‘I am not a monarchist’ admits Jonathan Pryce ahead of starring in The Crown

Jonathan Pryce has admitted he is not a monarchist and was initially a “reluctant viewer” of The Crown, ahead of the release of the fifth series.

The 75-year-old Welsh actor portrays Prince Philip in the upcoming series of the Emmy award-winning Netflix show.

Speaking about his decision to take on the role of Prince Philip, Pryce said: “I already knew it was a really good series, as I’d watched it from the beginning – though I started off as a reluctant viewer.

“I’m not a monarchist, and I thought I would have very little interest in the royal family but my wife Kate and I decided to watch it. We got to the end of episode one, and we turned to each other and said, ‘Shall we watch another one?’. We just got hooked.”

He added: “What made me the most nervous is the public’s perception of Philip, and whether I could come anywhere close to it.”

Explaining his trepidation at portraying the late Philip, Pryce said: “He was, for a lot of the time, very much the man in the background. And then, when he stepped out of the background and into the limelight, it was usually reported that he’d made some terrible gaffe or he’d said something off-colour. So that was my strongest image of him.

“But then, as time moved on, we became more aware of him, and certainly more fond of him, right up until the end. I think the other cast at the beginning had an easier job, because it was not so close to people’s memory and a lot of young people had no idea what The Queen had been like in the fifties and sixties.”

The upcoming series has faced criticism from the likes of Dame Judi Dench and former prime minister Sir John Major as a result of reported storylines it is set to explore.

Imelda Staunton stars alongside Pryce as the Queen and reflected on the creator Peter Morgan’s decision on which storylines to include and which to omit.

The 66-year-old actress, who is well-known for her portrayal of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter films, said: “There’s such a vast canvas that he has to cover, and you realise that in this royal jigsaw you are just one part of it. Yes, it’s The Crown, but it’s a jigsaw of many, many parts.”

She added: “He has many colours to paint and I don’t think one can go, ‘I want to do this and I want to do that’. That’s not what this is about.

“This is about the whole and I quite like just being part of a whole. I wasn’t really party to what he wanted to include or to leave out.”

Lesley Manville, who portrays Princess Margaret, added: “I’m not sure what he left out, but I imagine that the agenda has to be that you’re making a drama, and you have to make that drama interesting, and give it peaks and troughs, and highs and lows, and balance.”

There have also been calls for Netflix to add a disclaimer to the start of each episode stating The Crown is a “fictionalised drama”.

The trailer for series five, which was released earlier this month, did feature the disclaimer in the YouTube description of the video but not in the actual trailer.

However, Netflix already describes the show as “fictionalised drama” in its press materials, on social media and on The Crown’s landing page on its platform.

Pryce, who earned his first Academy Award nomination in 2019 for his portrayal of Pope Francis in The Two Popes, reflected on the impact of the series, saying: “I think the value of The Crown is that it sees behind the facade, behind the mask, if you like.”

He added: “It would be hopeless if you saw them going about their royal duties and not knowing what they might be thinking, and what might drive them to behave in a certain way.

“It’s fascinating, but we should always remember that it is a drama. Hopefully, it’s respectful and faithful to the real people involved.”

Series five of The Crown lands on Netflix on November 9.

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