With no disrespect to the corgis, Emma Corrin and her feathery coalition of wigs were The Crown season four’s breakout star, with Corrin, a relative acting newbie, portraying Princess Diana throughout the 1980s as she ascended to become the most famous woman in the world. As the casting lore famously goes, Corrin got the job after initially being hired as an audition stand-in to read Diana’s lines with other actors, but she proved to be so remarkable (hello, fidgety hands and catlike spirit!) that the show gave her a full-time reign. As with all of the other Crown actors, Corrin will not be returning in season five as the royals grow older, and she leaves Diana in the season finale with an aura of sorrow. A few hours after snagging a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series — Drama, Vulture called Corrin to chat about the nod, belatedly revel in her “Uptown Girl” performance, and pass along a message to Elizabeth Debicki.
Congratulations on your first big nomination! How did you find out, and what are your celebratory plans?
It’s absolutely crazy. I haven’t processed it yet. I was in my flat with my flatmates. We ordered some food! They were around me when the nominations were being read to keep me from being too terrified. I’ll celebrate by staying in the flat. [Laughs.] There’s nothing we can do other than that. And some Champagne or four.
You’ve spoken a lot about the laborious process of becoming and embodying Diana. Were there any moments of her life in the ’80s that you feel would’ve been great to see in the show, but weren’t included?
I’m unsure how true this is, but I heard the story that Freddie Mercury and his friends used to dress Diana up like a guy and take her out to gay bars. That sounds incredible. I don’t know the years that would’ve occurred, but I remember hearing that and thinking, Oh my God, I would’ve loved that! I got to cover an incredible arc with her, but that would’ve been a thrill.
I was waiting for when she went to the amusement park with Charles and Harry, but I realized that was the ’90s.
That’s adorable, I know exactly what you’re talking about. It’s pure joy in those photos.
How many wigs did you have, and did you try to steal any of them?
I had six wigs. I didn’t think about stealing any of them, actually. There was a moment in time when we were filming in London, and we thought someone stole one of the queen’s wigs. But I think someone had just misplaced it. It was so funny. I remember it being the most panicked day on set. “We’re missing a wig!”
Did you name any of your wigs?
I didn’t bond that much with my wigs, I’m afraid. The process of getting them on at like, six in the morning, was too laborious. I didn’t want to form any additional attachment to them. [Laughs.]
The Diana scene that brought me the most joy was the “Uptown Girl” performance. I’d love to know how you prepared for the dance, especially since there was no video source material to draw from.
I had done dance training for about three or four months leading up to that scene. I did jazz, tap, and ballet, which we tried to incorporate more throughout the season. We worked on jazz for “Uptown Girl” and stuck with basic jazz moves. It was great to have a few photos to work with, even if we didn’t have video. We analyzed the particular moves you can see in those photos — like the kicks and the lifts. We incorporated those into the routine as much as possible. And then we did The Phantom of the Opera scene at a theater in Wimbledon the next day, so it was a stressful few days of filming. The Phantom was more difficult for me. I was on my own. I felt very vulnerable. There was a massive live orchestra with me and I had to sing, and then only about 30 seconds were used in the final cut.
Whom do we have to bribe to get the full Phantom cut?
Please let Netflix know. [Laughs.] I haven’t seen any more of it!
I interviewed the dancer who performed with Diana, Wayne Sleep, and he thought you did a terrific job.
Oh my God, the actual Wayne Sleep?
I can’t believe it. That’s so great. I didn’t talk with him or meet him before, so that’s really nice to know.
He considered that performance to be Diana’s “statement of independence.”
I completely agree. Dance was her love language, and she found such joy in performing and sharing these things for the people she loved. It was such a gift that she was giving, and it sadly went down the wrong way with Charles.
What do you consider to be Charles’s most punchable moment?
How much time do I have to think about this?
There are too many contenders.
I think it has to be the fight at the end, when he tells Diana, “Camilla is who I want. She’s what I want! I’ve never wanted you, and you mean nothing to me!” It’s just awful, and it was tough to do that scene. Josh is the nicest person in the world. We’re such good friends, but it was still always strange to be shouting at each other all the time.
A weird bit of drama that has emerged from your country’s government is that it wants The Crown to be clearly labeled as fiction. Do you agree with that?
No, I definitely don’t think it’s necessary. It’s very clear that it’s a fictional drama. Because it’s now encroaching more and more into the present day, everyone is feeling a bit more sensitive about it, and that’s to be expected. I trust that the show will always handle everything very sensitively, but the fact remains that it’s a drama and it’s a fiction.
Why do you think this became an issue now and not during an earlier season?
It’s dealing with people who are still very much alive, and with relationships that are still very much divisive.
Have you chatted with the next Diana, Elizabeth Debicki?
No, I haven’t yet! I would be so willing to if she wanted to reach out, but that’s a decision she has to make for herself.
What advice would you give her?
Make it your own. Put blinkers on for the rest of the world and for the pressure. Grab onto things that resonate with you, that you relate to, or that you empathize with. And always trust the script. It won’t let you down.