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.”
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”.
Bend. Or Break.
As the 1970s are drawing to a close, Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) and her family find themselves preoccupied with safeguarding the line of succession by securing an appropriate bride for Prince Charles (Josh O’Connor), who is still unmarried at 30. As the nation begins to feel the impact of divisive policies introduced by Britain’s first female Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson), tensions arise between her and the Queen which only grow worse as Thatcher leads the country into the Falklands War, generating conflict within the Commonwealth. While Charles’ romance with a young Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) provides a much-needed fairytale to unite the British people, behind closed doors, the Royal family is becoming increasingly divided.
Season Four of The Crown. November 15.
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