By Jason Chen
If you’ve watched even just an episode or two of Netflix’s The Crown, you’ve likely already fallen under its spell — lush sets, elaborate costumes, stunning cinematography (it’s rumored to be one of the most expensive shows ever produced), but what gives the show its pathos is lead actress Claire Foy, who portrays the first days of Queen Elizabeth with a performance that ranges from naïve to steely to circumspect — often all in the same scene.
Yahoo Style: How did the role come your way?
Claire Foy: Just in the classic way, actually. I just auditioned for it. My agent rang me up and asked, “Do you want to go on a meet?” Of course, at the time I didn’t realize I’d be meeting [director] Stephen Daldry, [writer] Peter Morgan, and Andy Harris, the producer. They’re all quite big wigs. That was a bit scary, but it was just a really lovely chat. I had no expectations of getting it or anything, so I think I was really quite relaxed. It was just really lovely. Then I had a second audition, and then found out that I’d got it, which was a real shock. Really exciting.
How familiar were you with the Queen’s early years?
I think everybody in England and around the world is familiar with her because she’s been around for my entire life — our generation has grown up with her there as a prominent figure. But I wasn’t aware of her as a young mother or anything like that. Obviously, I knew everything about Edward the 8th and the abdication of the throne, and the fact she wasn’t destined to be Queen, but that’s what happened. Her life could’ve been very, very different. I didn’t really know anything about the death of her father and how unexpected it was.
How did you find yourself inhabiting that state of mind?
I think Peter’s scripts are amazing and they do all the work for you, really. Also, I think if you’re grieving or you’re in massive amounts of shock, I think you just take every day as it comes. I don’t think as a character she could’ve thought about the magnitude of what was happening to her and the job that she was taking on and how that would change her life. I think she would’ve had a breakdown. She so obviously didn’t, in public anyway.
Would you say that was the most challenging part of the production?
I had a newborn baby, so-
Oh, my gosh. Congratulations.
Thanks very much. That was quite challenging. Amazing but challenging. It was also one of the biggest jobs I’d done, and there was a lot to get right. It wasn’t just about having an emotional connection to it. It was also about getting the physicality and the voice, and all those things that come with a character, so there was a lot of homework to do as well in order to, when you were on set, be able to be relaxed and just play the scene naturally. It took quite a lot of inhabiting to get to the point where you’re comfortable with that.
Did you work with a coach who helped you do those things?
Yes. William Conacher, who’s the best dialect coach in the world because he didn’t ever say to us, “This is how she sounds. You’ve got to do it.” We all found our collective sounds, which I think is really important, but we also found ourselves in the voices. It wasn’t like we were trying to do an impression because otherwise we’re trying to be perfect the entire time. You’re not going to be able to play a scene, so he was just amazing at giving us little ways in and funny little physical things that distract you from your voice and you end up doing it anyway.
Obviously the Queen has been portrayed on film and in theater numerous times already. Did you feel any pressure from that?
No. Those performances matter because they’re amazing, but I tried not to let them affect me. I watched The Queen very early on, mainly just because it’s a really good film, and I could pretend I was doing research, but luckily, the pressure was off in that way because I was playing her younger and there’s not that much footage or accounts of her when she’s at that age. The pressure to be an identical version of her, I didn’t really feel that so much. I didn’t go and see the play. I would’ve loved to but I just think it would’ve terrified me, if I’d have gone to go and watch those two amazing women do it. I would’ve probably not been able to do the job.
That pressure would be too great! Continue reading Claire Foy On Playing the Young Queen Elizabeth, Raising a Newborn, and Having More Fun as a Blonde