For The Crown‘s fourth season, Peter Morgan brought his decades-spanning royal drama into more familiar territory for many of its viewers. Starting with the election of famously abrasive Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Gillian Anderson) in 1979, Netflix’s The Crown also saw the debut of newcomer Emma Corrin, playing the young Lady Diana Spencer. From the moment she was engaged to Prince Charles in 1981 to her untimely death in 1997, Diana was never out of the headlines, whether making the news for her high-profile divorce from the future king, raising money for charity or making waves in the fashion world.
Speaking at Deadline’s Contenders Television awards-season event, Corrin admitted that the real Diana was a hard act to follow.
Contenders Television: Livestream, Schedule, Lineup
“When I got the role,” she said, “it was initially very overwhelming, in terms of the extent of the information out there and the endless research you could do, because there’s just so much of it. [Diana’s arrival] collided with the rise of our interest in celebrity, and there’s so much footage of her that I got quite bogged down in it for a while. And then the research team for The Crown sent me a folder which had all this information that was broken down, so it corresponded to the episodes, and then I got the scripts as well.”
“And that really helped,” she continued. “I realized, ‘Oh, I’m actually not playing Diana so much as I’m creating a version of her and I’m telling a story about this person who Peter’s written.’ So, yes, there were some incredible documentaries that really helped me get a sense of how she moved through the world, her voice, and people’s responses to her. But it was really when I started working with Polly Bennett, our movement and character coach, that she really started coming together for me. We worked very much from the inside out.”
Co-star Josh O’Connor, who took over the role of Prince Charles in Season 3, marveled at Corrin’s ability to find her feet so quickly. “Emma had the extraordinary task of coming in on season four and having to do it all from scratch,” he said, “which she did amazingly. I was really lucky to have a few episodes in Season 3 where I could, I guess, warm up a little bit. There’s a moment where you find your character, and I guess that’s true of any acting job really—there’s a kind of breakthrough moment. I’ve definitely done jobs where I’ve turned up on day one and felt like I’m short-changing everyone. But with experience you just build stuff up as much as you can and then hope that it lands.”
Check back Monday for the panel video.