There’s a reason you haven’t heard much about The Crown’s third season yet: creator Peter Morgan is busy re-casting the beloved period drama, in order to fast-forward the action to about 1970, when its central British royals are a bit older and, possibly, wiser. So far, The Crown has confirmed only its main Season 3 star: Olivia Colman, who will replace Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth. (Helena Bonham Carter has reportedly signed on to succeed Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, while Paul Bettanyhas bowed out of discussions to play Prince Philip.)
In a conversation with Vanity Fair last week, Crown casting director Nina Gold explained why casting the period drama this time around is especially challenging.
“Not only are we casting real-life characters,” explained Gold, who has also cast Game of Thrones, “but as we get closer to the present day, many of these people are very much alive. So we have to honor them by picking the right actor to play them—while making a link between the actors who played these characters in the first seasons.”
When Gold and Morgan cast Colman, for example, they saw in her the same uncanny quality Foy brought to her portrayal of the monarch: the ability to simultaneously convey a stoicism and emotional transparency. “They allow you to somehow see into them without really doing anything,” explained Gold. “They each have such easy access to their humanity.”
For a character such as Queen Elizabeth—whose primary function is to appear strong and steady in the face of change—this ability to wordlessly express complex inner emotions is crucial. (Both actresses’ large, expressive eyes help too.) “You can really witness their own internal battle to be and to do good,” said Gold.
The third season will also bring a new generation of matured royals into the feature fold—including Prince Charles,Princess Anne, and Camilla Shand (later known as Camilla Parker Bowles). Gold, who is currently casting these characters, said that the actors she taps for those parts will likely be up-and-comers.
“We’re unlikely to cast a major movie star,” said Gold. “It’s quite interesting and fun to try and find new or new-ish talent. When we cast Claire and Vanessa, they had done loads of really good work, but they weren’t very well-known to this kind of worldwide audience—which was great, because they totally owned the characters without too much baggage.”
“Charles, Camilla, and Anne are going to be pretty interesting characters to follow, because they are just coming into their own,” said Gold. “We’ve cast a pretty wide net for these new young characters.”
Ahead, a few clues that Gold offered about casting these key roles—as well as her two cents on the potential of a Diana Spencer cameo late in the season.
Given the nature of the series—which has covered about seven years each season—the actor cast as Charles could potentially be playing the prince for about 14 years of the character’s life. This time span—plus the occasional flashbacks Morgan scripts in—means that Gold is auditioning actors across a much larger age range than usual.
“We’re looking for a quite wide age range, which is quite challenging. I think we’re going from 1964 when we start . . . and then we have to get him to about 16 to the late twenties. There are a lot of changes in any young man’s life at that spread of ages. But I think ultimately, it’s not really about the numbers on somebody’s birth certificate as it is how they feel, and how far each individual can stretch their age range, which is really variable from person to person.”
To get an idea of who the royals were during this particular time frame, Gold has been talking to Morgan “endlessly” about the kind of character development he envisions, reading as many royal biographies as possible, and watching hours of archival video.
Charles’s major milestones during this coming-of-age time frame include:
- 1967: Charles graduated from Gordonstoun and was admitted to Trinity College, where he studied anthropology, archaeology, and history.
- 1969: Charles was invested as the Prince of Wales at age 20 in a televised ceremony at Caernarfon Castle.
- 1970: Charles graduated from Cambridge and took his seat in the House of Lords. This is reportedly the same year that Charles met his future wife, Camilla Shand, at a polo match in Windsor.
- 1971: He began his naval career, and put his relationship with Shand on hold.
Charles also dated a lot—taking the advice of his father’s uncle, Lord Mountbatten, who advised the prince to sow his wild oats while single before marrying a virgin. His first girlfriend was reportedly Lucia Santa Cruz, the daughter of a former Chilean ambassador, who met Charles in 1969 while working as a research assistant at Trinity College. Two years later, Cruz would tell Charles that she had “just the girl” for him, before introducing him to Shand.
Gold called Charles’s younger sister Anne “a pretty interesting young woman.” In The Crown’s first seasons, Anne’s periodic cameos proved that she was the brassier and more extroverted of Elizabeth and Philip’s eldest children. Because Anne was not the future monarch, she was able to operate under slightly less pressure than her brother.
Her major milestones during this time frame include:
- 1968: Anne graduated from the all-girls Benenden boarding school.
- 1969: At age 18, she participated in her first public engagement—opening an educational and training center in Shropshire.
- 1970: She dated her first boyfriend, Andrew Parker Bowles, a handsome member of the Royal Guards who played on Charles’s polo team. (In an incestuous plot twist, Parker Bowles went on to marry Shand, who would decades later become Anne’s sister-in-law.)
- 1973: She married Mark Phillips at Westminster Abbey in a televised ceremony.
Anne also had several other rumored romances during this time frame—as a teen, for example, she was linked to Richard Meade, Britain’s most successful Olympic equestrian, who was 12 years her senior. Though the third season may not be able to include them, Anne also had two noteworthy milestones in the mid-1970s that showed her true colors. In 1974, Anne was the victim of a kidnapping attempt. (When the kidnapper ordered Anne out of her car, she famously replied, “Not bloody likely!”) In 1976, Anne competed in the Montreal Olympic Games as a member of the British equestrian team.
As in the first two seasons of The Crown, Gold said that these new perspectives will be interwoven to varying degrees: “Like the first years, there are going to be a few different story lines . . . but I think [Charles and Anne] will have good, very individual stories that will definitely be important and interesting.”
The daughter of a British Army officer-turned-businessman and an adoption officer, Shand spent her twenties occasionally intersecting with the royal family. In the mid-1960s, she began dating Andrew Parker Bowles—a Guards officer and lieutenant in the Blues and Royals—but broke up with him in 1970, when Parker Bowles began dating Princess Anne. Shand’s great-grandmother was a mistress of King Edward VII, and it is oft-reported that Shand told Prince Charles, at their first meeting, “My great-grandmother and your great-great-grandfather were lovers. So how about it?”
After Camilla and Andrew ended their relationships with the royal siblings—while Charles was out of the country on an eight-month tour-of-duty—they got engaged to one another. They were married in a 1973 society wedding attended by Princess Anne and The Queen Mother. When the Parker Bowles had their first child, the following year, they asked Prince Charles to be the godfather.
“Diana’s not in this season,” Gold told us, confirming what creator Peter Morgan told Vanity Fair last year—that Diana would not likely be introduced until the fourth season. (Diana did not meet Prince Charles until 1977, when the royal was dating her older sister Sarah.)
“When we do get to her, that is going to be pretty interesting,” she added.
Gold also gave one hint about what we can expect to see when the series does find its Diana. One key characteristic she looks for while casting The Crown, she explained, is an actor’s ability to evoke the mannerisms and airs of the English upper class.
“There are so many tiny, intangible signifiers of class and status that we don’t even realize,” said Gold, referring to everything from diction to posture to manners to attitude. “In the 60s and even 70s, the class distinctions were more extreme than they are now. The way the Queen and the royal family and the people around them sounded in the 60s . . . if you were to hear them speak now, it would sound way too much. But we need actors who can speak that way and embrace it, so it sounds authentic coming from them. It’s a pretty difficult balance.”
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