Ever since the announcement that the acclaimed series would return for its third installment with a new cast was made, the expectation was sky-high for The Crown. The Emmy winning series, with Claire Foy in the role of Queen Elizabeth II would be replaced with Olivia Colman. To be fair, this was not fairly received by the audience, given the sublime performances from a top-notch cast in its earlier installments. Peter Morgan, the writer, argued that trying to age the current actors “would be ridiculous- they’d start looking silly with chalk in their hair and prosthetics.”
Envisioned with a finality of six series, what makes the rather high-strung Royal affair so directly accessible? For a show based on the Royal Family, the history has to be accurate- so how do you turn these facts into the genre of drama? Nit-pickers have obsessively counter-checked for the accountability of facts in The Crown, and Morgan admits that sometimes, “of course, I get it wrong. But my view is that an audience is so sensitive and has such fine instincts that, if an audience rejects it, then it’s probably wrong. Even if you don’t know the facts, you can smell when something is bogus. We do our very, very best to get it right, but sometimes I have to conflate [incidents], You sometimes have to forsake accuracy, but you must never forsake truth.”
And that is perhaps what makes ‘The Crown’ so revelatory and yet grounded in its truthfulness. To recreate a world of its own, the crew would watch hours of archive footage during the procedure of development, noting down the authenticity that would have to be added to the story. The highly documented life of the Royals provided for an endless amount of material for the series.
Editor Pia Di Ciaula said, “We all feel a moral obligation to be truthful but to tell the story in a dramatic, humorous and epic way. I have to give credit to Peter Morgan because before we started shooting the first season the palace approached him and wanted to be a part of the production. Peter said absolutely not. He wanted free rein to dramatise the show any way he wanted. He wanted to show the behind the scenes. He wanted to show the darkness and intimacy between the Queen and Prince Philip. Otherwise, all of that would have been whitewashed and it wouldn’t have been as dramatic, truthful or entertaining.” She also recounted in the same interview how there is always room for improvisation. “Songs are another emotional aspect. Stephen [Daldry] likes to shoot surprises, so for instance, when the Queen leaves Kenya after the king’s death, a little Kenyan boy watches the plane taking off and begins singing a sweet and somber song. Stephen adds these little touches that affect you emotionally but weren’t originally scripted. The other heart-breaking song that comes to mind is in episode one when the King sings a Christmas carol wearing a paper crown. […] I remember sobbing when I first watched it.”
The second season had a whopping 398 sets in total, and the production team had a monumental task of getting the ‘look’ correct. VFX supervisor Ben Turner explained “Part of the fun is returning to locations and updating them to show passage of time. With London Airport, for example, we could start introducing terminal buildings and more vehicles going by and bring it into the Heathrow era [for series two].” Although hard to boil down to the exact figure, reportedly the first season cost a whopping $130 million to shoot, with $13 million per episode stacking up.
The new season promises to be huge, as the teaser trailer released on September 20, the first glimpse of Colman came into view- a figure of stoic immobility framed within the Royal doors. The full version of a trailer dropped on October 21, that triumphantly promised more on the queen’s relationship with her sister, Princess Margaret ( Helena Bonham Carter, replacing the exquisite Vanessa Kirby) as well as with Prince Charles trying to figure out his own role in the family. All this plays with the country in turmoil, and the favour- upturned. Set to release on November 17, the early reviews are already pouring in lavish praise on Colman’s understated portrayal as well as for Morgan’s layered, detailed screenplay.
“We have all made sacrifices and suppressed who we are,” Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth says in a voice-over. “It is not a choice. It is a duty.”
We can’t wait!