After its premiere in 2016, The Crown He has done nothing but break records. The very high production budget is $260 million, making it one of the most expensive television series in history. He has received 69 Emmy Award nominations and has won 21. including Best Drama Series. It has also won seven Golden Globe awards, including best television series-drama, twice.
Netflix released the first part of the sixth and final season this week (the second part premieres in December). And in a star-studded cast, one of the standouts is Sir Jonathan Pryce.
(Also read: Lady Di’s shocking death is revived in the series ‘The Crown’)
The Welsh actor – who has received numerous awards, including two Tony Awards and two Laurence Olivier Awards – plays Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II. Pryce has an impeccable career in film, theater and television. He starred The Wife Along with Glenn Close, he was part of the cast of Evita, Pirates of the Caribbean y Game of Thrones and, in 2019, he earned his first Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Pope Francis in The two Popes.
At the end of 2022 he surprised with his interpretation of Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in the fifth season of The Crown. He now returns in the latest part of the series that has the world in suspense. We talked with him.
How do you feel about this Royal family in particular and having interpreted their story?
I was very happy to tell his story and, above all, Peter Morgan’s version, which is the exploration of a family saga.
Prince Philip is one of the figures of the monarchies about which we know the least. In fact, much of what has been known has been thanks to ‘The Crown’. How did you approach this character?
Well, that’s exactly why I wanted to do it, to discover what motivated him and what was behind those doors that always seemed closed. I was six when the queen was crowned and when Philip became Duke of Edinburgh. So I’ve been aware of it my whole life.
Aware of him, but having no idea what he was like?
Exact! She knew what the queen looked like and she knew, for example, what the queen sounded like. And she knew things about other members of the Royal Family. I have never heard the Queen Mother speak, for example. She would come out and say hello a little and that was it. But Felipe was an enigma. You saw him on the news, you saw him visiting foreign countries and that was it. And pretty much the only press he got was when he made a mistake, when he said something off-color or slightly racist as a joke. That’s all we knew about him. He was always putting his foot in his mouth, as we say. So it was really interesting to read Peter’s script and talk to him about what he wanted to convey about Prince Philip.
(You may be interested: Actor Chris Evans and Netflix reveal the darkest side of the pharmaceutical industry)
How did you prepare for the role?
I worked with a dialect coach because I don’t speak, well, actually hardly anyone speaks the way members of the Royal Family speak. I went to the gym twice a week to correct my posture. I worked with movement coaches and to that, plus, add all the research Peter had done. It was great to explore those nooks and crannies of the man we didn’t know, a much more erudite, much more gregarious figure. It was also very interesting to see him as the man who ran the family. He was the head of this family business and an important part of all decision making.
Felipe was an enigma. You saw him on the news, you saw him visiting foreign countries and that was it.
What surprised you most about Prince Philip’s story?
Almost everything was a surprise. As you could see in season five, his interests were outside the Royal Family. He made it clear to the queen that he had given up everything to be part of that family and that, if he hadn’t, he would have had a very different life. He had shaped his life to fit the image of royalty. So it was interesting to discover this powerful character or someone who is as authoritative as Prince Philip in his weaknesses and vulnerabilities. And seeing all this, it became very interesting to portray the actions of the authoritarian man while in my mind there was already the weaker man, and with a different understanding of what made him act that way.
Was it a surprise similar to that of learning the story of Pope Francis?
Yes, although with Pope Francis it was exactly the opposite. All I had seen of him was the man who became Pope, and this very benign figure who went among the poor, washing their feet. And then I researched it when I was filming The two Popes, in Argentina. And I talked to a priest who had worked with Bergoglio when he was archbishop, and the priest I met, he didn’t like Bergoglio one bit. When I asked him what he didn’t like about the now Pope, he answered that Bergoglio was a very distant and authoritarian man. He told me that the first time they had seen him on the balcony smiling they had not recognized him because, for them, the Pope was the man who never smiled. And then I started doing reverse research to try to understand why he had never smiled and now he did. And the same goes for Prince Philip. I began to try to understand why he was such a distant figure. What made him that way, what were those weaknesses and vulnerabilities that made him that figure.
Is it different playing Prince Philip now, when both he and Queen Elizabeth have died? Does he feel like he has less pressure on his shoulders?
Quite the opposite! If anything there is more pressure on my shoulders, because now they are very present in people’s minds. They are not distant historical figures, they are more relevant than ever. But I do have to tell you that after both of their deaths, I felt very satisfied that we didn’t feel the need to change anything. We saw that our approach and what we were doing was dealing with the issue with integrity and giving them dignity and honesty. And I think that if we felt the need to change something after their deaths, that would have meant that we had done wrong the previous five seasons.
What is your vision of monarchies? Do you support them or are you anti-monarchy?
I am not a monarchist, but I am not a person who wants to cut off their heads either. I have always thought that Britain would be a very different country and possibly a better country if we did not have a monarchy. I am not talking precisely about this family, but about the general concept of monarchy. I clarify that this is not a specific family because, after all, these people have been subordinated to the situation… Nobility is not chosen.
(Also read: Sofía Vergara in the shoes of Griselda Blanco)
‘I feel great empathy’
Elizabeth Dericki plays ‘Lady Di’ in the final season of The Crown. She has starred in productions such as The Great Gatsbyplayed Ayesha in the films Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 y Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3and co-starred in the sci-fi thriller Tenet by Christopher Nolan. The actress talked about her performance in The Crown:
Has your idea of the monarchy changed after being part of The Crown?
Yes, I feel differently about the monarchy and the Royal Family. I didn’t know much about their personal or work lives. I also didn’t understand how much responsibility it entails or how rigorous it is. I started to see The Crown as just another viewer and the program changed my perspective. It opened that door for me and made me feel a lot of empathy for them.
From what you have read and seen, what has surprised you the most?
I think learning about the relationship between them and the media in the ’90s. I wasn’t aware of how tumultuous that was. I had no idea how difficult life made them, how that exposure, which was sometimes a useful tool for them later, could turn out to be terribly counterproductive and painful. This season I was stunned by the extent to which the media was obsessed with the relationship between Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed and understood how horrible and racist the coverage of him was.
I was stunned by the extent to which the media was obsessed with the relationship between Diana and Dodi Al-Fayed and understood how horrible and racist the coverage of him was.
What is your feeling when portraying a harassed, intimidated woman, when what we saw outside was the life of a princess?
I feel great empathy. Discovering what Diana was going through was very heartbreaking for me. However, I must highlight that she took enormous and brave steps to try to control her own narrative. She was an extraordinary woman who faced incredible challenges and yet she was able to focus and live her life on her own terms. One of the things that struck me was how much love she was able to give to people, how deeply she loved her children, and despite the difficulties, the brave face she gave to the world. It was a huge sacrifice and I have a lot of respect for that.
At the beginning of the year, Prince Henry said that he watches ‘The Crown’. How does this make you feel?
I don’t really like to think about it too much, because I kind of feel like it’s not in my control. The way I feel about this season is that I know I did the best I could in terms of making the most honest representation possible; both emotionally and psychologically, taking into account the pain she felt and how incredibly difficult those last few weeks were for her. But I also focused on the type of joy she experienced when she was with her children on vacation. I took it seriously. I felt the weight of that because it’s a story that affected people very deeply, that was extremely traumatic. My job as an actress is to do the best I can, but after that, how people receive it is really out of my control.
AUTHOR: ÚRSULA LEVY
FOR THE TIME
In X: @uschilevy