By: Alexandra Pollard
Losing out on a Bafta for the second year in a row was, Claire Foy insists, one of the best moments of her career. She was up for best actress for her role as Elizabeth II in The Crown, and was widely expected to win – but the moment came, and it went to Happy Valley’s Sarah Lancashire instead. “Can I just say,” said Lancashire from the podium, “Claire Foy, you have given me the best 10 hours under a duvet that I’ve ever had.” For Foy, it was better than winning.
“That was, I’m telling you, one of the most ridiculous moments of my life,” she says, beaming. “I mean, I love her. I grew up watching her.” Foy is sitting opposite me, wearing a comfy-looking jumpsuit and scuffed Converse, her hair – now she no longer needs to adopt the Queen’s bouffant do – newly cropped short. “There’s nothing as amazing as a fellow actor saying you’re good.”
We meet a couple of days before Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announce their engagement, a relationship Foy has expressed approval of in the past (“I must speak for actresses,” she said, “We’re not a bad bunch. We’re all right”). She’d had nearly a decade of television roles – she first appeared on screen as a werewolf’s ex-fiancee in Being Human, then later starred in BBC dramas The Night Watch and Wolf Hall – but it was not until The Crown that, she says, people’s perception of her changed. The lavish Netflix series had an unprecedented £100m budget, but the show’s heart and soul was Foy’s compelling, devastating restraint as the young monarch. It is no easy task to play a woman whose main personality traits are, by necessity, detachment and composure, but with just the downward crease of a smile or the flicker of her enormous eyes, Foy hinted at the tumult rippling beneath the Queen’s steady surface.
There has been speculation over whether the royal family have seen The Crown – Foy finds it easier to imagine that they haven’t – but if they do gather round Netflix for season two, it might make for awkward viewing. Beginning in 1956, with the Suez crisis escalating and the British public starting to question the monarchy’s relevance, the season (which is Foy’s last; Olivia Colman will take up the mantle for the Queen’s later years) explores the parts of the royal story we are unlikely to see on a commemorative plate any time soon. We learn of the Nazi affiliations of Edward VIII, the sexual proclivities of Princess Margaret’s disdainful fiance Antony Armstrong-Jones, and – perhaps most shockingly – Prince Philip’s supposed infidelity.
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