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‘The Crown’ stars respond to criticism of Season 5: ‘It’s a drama, it’s not a documentary’

The new season of "The Crown" has faced backlash for portraying recent events in the royal family. The cast says they're humanizing the people behind the titles.
/ Source: TODAY

It’s an exciting time for fans of “The Crown." Season 5 dropped on Netflix Nov. 9, and it tackles the royal family's lives in the 1990s — from the events of 1992 that Queen Elizabeth called annus horribilis, or "horrible year" in Latin, to the separation and divorce of the then Prince Charles and Princess Diana.

However, Netflix has faced recent backlash from critics saying the dramatic plot of “The Crown” is inching towards events and scandals that are still playing out for the royal family today, who are still grieving the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

The cast of Season 5 of "The Crown" responded to this criticism when speaking with NBC News’ senior international correspondent Keir Simmons, saying that the show is just presenting what happened during the 1990s.

"I think the public are well aware that it’s a drama, it’s not a documentary," Jonathan Pryce, who plays Prince Philip, told Simmons.

Imelda Staunton as  Queen Elizabeth II, and Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip.
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II and Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip.Netflix

Simmons pointed out that some of the criticism is coming from people close to King Charles III and Camilla, his wife and queen consort, including actor Dame Judi Dench.

"Those particular criticisms came from not having seen a second of the film," Pryce responded.

“The assumption is that their friend Prince Charles would be damaged in some way,” he continued. “But all we’re presenting in ‘The Crown’ is what happened."

Imelda Staunton, who plays Queen Elizabeth in the series, specifically spoke on the series premiering just two months after the queen died.

“Everyone has been affected, including us ... when the queen died, we were filming. That’s why people are hypersensitive at the moment,” Staunton said.

Dominic West, who plays Prince Charles, told Simmons that viewers would feel “cheated” if they didn’t tackle “unavoidable” events in the series.

“Hopefully, the audience will get a fresh perspective (on the events),” West said.

Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana, Will Powell as Prince Harry, Senan West as Prince William, and Dominic West as Charles, Prince of Wales.
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana, Will Powell as Prince Harry, Senan West as Prince William, and Dominic West as Charles, Prince of Wales.Keith Bernstein / Netflix

Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Princess Diana this season, said the cast feels a sense of responsibility when portraying real-life events. "We feel a lot of responsibility as actors in this show, but we also feel we’re not trying to get a likeness, more of an essence, I think," she explained.

Leslie Manville, who portrays Elizabeth's sister, Princess Margaret, added that the show humanizes the people behind the title.

"You get the privilege really of seeing them as human beings, which is really the gift of 'The Crown' and the gift of the scripts," Manville said. "We can say, look at this person, they may have an enormous public image, but we can hone in on them now and this is what they might have been feeling."

Many of the same actors will reprise their roles for Season 6, which has already started filming. There is already public concern over how it will portray Diana's fatal 1997 car crash, but Debicki told Entertainment Weekly in October that her death was being handled with "sensitivity."