What does it take to play Diana, Princess of Wales, one of the most scrutinised and beloved women of the 20th century? In the October 2020 issue, Emma Corrin tells Vogue the answer ahead of the premiere of the fourth season of The Crown on 15 November.
It’s hard to imagine a more difficult role to step into than that of Diana, Princess of Wales – particularly Diana, Princess of Wales in The Crown. Since its premiere in 2016, Netflix’s epic £10-million-an-episode production has garnered a well-deserved reputation for its spot-on casting thanks to Hollywood legend Nina Gold. Who could forget the eerie way that Claire Foy morphed into the Queen on her wedding day in the first series? Or Helena Bonham Carter’s spectacular transformation into Princess Margaret on her 1965 tour of America with Lord Snowdon in the last season?
It’s a pressure that British Vogue’s October 2020 cover star Emma Corrin is keenly aware of ahead of the release of the fourth instalment of The Crown on 15 November. The Cambridge University graduate was tapped to play the People’s Princess at the beginning of 2019 after more than nine months of practice reads on set – despite having only a handful of small roles to her name. “I didn’t tell anyone for a while,” the 24-year-old told features director Giles Hattersley of her casting during a stroll through Hampstead Heath earlier this summer. “I love my mates but I think it would have got out.”
Her fascination with the late royal, however, ultimately gave her away – with her inner circle figuring out her secret on their own. “My friends from school did this incredible thing, where they made me a scrapbook filled with all of the screenshots from our group WhatsApp, where I have said, ‘Oh my God, guys, I’ve been invited to read.’ Or a random conversation we’d had four years ago when I said, ‘Isn’t Diana amazing!’”
The actor has always been drawn to Diana (not least because Corrin’s own mother bears an uncanny resemblance to her) but her preparation for the fourth instalment of The Crown naturally led her to do endless research into the late Princess’s life, from meeting with Diana’s private secretary Patrick Jephson (“[He] said that she was so funny and so happy so much of the time – I loved that”), to watching Diana: In Her Own Words “about a hundred times”. She even worked with movement coach Polly Bennett to try and figure out which animal Diana most resembled in her movements. (After initially considering a deer, Corrin settled on a cat.)
In the forthcoming series, Corrin puts her studies to good use playing Diana from the age of 16 – when she first met Prince Charles during a grouse shoot at her childhood home of Althorp – through to her late twenties, when her marriage began to collapse in spectacular fashion. “I feel I’ve got to know Diana like you would a friend,” Corrin explains. “I know that sounds really weird, but I get a great sense of companionship from her. I suppose, over time, you kind of start to patch together a sense of empathy and a sense of understanding. I love figuring people out.”
Naturally, there are countless moments that viewers are excited to see recreated on screen – from Diana’s debut at Balmoral to her first royal tour with Charles – but none is quite as breathlessly anticipated as the royal wedding in 1981, for which The Crown recreated Diana’s wedding dress. “We were filming the scene when you first see her in the wedding dress – I think it was Lancaster House in London – and I had a team of about 10 people helping me put it on, because it’s massive,” Corrin recalls. “I walked out and everyone went completely silent. More than anything else I wear in the series, it’s so… It’s her.”
Source: Vogue UK