand her?
Why am I being made to feel sympathetic towards her? And Peter does this incredible thing where he can show a very balanced and very dynamic presentation of a character. He really takes you to the limits of their experience. And I think with all the women in the series, he explores the nuances of how they grapple with being in power, and what that means for them. It’s incredible. He’s a phenomenal guy. I would love to spend a day in his brain.
I think he’s a phenomenal writer.
You’re relatively young and obviously you grew up with Diana, but she wasn’t in your life.
CORRIN: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
I’m curious, what things really surprised you as you researched her that perhaps you were not expecting?
CORRIN: I loved learning about what she was like before she entered the Royal family. I loved learning about her childhood and how that perhaps had a knock-on effect to how she was when she was older. I was surprised at how strong she was or maybe I wasn’t, but I was surprised at the fine line between her vulnerability and her strength. I find that really fascinating the way that she was going through so much, but yet could come across so strong and so generous and with other people. I was surprised at the lack of support she received in the Royal family all the way through. I didn’t know whether that was something that was a more gradual thing. I was surprised that she landed in the palace and from day one, they weren’t really there for her.
No. I haven’t said it yet, but season four is fantastic.
CORRIN: Thank you.
‘The Crown’: Emma Corrin and Josh O’Connor on Embodying the Agony of Charles and Di
Yes, performing that awkward ‘Phantom of the Opera’ scene made them both want to go fetal.
“It’s so cringey,” said Emma Corrin, who stars as Princess Diana in Season 4 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” “It’s the worst.”
“It’s so uncomfortable,” agreed Josh O’Connor, who, as Prince Charles, is Corrin’s frequent scene partner. “It’s so horrible. I’m so sorry.”
Here’s the thing about playing the British royal family’s two very famous star-crossed lovers — there are any number of based-on-real-life scenes with Corrin and O’Connor in “The Crown” that they could be talking about. Is it the duo’s terrible engagement interview, where it becomes very apparent that Charles has little interest in his future bride? Is it the press conference in Australia where Diana fumbles incredibly basic questions about their trip Down Under? Is it when Charles watches aghast as attention-starved Diana does a surprise dance to Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl” in front of a packed audience at the Royal Opera House?
All worthy contenders, but the scene in question is the one in Episode 9, “Avalanche,” where Corrin, on stage in full Sarah Brightman “Phantom of the Opera” costume — complete with sets and orchestral backing — records a video of the impossible soprano lung-buster “All I Ask of You” for Charles’ anniversary present. The two, after a tepid dinner, watch the video together on the VCR — and O’Connor’s brutal, horrified reaction to Diana’s wide-eyed attempt at reconciliation is both heart-piercing and priceless.
“She hasn’t learned!” Corrin replied. “It’s the second time she’s done it [after the Billy Joel performance]! You’re like, ‘Come on Di! COME ON!’”
“In reality, what Emma did in that scene is amazing,” O’Connor said. “The [crew] were like, ‘Do you want to see it before [you film]? and I was like, ‘Maybe not, because I’m not really into that, I would rather react in the moment.’ But then the director was like ‘Emma is quite fucking great in it!’ — sorry, I shouldn’t swear — but it was like ‘Emma is really good in it!’ so I sat down and watched. And the singing is amazing! But then I had to be that prat! If my partner did that for my birthday, I would be in tears and so grateful. It was really hard to go from that, to acting like ‘What an idiot!’”
It’s the mixing of private moments with the public persona of Charles and Diana that makes Corrin and O’Connor’s performances so resonant. Each is required to make countless broad and fine choices every moment on screen to avoid mimicry, but to still give the audience the satisfaction of recognizing their personal experience of the characters.
They were helped by creator and showrunner Peter Morgan’s scripts, which cleverly intertwine a select number of very public moments that put a not-so-delicate point on the couple’s private upheaval. Moments that we’ve all endlessly seen are left out; the episode focused on the royal wedding cuts to black just before Diana, in her wedding dress, leaves for Westminster Abbey. The “Lion King”-esque presentations of newborn Prince William and Prince Harry on the steps of the Lindo Wing at St. Mary’s Hospital are omitted entirely.
