This week everybody’s talking about... CLAIRE FOY
This awardwinning actor and star of The Crown can still go unrecognised on the train to work, writes Ellen Whinnett
Claire Foy looks almost nothing like the Queen. Yet the 33-year-old Brit, who stars as Queen Elizabeth in Netflix’s smash biographical drama The Crown, has inhabited her character so completely it’s hard to remember sometimes which is the real monarch.
From the anxious clasping of gloved hands, the determined, let’s-get-on-withit walk, to the cutglass accent, actor Foy is such a brilliant doppelganger of the Queen she’s won a swag of awards, including a Golden Globe for Best Actress.
Sitting on a hotel couch on a grey London day, precariously balancing a cup of milky tea, Foy bears no resemblance to the reigning monarch and cheerfully admits she can still catch the underground train without being recognised as she heads off to work.
“The costume and the hair are hers really,’’ she says, thinking about any similarities she may share with Queen Elizabeth. “No, it’s my face. That’s the thing, I don’t change my face.
“My lips are made slightly smaller and that’s pretty much it.
“We do what the Queen does, which is allow people to read into what they see.
“That’s not anything
I’m doing. It’s what people viewing it are putting on me and that’s what she does, really, that’s how she gets through her life.’’
Season two of The Crown takes us through the period 1956-1964, covering thorny issues such as the Suez crisis, the resignation of British PM Sir Anthony Eden and whether Prince Philip, the Queen’s husband of 70 years, was unfaithful to the monarch some 60 years ago. (It’s implied, but not confirmed.)
Foy’s portrayal of the young, dutybound Elizabeth required capturing the stiff-upper-lip Britishness of the longserving ruler.
Part of it was trying to get the Queen’s accent right. It was impossible to emulate precisely, so Foy worked with accent coach William Conacher to strike the right balance between Foy’s northern England speech patterns and, literally. the Queen’s English.
(For those in doubt, try saying “thank you’’, “tour’’ or “distraction’’ as Foy does in character.)
Foy says it took a lot of work.
“Because I don’t sound like that at all,’’ she says with a laugh.
“That was one of the biggest reliefs of the second series, was that the accent work was already done. I had a good amount of prep on it. Ultimately the most work you do is always in the two weeks before shooting.’’
All the lead actors worked with Conacher to develop a type of dialect — a hybrid of their own speech, and a close approximation of the upper-class English used by the royals.
“I don’t sound exactly like her but I have used the tone or her voice and the cadences she uses and the inflection to my advantage,’’ Foy says. “It’s an interpretation of how she speaks, it’s definitely not a replica or an imitation at all. There’s certain things you really have to get right otherwise you sound like a random posh person who can’t hold their tea cup,’’ she says, narrowly saving her own cuppa from a spill. Prior to winning international acclaim via The Crown, Foy has been a prolific actor, playing, among other things, the role of Anne Boleyn, King Henry VIII’s second wife, in Wolf Hall. She is married to actor Stephen Campbell Moore and they have a two-and-a-halfyear-old daughter.
Foy was pregnant when she auditioned for the role of Elizabeth and breastfed throughout the first season. This role — which she will give up at the end of this season as the Queen ages, handing over to the great Olivia Colman — has bought new levels of scrutiny and interest. “That’s the funny thing when you go to other countries and people are suddenly really overwhelming and amazing and lovely, oh wow, which is not the way we do things over here,’’ she says.
“Being British and playing someone who is a well-loved British person is possibly the safest arena you can be in because no one will ever bother anybody because we are far too polite and far too rejecting of our own triumphs — so it works very well.
“I am very, very fortunate in the sense that I’ve played the Queen of England. I don’t think anyone expects to see the Queen of England in their day-today life.’’
Like millions of Londoners, Foy catches the Tube, where “not a single person’’ notices her. “No one’s got the time to look up and look at anyone in the face and realise they’re sitting next to anybody,’’ she says with a laugh.
She does wish playing royalty would get her the right kind of attention on other modes of transport, however. “I wish getting on flights, people would be like, ‘Hello, shouldn’t we upgrade her to first class?’!’’
“THERE’S CERTAIN THINGS YOU REALLY HAVE TO GET RIGHT OTHERWISE YOU SOUND LIKE A RANDOM POSH PERSON WHO CAN’T HOLD THEIR TEA CUP”
CLAIRE FOY WITH CO-STARS MATT SMITH AND VANESSA KIRBY. from THE CROWN
WATCH THE CROWN, Season 2, streams from Friday on Netflix