Claire Foy made Peter Morgan’s job easy. As Queen Elizabeth II on The Crown, the 33-year-old actress delivered a Golden Globe-winning performance the show’s creator says he depended on throughout the first two seasons of the Netflix period drama. “I don’t have to give her fireworks to make her feel like she’s the epicenter of everything,” he explains. “With Claire, you could push her in any direction. Her comic timing is good, her sense of tragedy is good…. No matter what we gave her to do, she would be able to do it, so that gave me enormous freedom as a writer.”
Though Foy departs the show along with the rest of its principal cast after season 2, she’s already scored her next role, as troubled hacker Lisbeth Salander in the Dragon Tattoo sequel The Girl in the Spider’s Web (slated for 2018). Here, she talks the end of her small-screen sovereignty. (Spoilers for The Crown season 2 ahead!)
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was it like saying goodbye to Elizabeth during your final scene?
CLAIRE FOY: It was surreal. It’s very difficult to prepare yourself for that moment. Ultimately what you end up feeling is just sort of confused and that you need to go home and have a lie-down, really.
Season 2 delves deeper into examining Elizabeth’s restraint, even while those around her fail her. What was the key to tapping into that?
I think the moments when Elizabeth really becomes angry is when she’s lied to. She’s been very disappointed by the men in her life for their lack of endurance. She feels left out, and what makes her angry more than anything else in the world is the sense that people aren’t trying their best.
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One of the men who consistently disappoints her is her husband Philip (Matt Smith). How did the two of you tap into that intensity this season, especially in your final scene together?
We really navigated that scene and tried to figure out all of the emotional beast — when they were communicating and when they weren’t. We both felt really strongly that they deserved this time to kind of get their relationship back on track, or come to an agreement among family and one another. I absolutely loved playing that, and I love Matt as an actor, and being in scenes with him is just a joy.
Has playing her reshaped your perception of the Queen and women in power?
It’s a misconception, I think, that the Queen is in a position of power. She has no power, she can’t express power. She’s a woman who is a mother and a wife and is seen as a leader, and she wears it all very lightly, as I think most women do. We are able to shoulder pretty much the world, and we do it on a daily basis! So her story is every woman’s story. I take away a huge amount of respect and admiration for her.
What will you miss the most from the show?
So much of this job was about the people making it, so that is what I will miss. I will miss the people. I will miss all of the creative people who will go on creating this program, I will miss the actors, and I will just feel forever grateful and privileged that I got to play this part and be a part of this show. I really will. I will always be incredibly grateful for it.
Did you take anything home from set?
No, nothing at all.
Not a single thing?
Olivia Colman (Murder on the Orient Express) will play Elizabeth next season. What have your conversations with her been like? Any talk of the Queen herself?
No. We didn’t avoid the topic, but it was purely a conversation between two people. It wasn’t about the nitty-gritty of the character. And I just think she’s the perfect choice.
Any actors you’d love to see on the show alongside Olivia?
I have absolute full faith in the people who make it, so anything that I think of will never be as good as what’s in [casting director] Nina Gold’s mind.
For yourself, then, why go from playing British royalty to fiction’s most disturbing dragon-tattooed antiheroine?
They’re both really challenging roles. With that comes expectations and pressure, but you have to push yourself. This job [on The Crown] was a complete surprise to me. It taught me a lot about never underestimating yourself, that you don’t know what’s around the corner. I don’t think it’s a coincidence I’m pushing myself, but the pressure is all outside, not inside.
The Crown season 2 is now streaming.