What remains are the moments that deepen the focus on a couple as their public facade slowly crumbles to reveal a relationship built without a foundation beyond patriarchal expectations of marriage and duty.
“Diana’s iconism — Is that a word? It should be! — really kind of annoyed me,” Corrin said. “It means we can slap a term on this person, but it’s very insensitive to her experience. She was incredibly strong — but at the same time, a very vulnerable woman taking on a lot of responsibility at a very young age […] those two forces playing against each other are just incredible.”
The Crown’s Emma Corrin Is Sure There Was “So Much Love” Between Princess Diana and Prince Charles
The newcomer opens up about her longstanding Diana obsession, pushing for the Princess’s eating disorder to be portrayed onscreen, and naming her dog Spencer.
SEE INTERVIEW VIDEO: here
It isn’t easy to make a fashion statement over Zoom, but Emma Corrin has done it. The actress appears on my screen wearing a horse-patterned dress, and paired it with a gold horse pendant necklace. It’s still stylish somehow, very Alessandro Michele-Gucci maximalist, but definitely a choice—and one that might carry a deeper meaning if she had played famed horse girls Princess Anne or Queen Elizabeth on The Crown.
But no, Corrin is the up-and-coming actress behind the show’s Princess Diana, and is actually “terrified” of horses (“They’re just so huge, they can run so fast”). If anything, her equine outfit is indicative of her willingness to go with the flow: when she was given a horse dress to wear, she realized she “weirdly” had a horse necklace that she’d never had a chance to wear, et voilà, head-to-toe stallions. It’s a quality that will come in handy when I ask her if her dog, whom she named Spencer after you-know-who, has anything in quality with his namesake—Corrin just gives a brief laugh and admits that she’s “not prepared for this to be a question” before indulging me with an answer.
Below, Corrin opens up about season four of The Crown, the complexities of Charles and Diana’s marriage, and finding a mentor in Helena Bonham Carter.
I know you’ve had a longstanding interest in Diana. As someone who, like me, who didn’t know her when she was alive, I’m curious what drew you to her.
I think growing up, I just had this overwhelming awareness of her relatability and that people seemed to adore her for being very empathetic and very caring. I very much grew up with the whole “the People’s Princess” understanding of who she was.
It really intrigued me when I got the role and started doing research, because I was quite keen to actually see, or try and understand, the person behind that, which I suppose is what the series is so great at doing.
How did your perception of her change as you got to know her better?
I don’t think my perception changed particularly, but I think I just had a new understanding or greater understanding of the complexity of everything that she was going through. I really was interested in learning about what she was like when she was younger. I really enjoyed those episodes, particularly everything in episodes two and three I suppose, when she’s meeting the royal family for the first time and you see her with her flatmates and her life before everything. I think it gave me a real appreciation of how young she was and the life she’d left behind and how she went into this thinking it was going to be one thing and then it turned out to be very much another.
Were you at all interested in Charles or Camilla, or know much about them, before the show?
I guess I had a very vague understanding of everything, but I guess also with The Crown, with Peter’s writing, it takes everything behind closed doors. What we end up showing in this season is very much unchartered territory, I suppose. It’s very fictionalized. I mean, Peter has this amazing way of writing very complex human characters and really bringing out the nuance in relationships. I was really interested in learning those nuances in the love triangle, I suppose, as it’s come to be known.
What kind of nuances?
Josh and I talked a lot about the complexities of marriage, I suppose, and also the pressures that everyone was facing in that situation. The pressure that Charles felt to do the right thing, do his duty, choose a wife. And how young Diana was. How she really liked Charles and had an idea that marrying him would be, I suppose as the episode suggests, some kind of fairytale. Then, Charles’s love for Camilla, which to be fair, was there for the whole of his life.
I think it was just a very unfortunate series of events, honestly, and it was just interesting to see all of these things play over each other. I’ve been asked in a lot of interviews like, “Oh, whose side are you on?” Or like, “What do you think about this?” It’s very hard, and it’s impossible to pick a side, because it’s so much more complicated than that.
Also, I hope that we don’t have to choose sides in interpersonal relationships.
