The Crown’s Andy Harries talks to The Chiswick Calendar

Images above: Emma Corrin as Princess Diana; photographs courtesy of Netflix

The Crown, series four of which became available to watch on Netflix on Sunday (15 November 2020) has received rave reviews, with most of the interest focused on its two new main characters, Princess Diana, played by Emma Corrin, and Margaret Thatcher, played by Gillian Anderson.

Series four starts with Thatcher coming to power, the awkward first trip to Balmoral with Dennis, which she ended early, and Prince Charles on the look out for a suitable bride, despite being in love with the married Camilla Parker-Bowles.

Rebecca Nicholson, Guardian: ‘Emma Corrin, fresh out of drama school, is a wonder as Diana … The role is demanding, and asks a lot of Corrin … who has emerged as one of the true stars of the saga, she pulls it off with remarkable skill’.

Eleanor Bley Griffiths, Radio Times: ‘Gillian Anderson is Thatcher through and through. The performance might even win her an Emmy’.

Carol Midgley, Times: The series is ‘the best yet.’

Andy Harries, the chief executive and co-founder of Left Bank Pictures, which makes the series, and executive producer of The Crown, told The Chiswick Calendar they were thrilled with the reaction.

“It takes 18 months to two years to make a series, with a massive team of about 600 people and we’re just very happy that people are now able to watch it”.

In his forty year career, Andy has produced some of the very best Television drama, including The Royle Family and Cold Feet. Other hugely successful series his company has produced this year include White Lines, Quiz and Sitting in Limbo, but it is The Crown for which they are now best known.

“It was one of the first drama series to be shown on Netflix, so it’s being shown in 190 countries at the same time. Compared with everything else I’ve done in my career, it’s a very significant change in scale and impact. Everywhere I go, people have seen it, which is pretty extraordinary.

“The ratings are better than ever this year. It’s most enjoyable to be part of a show that has reached this level of success”.

Much of the debate on social media the day after Series Four met its audience, was about how Gillian Anderson has managed to make Thatcher relatable.

“I never thought I’d find myself feeling sorry for her” wrote one person on Twitter, after watching her discomfort on the Balmoral trip.

There is also shock expressed at the cold and calculating way in which a royal bride is chosen, with no regard to either party’s feelings. Duty is all.

“Peter (Morgan) is such a clever writer” says Andy Harries. “He brings enormous emotion to the writing”.

Image above: Gillian Anderson as Mrs Thatcher; photograph courtesy of Netflix

Whereas Prince Charles draws sympathy in Series Three, he thinks the Prince of Wales, played by Josh O’Connor, will get a tougher time from viewers in this series. I’m up to episode three, when he and Diana have met literally three or four times before he proposes, then goes off on a six week foreign trip, coming back a day before he’s told her, so he can nip to Highgrove to see Camilla first.

Andy, who lives in Chiswick, refused to be drawn about the glaring omission in the series, the Tampax scandal, which saw an excruciatingly embarrassing letter from Charles to Camilla leaked to the press.

“There’s so much to cover and only limited time”.

He told me last month about another important scene they left out, this one because they didn’t manage to get it shot before the coronavirus took over.

Images above: Olivia Coleman as Queen Elizabeth II and Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles; photographs courtesy of Netflix

He’s on more comfortable ground talking about his favourite scene – the “ibble dibble” scene. The royal family are playing a very silly parlour game at Balmoral and invite Margaret Thatcher as their guest, to take part.

Gillian Anderson plays beautifully her utter distain that her precious time should be wasted on such trivial nonsense with a bunch of such vacuous and entitled people. The members of the family – the Queen, Prince Philip, Princess Anne, Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother – and select courtiers, for their part cannot understand why she’s such a bad sport.

I can’t wait to watch the rest of it and am quietly thankful that lockdown means I can watch the whole series almost uninterrupted.

“I’m just very happy it’s up and that people are enjoying it” says Andy.

Image above:  Olivia Coleman as Queen Elizabeth II and Tobias Menzies as Prince Phillip

Read more on The Chiswick Calendar

See also: The cinema-going experience is “a casualty of Covid” says Andy Harries

See also: “Probably a good thing” Chiswick cinema not ready till next year

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