American actor John Lithgow was “intimidated and excited” to take on the role of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the new Netflix drama, “The Crown,” chronicling the reign of Queen Elizabeth II from her wedding day to the present.
“Our writer, Peter Morgan, he coined the term ‘Churchill fatigue.’ Over there in England, all the major actors have played Churchill. They needed some kind of new spin, so they hired a clown from America,” the five-time Emmy winner joked Wednesday on “CBS This Morning.”
Lithgow stars opposite of British actress Claire Foy, playing the queen who has unexpectedly lost her father, King George VI, at the age of 25.
“I think it is sort of a preconception that, I suppose, [Queen Elizabeth II] knows exactly what she’s doing. And I think she certainly does now, but I think at that point, she had no apprenticeship into the role, she had no real idea of the day-to-day job, or the running of … the crown. And so she was massively unprepared, I think, and understandably grieving, nervous and really needed someone to sort of help her,” Foy said.
In Churchill, the queen found that help.
“I think Churchill was an incredible statesman, and he showed her the way, but at the same time, she learned about politics and politicians through Churchill,” Foy said.
But it wasn’t just the queen who got support from Churchill. There was also a mutual dependency between them, Lithgow said.
“Churchill at that very time became prime minister for the second time, and he was prime minister at age 75 – too old for the job,” Lithgow said. “He lasted until age 80, but only by sheer canniness, he hung onto that prime ministership. And one way he did it was the queen’s reliance on him. So it was kind of a mutual interdependence they had for a while until she didn’t need him anymore.”
So will the royal family comment on the series?
“Probably not,” Lithgow said. “The entire idea of the series is how private they are. They tend not to comment on such things as a matter of policy and disposition.”
Watch the first season of “The Crown” on Netflix starting Nov. 4.