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.