Elizabeth Debicki and Emma Corrin Found Researching Princess Diana Before Playing Her on ‘The Crown’ Difficult: ‘It Was a Double-Edged Sword’ SuperNayr

How does one embody one of the most influential and beloved figures of the modern era? How do you capture their essence without insulting their memory? For Emma Corrin and Elizabeth Debicki, both of whom played Princess Diana at different ages on the Netflix television series “The Crown,” the answers to these questions laid in balancing practical preparation and research with their own personal empathy for who Diana was and what they felt was owed in portraying her. Speaking to one another for Variety’s Actors on Actors, Corrin and Debicki were given the chance to swap notes one playing the part, including how much research they were each given beforehand.

Comedian Hannah Einbinder hiding behind two red curtains while speaking into a microphone during her special, 'Everything Must Go'
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth, sitting on a bench in a stone gazebo flanked on either side by Prince William and Prince Harry, who are facing her.

“It just landed in this big box outside my flat,” Debicki said. “The one thing that struck me about ‘The Crown’ was the machinery to help you prepare was so extensive and available. Should you wish to click on any of these boxes, these things were just there for you. That, for me, was — after doing many other jobs — something I’d never seen before.”

Corrin followed up by asking if Debicki was “overwhelmed” by this material, to which she said, “It was a double-edged sword. Because I love to just dive straight in. If I do something that’s historic, I’ll find any reason to do immense amounts of research. But this was particularly overwhelming.”

Following up, Corrin said, “With her, it’s bottomless. At some point, I was like, ‘I’ve got to stop, because there’s too much.’”

Debicki said she understood this completely, as her own experience preparing to take on the role almost broke her. Recalling this time, she said, “For me, I was trying to carry around so much information. And it was important, because at one point during, I’m sure, a mild nervous-panic-attack-breakdown thing, I decided that what would stick would stick, and it would have to do. Because there was no way of accumulating everything I felt I needed to.”

Corrin, who played Diana in seasons 3 and 4, admitted she felt Debicki was lucky to get to play her at a stage in life where she could go after what she wanted.

“I didn’t watch Season 5 as it came out.” said Corrin. “I’m going to confess that, because it was emotionally a lot. But I watched as 6 came out — and I found it heartbreaking and incredibly empowering to see her in her happiness. That freedom and that sense of herself that I had spent a lot of Season 4 not being able to present, knowing it was there.” 

However, despite getting to explore Diana’s confident side, Debicki was also faced with experiencing how the world and especially the paparazzi mistreated her.

“It was an extraordinarily horrendous, appalling, abusive thing that happened to this human being,” Debicki said. “And I think the fact that that culture of chasing people still exists, and there are no laws against it that protect you, is astonishing to me. We have not learned anything from it.”

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