Matt Smith on The Crown: ‘I found a lot to celebrate in Philip’

Matt Smith on The Crown: ‘I found a lot to celebrate in Philip’

As Netflix’s The Crown returns, Matt Smith talks about playing Prince Philip, his time as Doctor Who, and the importance of making yourself uncomfortable

Not long ago, an associate of Matt Smith’s – “a man of prominence in the film world,” the actor says gnomically – was at a dinner hosted by the Queen and Prince Philip. There was just a handful of guests and he was sitting next to the Duke of Edinburgh. “What do you do?” asked Philip, as the first course arrived. “Are you involved in this… Crown thing?”

The Duke was referring to the Netflix drama created by Peter Morgan that gives us supposed fly-on-the-wall access to Buckingham Palace and the longest-running soap opera in British public life. The first season of 10 episodes, released last November, covered from 1947 to 1956; it introduced us to a young Elizabeth (played by Claire Foy) and followed her as she married Philip Mountbatten (Smith) and became our monarch. Like Morgan’s other work – notably the 2006 film The Queen and The Audience, a 2013 stage play – The Crown skilfully skips along a line between salacious and sympathetic, revealing but also respectful. Morgan always reiterates that his work is free from external interference, but has also said that the royal family is “very, very aware” of the series.

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