When she was offered the role of Princess Diana on the fourth season of the Netflix drama The Crown, Emma Corrin says she nearly blacked out. Her reaction felt somewhat predestined: More than two decades earlier, when Corrin was a toddler, her mother walked into a café in a London railway station, prompting several patrons to faint because she bore such a striking resemblance to the Princess of Wales, whose tragic death in a car accident had shocked the world just hours earlier. “I hesitate to tell that story because it almost sounds too insane to be true,” she says. “There’s this theme throughout my life of Diana cropping up. It doesn’t feel ordinary.”
As a student of education at Cambridge University, Corrin, now 24, devoured the first two seasons of The Crown, which introduced audiences to a young Queen Elizabeth as she assumed her place at the top of the British monarchy. While in school, she regularly starred in campus theater productions, and secured an agent shortly after graduation. In 2018, she was hired to read a few lines as Diana during a casting call for Camilla Parker Bowles (played in the series by Emerald Fennell), who famously rivalled Diana for the affection of Prince Charles. Corrin was told it wasn’t an audition, but she prepared anyway, watching the 2017 documentary Diana: In Her Own Words an estimated 15 times and rehearsing with her mother, who works as a speech therapist. “There were things I tried to emulate, like Diana’s head tilt and her voice. She had a very unique way of speaking,” she says. Six months later, Corrin was asked back for a chemistry read with Josh O’Connor, who plays young Prince Charles; Corrin landed the part on the spot. Over the course of ten episodes, she transforms with uncanny grace from Shy Di, swallowed up in a replica of that famous taffeta wedding gown and mooning over her ambivalent husband, to the more defiant People’s Princess of the late ’80s. “We filmed out of order, and the shift was constant,” she recalls. “Older Diana holds herself so well. The director would be like, ‘Emma, posture!’”
The pandemic forced the production to cut a planned trip to the Pyrenees that Corrin and O’Connor had been looking forward to for their final scene (different actors reprise their roles in future seasons), but it also gave Corrin time to recover from whooping cough, which she had battled for most of filming. She welcomed the rest. The role, and the attention that has followed, connected her with her real-life counterpart in new and unexpected ways. “This is the first time for me being in the public eye in a way that I’m very scared about,” she says via Zoom from her London flat. As a teenager in nearby Sevenoaks, Corrin once stood on The Mall in front of Buckingham Palace with a friend, waving a massive daffodil to celebrate the 2011 nuptials of Diana’s son, Prince William, and Kate Middleton. Now, she’s in the surreal position of portraying the prince’s beloved mother. “I feel a lot of responsibility,” she says. “I try not to think much about it. Otherwise, it does get overwhelming.”
Hair: Teiji Utsumi at Bryant Artists.
Makeup: Ciara O’Shea at LGA using Mac Cosmetics.
Production: Rose Clayton at Total World.
Set Design: Samuel Pidgen at Bryant Artists.
Fashion Assistant: Tasha Arguile.
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