Exactly. Right? I mean, that’s the thing—if anyone asks [to choose sides], you should say, “Can you do that in your relationships?” There’s so much more to it than that. Josh and I also always maintain that there must have been so much love between Charles and Diana, because it is possible to love someone and also for it not work out in a marriage or in a relationship. It happens every day, all the time.
When you were preparing for the role, did you get any good insights from people who knew Diana personally?
I met with her personal secretary, Patrick Jephson, who was wonderful to talk to. He was really great. He worked with her for a number of years, and I remember him describing her as such a happy person, and that really meant a lot to me. He said that even though she was going through a lot, especially as the marriage was ending, he said, “If you knew her well, then you knew that you could make her smile in an instance.”
A complete unknown, plucked from obscurity and thrust into the spotlight, her life changing forever as a result.
It’s not lost on Emma Corrin that this is as much a fitting description for her own situation as it is for the character she plays in her breakthrough role.
Emma’s life is about to be transformed, with millions of people around the world tuning in to the new series of The Crown, where she portrays the young Princess Diana.
The fourth season of Netflix’s drama about the inner workings of the royal family during the reign of Queen Elizabeth launches today and covers the period from the late ’70s, when Prince Charles, next in line to the throne, was still unmarried at 30, causing consternation within the Royal household. His too-good-to-be-true fairytale wedding with Lady Diana Spencer, a shy nursery school teacher 14 years his junior, proved to be exactly that, the cracks in their fragile marriage revealing themselves almost immediately.
Emma, a 24-year-old actor with just a handful of credits on her CV, is preparing for her anonymity to come to an end, with early reviews from the critics describing her turn as the People’s Princess “a tour-de-force”.
“I’m excited,” she smiled. “I know my life is changing a lot but it’s manageable – although it wouldn’t be if I didn’t have lovely people around me.
“It was certainly a huge amount of pressure when I got the part. I felt huge responsibility. People like Diana, Charles and The Queen are icons in a way that makes them incredibly untouchable and kind of unknowable.
“As an actor, to be asked to portray them is really daunting. You are constantly looking for a foothold into the character you are playing, something to relate to or empathise with. It can be very difficult.
“It was really only when I got the script I realised this is a fictional character I am playing – I’m playing The Crown’s version of Diana.”
Emma, daughter of a businessman and speech therapist, attended an independent school for girls in Surrey before graduating from Cambridge University. She appeared in an episode of ITV drama Grantchester, a handful of episodes of US series Pennywise and had a small role in British movie Misbehaviour, about the feminist attack on the 1970 Miss World competition, before she was chosen to play Diana.
Emma was working a part-time job when her agent called to tell her she had an off-camera script read-through for The Crown, to assist producers who were auditioning actors to play Camilla. Emma would read Diana’s lines and, while her agent told her it wasn’t an audition, the young actress turned up for the job as if it was, devouring books and articles on the princess in preparation.
Her diligence paid off, as producers spotted her potential and invited her back to audition for the Diana role, competing alongside hundreds of others. When she was later told she had been cast, her reaction was “just disbelief. I stood there speechless for quite a long time.
Emma wasn’t even two years old when Diana, just 36, died in 1997, so she has no memory of the princess but has always felt a connection to her because her own mother looks very similar to Diana – so much so that passers-by in the street would do a double take when they walked past.
Emma Corrin’s World “Exploded” When The Crown First Teased Her Role as Diana
The actress talks experiencing the Diana fandom and that tense final scene in Season 4.
It all started to sink in when the first trailer dropped. Emma Corrin, cast as Princess Diana in the highly anticipated new season of The Crown, was on a trip to the countryside with her best friend and a weak Internet connection when she received an email reminder: In about two hours, the first teaser of the season would debut. Though the montage shows only shots of Corrin from the back, never revealing her face, it marked the first official footage of the actress as Diana in the wildly popular Netflix series. Sure enough, when the clip premiered, pandemonium ensued.
“It was mental,” Corrin recalls to BAZAAR.com on a video call from London. “And the world just went crazy. The world exploded. My phone went absolutely haywire. It was mad.”
