The Crown cast is opening up about the emotional moments of filming the Netflix hit’s sixth and final season, which follows Princess Diana’s final days and her fatal car crash in Paris.
Diana star Elizabeth Debicki joined co-stars Jonathan Pryce (who plays Prince Philip) and Khalid Abdalla (who plays Dodi Fayed) on the Los Angeles red carpet on Sunday, which marked the first major premiere since the end of the actors strike. Rufus Kampa, who plays a young Prince William, and Fflyn Edwards, who plays a young Prince Harry, were also in attendance. (The final season is split into two parts, with the first half releasing Thursday.)
Debicki, who took over playing the Princess of Wales from Emma Corrin in season five, noted that “it’s been a really unusual and beautiful job and it always came with a huge amount of responsibility,” particularly when it came to dealing with her death.
“Not for one moment does anyone not understand what they’re putting on screen and how important it is to do it as best we can,” she said of the cast and crew behind the project, and explained the experience of acting across from the fake paparazzi who constantly followed Diana.
“It’s pretty horrendous, it’s very abusive to hound somebody like that. I think Khalid would say the same that you only have to experience it for like 10 seconds before you realize it’s completely bizarre and a horrendous experience to find yourself in. You’re really trapped,” Debicki told The Hollywood Reporter. “And it’s also mad because you think, ‘What are they trying to do? What do they want?’ And they just want a piece. So it’s a very strange experience,” she continued, while adding that filming those scenes was “not unlike a stunt, in the sense that your body is actually experiencing the pressure of the physical experience and so you’re acting from a very instinctive place.”
Abdalla echoed the same, recalling how it was “to be in a car, stuck in traffic, with people banging on the window trying to take photographs; the first day after we did that, after we went back to the makeup trailer and were going home in the car, every time a scooter would go past I’d wince. And you imagine that you’re living this day in and day out, it’s quite something.”
Abdalla also explained that filming the entire show “has been hugely emotional” in honoring people who died tragically and specifically in the case of Dodi, someone who few people knew or paid attention to. “One of the things that I’m proudest of is that finally, after 26 years, he can be known a bit, hopefully loved, and then when he dies, finally mourned after 26 years,” the actor said.
Even for those actors whose characters were not directly involved in Diana’s storylines, the process was a heavy one, as Pryce recalled one of the directors putting together an early cut of some of the scenes surrounding Diana’s death while the team continued shooting in Scotland.
“The cast and crew were watching and there were a lot of tears and a long silence when they stopped screening. In some ways seeing it, I thought — because of our reaction — that we’d done it right, that there was great emotional involvement in it for everyone,” he said, adding that Diana “was such a precious memory for so many people all over the world. I cried for real when she died and I cried when I saw it on screen. It’s really extraordinary.”
And according to creator Peter Morgan, those scenes wouldn’t have happened at all if they hadn’t landed Debicki for the role.
“To be honest, I was a little nervous because I wanted to be convinced that somebody could play her and it wasn’t until I was absolutely sure that we’d gotten Elizabeth Debicki that I felt — I thought if we didn’t get her, I’d have to find a way to almost write around it,” Morgan told THR. “Diana is almost this celestial event and so if you don’t have the person who is convincingly Diana you never really quite believe it, so I was holding out; then when we had her, I started quickly catching up and writing it. But for a long time I was nervous about trying to find other ways to tell the story because it’s such a critical story to be told right.”
“Thank God we got Debicki,” he added.
Part one of The Crown‘s final season starts streaming Thursday on Netflix; part two drops Dec. 14.
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