Netflix’s The Crown Season 4: Emma Corrin on playing Princess Diana, her struggles with mental illness, and more

Netflix’s The Crown Season 4: Emma Corrin on playing Princess Diana, her struggles with mental illness, and more

Royal depiction

Text: Cheryl Lai-Lim

Image: Netflix

Netflix's The Crown continued its reign as one of the most captivating historical dramas of all time with its highly-anticipated return last weekend. The fourth season marches on in time (between 1979 to 1990, to be exact) as viewers are treated to debacles both within and outside the kingdom. Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman returns to play the head of the British monarchy, but the season's focus is slightly shifted away from the Queen and instead highlights the entrée of two other women who both impacted the royal family in their own ways.

Making her grandiose debut in season four is Britain's first female prime minister, Margaret Thatcher. Acclaimed actress Gillian Anderson brings the steely character to life  from Thatcher's signature stiff bouffant to her notable biting tone. The clash between the reigning monarch's laissez-faire leadership style and the tenaciousness of one of Britain's most divisive politicians  played out on-screen between tête-à-têtes and sparring word altercations  serves as a main highlight in the fourth season. The bone of contention between the two headstrong leaders was so entrancingly portrayed that it almost felt too quick when Thatcher took her final bow as prime minister after being ousted by her own cabinet.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher

Besides the dance of clashes between the Queen and the Iron Lady, the tragic love story between Prince Charles and Princess Diana serves as another stellar point of the season. Bursting onto screen with youth and more light than the astute halls of Buckingham has ever seen is Lady Diana Spencer. Played by Emma Corrin, the British actress brought about an uncanny resemblance to the late Princess with her spot-on replication of the latter's mannerisms. "I'm not sure...I can't really say," the actress mused when asked about their similarities in an interview with Buro. Singapore. "I would say I'm a people person. I'll come alive mostly when I'm with people. I'm not very good at being by myself, and I think that she was similar in that way."

But it doesn't take long for young Lady Di's innocence and sparkle to fizzle out under the cold detachment of the royal family. It's no surprise  meeting your significant other's family and trying to get along with them is no easy feat, but it's even harder when he's a royal, heir to a kingdom, and well, still deeply in love with another woman. With intimidating pressure of the kingdom lurking alongside loneliness and isolation highlighted by knowledge of her husband's affair with Camilla Parker-Bowles (played by Emerald Fennell), the young bride expels her pain  literally  by binging on decadent fare before purging it out into the lavish palace lavatory.

Emma Corrin as Princess Diana

Bulimia and mental health issues in itself can be a struggle to portray in full on screen, but for Corrin, it was cardinal that Lady Di's struggles were portrayed in its entirety. "The scenes depicting her bulimia and her mental health were very important to me," said Corrin in our interview. "She spoke very candidly in interviews about her experience with bulimia, and also how she struggled, especially in her later years of the marriage. I thought that to do justice to her story, they sort of had to be included. And also, I think that it's increasingly important that bulimia and mental health are depicted in full on screen — not just alluded to. Obviously, given that they are done sensitively and that there are appropriate warnings and that kind of things to help people who will be triggered by that content. But I think it's important to include it, so I'm glad we did it."

Prince Charles and Princess Diana

Between the highs like dancing in Australia  a favourite scene of both Corrin and Josh O'Conner, who returns to play Prince Charles  and the lows like sordid love affairs committed by both aristocrats, the painful marriage unfurls throughout the season. Gut-wrenching yet irresistibly compelling, the fourth season makes for a perfect curtain call for the current actors, who will relinquish their roles for season five and six.