That much was expected from an award-winning series with 73 million worldwide viewers, now that it has finally brought in one of the most beloved women in all of history. Diana’s arrival to the show comes just 23 years after the tragic death of the real-life princess, whose funeral was watched by an estimated 2.5 billion people on television. In 2020, her legacy as a humanitarian, fashion icon, and celebrity still thrives—likely not only because of how widely she was adored, but also how intensely the public obsessed over her life. Ever since she started dating Prince Charles, Diana was at the center of unrelenting media attention, and by portraying her, Corrin is getting a tiny taste of it.
“I’m getting overlap,” she says of the fandom, “Because I think that the part is such that people have not let go of her yet.” Like Diana, Corrin was thrust into the spotlight. Despite past roles in the British series Grantchester and Epix’s Batman-inspired Pennyworth, she was relatively unknown; but this year, thanks to The Crown, she’s covered almost a dozen magazines and is now undoubtedly considered one of Hollywood’s rising stars. “There’s a parallel there with this stuff, with the trajectory that she experienced in terms of being catapulted into fame. And it’s very strange,” Corrin says.
The actress was cautious about the expectations for her long-awaited season. “I feel there’s so much hype. It was probably just in my head, but I’m always wary of a lot of hype, because I’m worried of not living up to it.” But there was no need to worry: Critics praised the fourth season as the show’s best yet.
Still, Corrin who was immersed in the theater scene while studying at Cambridge, prepared diligently. She devoured books, biographies, and documentaries about the princess. She even read through letters Diana wrote to her father-in-law, Prince Philip, in whom she found a kindred spirit. In the show, Corrin so accurately nails Diana’s soft-spoken delivery and telling glances that it’s surprising to see how animated and fast a talker she is in real life. On our Zoom call, she jokes and emotes with her hands, occasionally bending her knee to prop a foot on her couch while she’s listening and nodding intently. She’s traded in Diana’s feathery wig and ’80s attire for a slick ponytail and lavender sweater (fitting that she wears a shade of the regal color purple).
Ahead, Corrin discusses how Diana’s journey with the royal family plays out in The Crown, re-creating Diana and Charles’s romance with costar Josh O’Connor, and how being fed desserts prepared her for a big scene with Emerald Fennell’s Camilla Parker Bowles.
When she was offered the role of Princess Diana on the fourth season of the Netflix drama The Crown, Emma Corrin says she nearly blacked out. Her reaction felt somewhat predestined: More than two decades earlier, when Corrin was a toddler, her mother walked into a café in a London railway station, prompting several patrons to faint because she bore such a striking resemblance to the Princess of Wales, whose tragic death in a car accident had shocked the world just hours earlier. “I hesitate to tell that story because it almost sounds too insane to be true,” she says. “There’s this theme throughout my life of Diana cropping up. It doesn’t feel ordinary.”
As a student of education at Cambridge University, Corrin, now 24, devoured the first two seasons of The Crown, which introduced audiences to a young Queen Elizabeth as she assumed her place at the top of the British monarchy. While in school, she regularly starred in campus theater productions, and secured an agent shortly after graduation. In 2018, she was hired to read a few lines as Diana during a casting call for Camilla Parker Bowles (played in the series by Emerald Fennell), who famously rivalled Diana for the affection of Prince Charles. Corrin was told it wasn’t an audition, but she prepared anyway, watching the 2017 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words an estimated 15 times and rehearsing with her mother, who works as a speech therapist. “There were things I tried to emulate, like Diana’s head tilt and her voice. She had a very unique way of speaking,” she says. Six months later, Corrin was asked back for a chemistry read with Josh O’Connor, who plays young Prince Charles; Corrin landed the part on the spot. Over the course of ten episodes, she transforms with uncanny grace from Shy Di, swallowed up in a replica of that famous taffeta wedding gown and mooning over her ambivalent husband, to the more defiant People’s Princess of the late ’80s. “We filmed out of order, and the shift was constant,” she recalls. “Older Diana holds herself so well. The director would be like, ‘Emma, posture!’”
