“It was really intimidating,” admitted actress Elizabeth Debicki about stepping into the shoes of Diana, Princess of Wales, in season five of Netflix’s “The Crown.” She understood that people “hold her very dear and very close,” but through extensive research and preparation, “I understood that so deeply. The way that you can love that person is so real and personal to you. She was totally unique and mesmerizing and profound to so many people.”
Debicki discussed her performance with Screen Actors Guild members in New York City on November 15 after a screening of the season five premiere episode, “Queen Victoria Syndrome,” in which we can see the continued fractures in the marriage between Diana and Prince Charles (played by Dominic West).
The actress had a lot to live up to coming onto “The Crown.” In addition to Princess Diana being one of the most obsessively covered public figures in modern history, she was also following the Emmy-nominated performance of Emma Corrin, who played Diana in season four of the show. Some mornings Debicki would wake up and think, “I’m absolutely mad for trying to do this.” But ultimately she trusted the material to guide her: “Here’s the script. Here’s the character. Here’s what the character says. Maybe this is what she thinks. I’m just gonna go to work and do what I do and what I’ve always done.”
But of course with a character as well-known and well-covered as Diana, everyone has opinions. A journalist once suggested to Debicki that the princess was “manipulative,” but the actress replied, “Well, isn’t the media such a slippery beast? Wouldn’t you do what you needed to do … I think what you’re seeing and what Peter [Morgan] so beautifully writes this season is, I always say that the media really, in season five, is almost like a whole separate character that’s always in the room with these people.” What Diana really was was “savvy,” but it was still “such a difficult road for her to traverse” amid the endless news cycle that was developing in media at the time. Diana the paradox: often quite lonely but never left alone.
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