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

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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?’!’’



WATCH THE CROWN, Sea­son 2, streams from Fri­day on Net­flix

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