Olivia Colman has said she has gone from being a conflicted leftwing monarchist to a staunch admirer of the Queen and sees her as the “ultimate feminist”.
The actor will soon be seen in Netflix’s hit The Crown, taking over the role of Elizabeth II from Claire Foy. In an interview with the Radio Times, Colman spoke of her regard for the “extraordinary woman” she was playing.
“She’s the breadwinner,” Colman said. “She’s the one on our coins and banknotes. Prince Philip has to walk behind her. She fixed cars in the second world war. She insisted on driving a king who came from a country where women weren’t allowed to drive [King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, at Balmoral in 1998]. She’s no shrinking violet.”
Colman said the TV show had changed her view of the monarchy. “I’m one of those rare leftwing monarchists – very conflicted. Many countries don’t have one continuum and I’m pleased that we do. I like the fact that some extremes couldn’t happen because she’s there.”
The Crown, with its £50m-a-season budget, is one of the most lavish dramas on television. The new series, beginning on 17 November, tells the story of the royal family from 1964 and the election of Harold Wilson to 1977 and the silver jubilee.
The scrutiny on Colman will be intense because of how brilliant, it is generally accepted, Foy was in portraying the younger Elizabeth. Colman admitted it felt “very weird” watching the second series knowing she was taking over. Her husband would keep remarking how amazing Foy was, she said. “I had to turn the volume down on him!”
She added: “I think I was doing an impression of Claire for the first couple of weeks’ filming, definitely channelling her, but then I just started to do what the script says and I’ve fallen in love with the Queen … She’s changed my views on everything.”
Series three will cover events including the Aberfan disaster, the Moon landing, the deaths of Winston Churchill and the Duke of Windsor, and Prince Charles’s relationship with a young Camilla Shand.
It is drama, not documentary, and the royal household has gone out of its way to stress it does not give it a seal of approval. After the Guardian revealed that the writer Peter Morgan had met senior royal staff four times a year, the Queen’s communications secretary, Donal McCabe, wrote to assure readers the palace was not “complicit in interpretations”.
Colman, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Queen Anne in The Favourite, is one of Britain’s most popular actors. The Daily Telegraph columnist Charles Moore raised eyebrows when he wrote that she was not suitable to play the Queen because she had a “distinctly leftwing face”.
“What the hell is a leftwing face?” said Colman. “It’s absurd.”