The Crown actor Dominic West has described the infamous “tampongate” phone call between the then Prince of Wales and Camilla Parker Bowles as “two middle-aged lovers being sweet to each other”.
West, who portrays Charles in the fifth series of the Netflix show, said his understanding of the saga changed after filming the storyline.
“My memory of it is that it was sort of filthy and dirty and really embarrassing, but actually, in the playing of it, it was much more like two middle-aged lovers being sweet to each other,” he said.
“If any one of us had our intimate phone conversations reproduced verbatim in every newspaper in the world, imagine what that’s like. Imagine how awful that is. It just strikes you as being a horrible breach of privacy that no one should have to suffer.”
West said the depiction of the incident in The Crown proved “much simpler” than he or his co-star Olivia Williams, who plays Camilla, anticipated.
The 53-year-old actor confessed he had sympathy for both Charles and Camilla in the aftermath of the scandal, particularly given the royal’s tumultuous relationship with Diana, Princess of Wales.
“I have such a deep sense of sympathy with Charles,” he said. “In many ways he had witnessed how his position had destroyed Diana, and he was having to see that same thing happen to Camilla.
“I think that’s the hardest part about being the Prince of Wales.”
West praised The Crown screenwriter Peter Morgan for his take on Charles’s attempts to rebuild his public image in the aftermath, illustrating the lack of options available to the royal at the time.
“There was nothing Charles could do, no PR stunt he could pull, no PR adviser who was going to make his position any better,” said West. “He was on a losing ticket the whole time. Peter was keen to show that, and how he really couldn’t do anything right at the time.”
Elizabeth Debicki, who stars alongside West and Williams as Diana, revealed that she spent time perfecting the princess’s mannerisms with a movement coach. This helped her recreate to a T Diana’s line “There were three of us in this marriage” in the infamous Panorama interview with Martin Bashir.
Musing on why Diana decided to go ahead with the televised conversation, the 32-year-old actor suggested it may have been an attempt to control a narrative that she felt was otherwise “spiralling out of control”.
“If you can tell your own story in that situation, perhaps people will understand what you have been through, and will be more likely to empathise with you,” she explained. “They might understand why you may need more freedom than you’ve been given.”
Given the number of Diana’s taped interviews available for Debicki to study, West stated that it was harder for him to embody Charles.
“There’s hours and hours of her speaking very frankly about everything, and in a way, I think that Elizabeth had the easiest task, because she could listen to all these tapes,” he said. “You never see the private side of Charles. It’s much harder for me.”