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‘The Crown’ cast, crew recall hearing news of the queen’s death while filming: ‘Devastating’

“I almost can’t talk about it without crying," Elizabeth Debicki, who plays Diana in the upcoming seasons, said in a recent interview.
/ Source: TODAY

A day after Queen Elizabeth II’s death last month, Netflix confirmed that its hit series “The Crown,” an intimate and fictional look at the British royal family, had temporarily paused production on its sixth season.

At the time, a spokesperson for the show told the Associated Press that filming was halted “as a mark of respect” and that shooting would be suspended on the day of the long-reigning monarch’s funeral as well.

Ahead of Season Five of “The Crown” premiering on Nov. 9, cast and crew members opened up to Entertainment Weekly about their reactions to the queen’s death. 

Imelda Staunton, 66, who is following Olivia Coleman and Claire Foy in portraying the late monarch, shared that she was finishing a long day on set when she heard the news. 

Imelda Staunton as the queen.
Imelda Staunton as the queen.Netflix

“That was pretty devastating,” she told the publication in an interview published on Oct. 18. Staunton said playing the queen while people around the world were mourning her “was odd, to say the least.” 

She added, “I’m glad I had time to regroup before I started again.” 

Later in the interview, Staunton said was “relieved” to have a scheduled week off during this time. “Then you just get back on the horse, as it were,” she said. “And you get back into it.”

Dominic West, who is inheriting the role of Prince Charles for the next two seasons, was on location in Spain and ready to start filming Season Six when he learned about Queen Elizabeth II’s death. 

“I’d just flown to Barcelona to shoot my first day of Season Six,” he explained. “When I arrived in the hotel, one of the assistant directors said to me, ‘Have you heard the news? The queen’s very unwell.’ I went up to my hotel room and I just watched the telly for three days and then went home. We didn’t shoot at all, out of respect.”

As the new Princess Diana, taking over from Emma Corrin, actor Elizabeth Debicki also watched the news unfold on television. She said she was particularly moved by thousands of people lining up outside Westminster Hall to pay their respects to the queen.

Debicki said, “I almost can’t talk about it without crying. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.” 

Peter Morgan, the show’s creator and executive producer, recalled seeing headlines at Heathrow Airport after getting off a plane. He said he immediately received multiple messages about the queen’s passing and felt a wave of different emotions. 

“The entire experience was made even more complex by the fact that, as my protagonist, of course, she is still very much alive,” he said.  

Morgan is dubious that the queen ever watched "The Crown," however. “God bless her,” the screenwriter said. “I’m sure she had better things to do.” 

Season Five of “The Crown” will introduce a slew of stars to the cast, including Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip; Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret; Jonny Lee Miller as former British Prime minister John Major; and Olivia Williams as Camilla, Queen Consort

Staunton teased what fans can expect from the highly anticipated new season, set in the early to mid '90s.

She said, “This particular part of history, an awful lot happens. There’s a lot of turmoil, which isn’t made up — these things happened. I think there’s a lot going on for people to take on this time around.”

Viewers will also get to see Debicki don Princess Diana’s famous “revenge dress.” The dress got its name because Diana wore it to a gala the same day that that Prince Charles’ documentary “Charles: The Private Man, The Public Role” premiered on national television, in which he admitted to infidelity.

Debicki shared that she received "a huge amount of text messages" when she first landed the part asking whether she would get to wear Diana's black off-the-shoulder gown. 

Debicki said putting on the outfit felt “very significant and quite powerful, but also it provoked something in me as an actor.”

She continued, “I can’t really explain it. It’s pretty incredible that a dress would represent a moment in history, or that this human’s life would represent so much and become so iconic ... that was a big day on set for me.” 

After almost a two-year hiatus, the Netflix drama will return for a new season on November 9. The batch of episodes will tackle Prince Charles and Princess Diana’s separation and divorce.

In an email to Deadline in September, Morgan referred to the series as “a love letter” to the queen.