LONDON – With a majestic six-column portico and a pair of four-story turrets at either end, Osterley Park House in West London is everything an English stately home should be. Added bonus: The Georgian mansion doubles as Buckingham Palace for the third season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” (streaming Sunday) which means The Queen herself is inside. And it’s not hard to spot her.
“There’s only one woman with that hairdo,” says Olivia Colman, during a break in filming last February. Colman (“The Favourite,” “Fleabag”) replaces Claire Foy in wearing the crown for this third season and a fourth that’s now filming, as the show moves into the 1960s and ’70s.
“I remember when I first went into makeup, I looked in the mirror and thought, ‘I’ve got the queen’s hair!’ But then it soon becomes a job, a costume, a script to learn. I’m really trying not to think of it as quite the big thing that it is.”
Recasting a hit show is a big deal, though, as executive producer Andy Harries admits: “No ongoing television series has ever done this in the way that we are doing it here, changing the cast but not the characters they are playing,” he says. “It’s extraordinarily bold.”
Helena Bonham Carter, who replaces Vanessa Kirby as Elizabeth’s sister Princess Margaret, sees it a little differently:
“It’s already a success…” she says, putting on her best cut-glass Margaret accent. “We can only but fail.”
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There’s another option, however: That Colman, Bonham Carter, Tobias Menzies (“Outlander”) as Prince Philip and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles will take the story of how the British royal family has stumbled into the modern world to a higher plane altogether.
Writer Peter Morgan certainly has enough meaty storylines to choose from, including the election of Harold Wilson – the card-carrying socialist became a staunch friend of the queen – as prime minister in 1964, when the new season begins; the freewheeling visit of Margaret and her husband Lord Snowdon to America in 1965; the Moon landings; and Charles’ first meeting with his lifelong love Camilla Shand, now the Duchess of Cornwall.
“The reason this show works,” says Colman, “is none of us will ever be royal. Four generations all know what she looks like, and she’s always been a story. We know the faces and the buildings … but we don’t know what it’s like behind those doors. This is endlessly entertaining and fascinating for all ages.”
The question, though, is whether it’s accurate. While the cast looks their parts, thanks to hair, makeup and costumes, all of them had to study deportment and dialect.
“Firstly, I had to learn not to sit like I sit, because I slumped, basically,” says Colman.
“And they move so slowly,” adds Bonham Carter. “It’s because your job is to be conspicuous. Your main objective is to be seen.”
Both of them practiced the Royal Wave – “we called it polishing a light bulb,” says Colman, adding that the wave is meant to look good in still photos as well as on camera.
Finally, language skills were polished by dialect coach William Conacher. “The idea is to put your mouth in the shape of someone else’s, and then you just talk,” he says. “The three test words are Fill-eep, Denk You and Yees instead of yes.”
Yet it’s not how they look and sound that has caused a stir in the U.K. so much as the things they say and do. Recently, writer Peter Morgan claimed that he gives four briefings a year to “high-ranking” courtiers inside the palace so they can “brace themselves” for the show. The show’s protocol adviser David Rankin-Hunt, who worked in the royal household for 33 years before his retirement in 2014, has also said that at the very least, the palace doesn’t object to the show.
“I like to think that (the queen) sits there with a cup of tea,” watching, says Colman. “She probably finds it quite funny. I mean a lot of the costumes are very close to the originals that she wore. She probably says, ‘Oh, I wonder what happened to that hat?’”
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