The Crown: The secrets of how Dominic West transformed into King Charles III
Part of Bennett’s work was also to ensure there was a coherence between the different generations of actors playing the same roles. One quality of Charles’s life Bennett focused on when it came to instructing both O’Connor and West was the abundance of time he has, as he waits to finally assume his destiny as king, and the debilitating effect that has on him in his life.
“[Charles] is literally waiting all the time. When you see him walking, he walks at a different speed to the [other] royals – you notice that his place in the world is not vibrant or fast because it’s subdued. It’s a helpful mantra to have… you’re in limbo, and my job is to go, ‘What does limbo feel like?’ That was a really gorgeous discovery.”
Moving into the final season of The Crown – which has been split into two parts, with the first streaming on Netflix from 16 November – a key focus will be on the death of Princess Diana in a car crash in Paris in 1997. While the series will not explicitly show the crash, it will cover the aftermath, with the public outpouring of grief and the royals’ reactions to her death. In an interview recorded earlier this year, West explained: “There were some really heavy scenes this season and a lot of tears for Charles. There are a lot of scenes of Charles trying to come to terms with [Diana’s death] and breaking the news to his sons, trying to help his sons mourn and having varying degrees of success at that.”
There’s also one scene reportedly where a “ghost” of Diana will appear, although creator Peter Morgan himself has disputed that description saying that her posthumous appearance is “more an indication that, when someone has just passed, they’re still vivid in the minds of all those close to them and love them.” While there has already been some controversy around the use of this device in the series, Bennett explains that this added a further emotional depth for characters, especially for West as Charles. “When grief strikes, when we get affected by a trauma, your body changes. So I would say there is a shift in our Charles when this happens because of an absence of a figure. Then, when you’re looking at your children and they’re looking like your partner is half of them, that changes how you look at them, as if you’re almost seeing a ghost.”
The lead image being used to promote the first half of the sixth season is actor Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana, in a recreation of an iconic shot of the Princess of Wales, then just weeks before her shocking death, sitting pensively on the diving board of a yacht, dressed in a turquoise swimsuit. For Debicki to arrive at this state and point in Diana’s frenetic “hunted” life, there was work Bennett did with her that harked back to her workshops with Emma Corrin’s previous younger Diana in series three and four – with both actors, she asked them to imagine the walls were lined with cameras.
“When I first started working with Elizabeth, it started being about not what Emma had done, but then it came full circle. I think there’s a beauty in that dialogue between the series and between the actors that haven’t worked together. I found similar imagery [for the two] in prey, the impact of the weight of cameras, of being seen, the paparazzi, when you think about being the most photographed woman in the world… it’s absolutely horrible. Imagining it, it must have made her feel embarrassed, worn out, exhausted, so aware of herself.