The pandemic forced the production to cut a planned trip to the Pyrenees that Corrin and O’Connor had been looking forward to for their final scene (different actors reprise their roles in future seasons), but it also gave Corrin time to recover from whooping cough, which she had battled for most of filming. She welcomed the rest. The role, and the attention that has followed, connected her with her real-life counterpart in new and unexpected ways. “This is the first time for me being in the public eye in a way that I’m very scared about,” she says via Zoom from her London flat. As a teenager in nearby Sevenoaks, Corrin once stood on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace with a friend, waving a massive daffodil to celebrate the 2011 nuptials of Diana’s son, Prince William, and Kate Middleton. Now, she’s in the surreal position of portraying the prince’s beloved mother. “I feel a lot of responsibility,” she says. “I try not to think much about it. Otherwise, it does get overwhelming.”
Source: Interview Magazine
After learning she had gotten the part of Princess Diana on The Crown, Emma Corrin spent the next few days on preparations. She bought binders and notebooks and pens. She cued up a list of documentaries and lined up stacks of biographies. She made folders of archival photos. She listened to recordings of Diana’s voice over and over again. None of it felt all that useful. Here, she and her collaborators explain the details that made Diana click into place.
The first thing that helped Corrin understand Diana was to read the scripts, which included references to the princess’s bulimia. This swiftly became the center of how Corrin conceived of her. She wanted to make sure the disorder wasn’t a tangential part of her life but something that shaped nearly every moment of her day. “If you’re trying to understand the psychology of a character and they’re going through that, it’s hugely essential to their experience.” It’s the kind of interior understanding that radiates outward into a physical portrayal. “I did something with my hands in a lot of scenes,” Corrin says. “You use your hand to make yourself sick, and her fingers on her right hand have become a source of anxiety for her. She will rub them together when she’s anxious, when she’s cross, when she’s emotional.”
A Voluminous Fringe
Corrin studied the connection between Diana’s bangs (or, in the U.K., her “fringe”) and her posture in trying to nail down how she used her hair as both a shield and a veil. “It’s something that gave her some distance from the world,” Corrin says. “It’s a protective thing.” The way Diana looks out from under her hair is also playful, though. It’s both a barrier and an invitation. “It’s, Look at me; don’t look at me,” Corrin says. “It’s almost doll-like, kind of puppy dog,” says Cate Hall, The Crown’s hair and makeup designer. “It gets a bit naughty after a while.”
Netflix’s all-conquering royal spectacle The Crown returns, with the People’s Princess taking centre stage like never before. Jonathan Dean speaks to the young actor about her ‘sympathetic’ take on Diana
Emma Corrin plays Princess Diana in the new series of The Crown and, as such, there is one thing people want to know. What does the actor think Princes William and Harry will make of the show? “I can’t imagine,” says Corrin, treading cautiously. “I’m not going to say it doesn’t matter, because that would be ignorant. If someone made a programme about my grandma, who died last year, that would be difficult for me to watch.” But would she want Diana’s sons to see her portrayal? “I’d be interested to know what they think,” she admits. Not that she would relish the awkwardness of asking them herself. “If I ever saw them at a party, I’d probably leave!”
Corrin plays the princess between the ages of 16 and 28, the years in which “England’s Rose” met Prince Charles, gave birth to the boys and found her private life becoming increasingly complicated. I meet the 24-year-old in Claridge’s, a place Diana visited often for official engagements. The actor – brunette, baggy jumper, large specs – had just done her GQ shoot. “A lot of latex,” she says, smiling – as the styling was as far away from Diana as possible.
The new series of The Crown, however, aims to get up close and personal with the People’s Princess. We know the icon: the writers attempt to unpick how that iconography came to be. Corrin will play Diana for one series only, with Elizabeth Debicki replacing her for series five and six, the ones in which she will do the landmine walk and meet Dodi Fayed. “It’s a shame,” says Corrin about her fleeting appearance in Netflix’s key show. “I’m sad about it. But I’ve moved on…”
We meet Diana before she was famous, when she is yet to enter the palace and is living in a flat share in Earl’s Court. “She has no idea what she’s getting involved with,” says Corrin. “And it was more exciting to play that, because you are showing sides of somebody people don’t know.” Towards the end of the series, especially on a 1989 visit to New York, Corrin played famous moments, but she liked the early scenes, “when her fashion sense was awful”.