Josh O’Connor Interview: ‘The Crown’
“There’s a balance to be struck between trying to do a mimic version of a real person,” explains Josh O’Connor about his role as Prince Charles on “The Crown.” “It’s particularly dangerous with the royal family because they are so part of our consciousness,” he says. Watch our exclusive video interview with O’Connor above.
He adds, “For me it was trying to find a balance in letting the audience feel safe in the knowledge that what I was doing felt like Prince Charles or felt like a Prince Charles they could recognize, but at the same time being true to Peter’s work and the story of ‘The Crown,’ which is ultimately a work of fiction and drama.”
Netflix’s flagship drama “The Crown,” created by Oscar, Emmy and Tony-nominated writer Peter Morgan, premiered its highly anticipated third season late last year. After two years focusing on the early years of Queen Elizabeth II‘s reign as monarch, the series returned with a new cast in the spotlight to enable the beloved royal family to evolve and age over time.
Oscar winner Olivia Colman replaced Emmy winner Claire Foy as the Queen, Tobias Menzies replaced Matt Smith as Prince Phillip, Helena Bonham Carter replaced Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, and a raft of new characters joined the fold, like O’Connor as Prince Charles and Erin Doherty as Princess Anne. The season begins with Harold Wilson‘s election as prime minister in 1964 and ends with the Queen’s Silver Jubilee in 1977. We also explore Charles’ investiture as Prince of Wales in 1969 and his early romantic relationship with Camilla Shand (soon to be Parker-Bowles), which was torn apart by his interfering family. The entire cast competes for the top drama ensemble prize later this month at the Screen Actors Guild Awards.
O’Connor brings a warmth and humanity to the role that audiences perhaps have not seen before, or at least aren’t accustomed to seeing in Prince Charles’ public persona. O’Connor commands the screen in the latter half of the season, as Charles follows his preordained path as future monarch, including the inevitable pitfalls of life in the glaring spotlight and under the ever-watchful eye of his powerful family.
While he admits to feeling somewhat nervous about playing such a well-known public figure, O’Connor was ultimately excited about the idea that he could bring something perhaps unexpected or new to what many have pre-conceived about Prince Charles. His take on the future monarch is as a thoughtful, pensive and sensitive man, endlessly waiting for the time when he would have to step up as king.
This angle is explored throughout the latter half of the season, culminating in a devastating ninth episode where his romance with a young Camilla is cut short by his intrusive family. It’s a theme mined over and over again in the series, where we are reminded about other characters suffering a very similar fate, like Prince Edward, Duke of Windsor (Derek Jacobi), who ultimately abdicated the throne for the woman he loved (Wallis Simpson, played in season 3 by Geraldine Chaplin).
The actor agrees that this concept is fundamental to understanding Charles. “A really brilliant thing about this show,” he explains, “if you follow the show from season 1, there are things that happen time and time again, lessons that haven’t been learned by the family. Charles talks about it in that episode [when he says] ‘we of all people should know what happens when we stop someone from being with the person that they love’,” O’Connor says.