The first season of The Crown, Netflix’s prestigious period drama about the British royal family, was acclaimed for the central performances from Claire Foy as a young Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as her husband, Prince Phillip. In particular, the actors were commended for ensuring that the two royals were portrayed as layered, flawed, very humanized characters, diving behind their public image as infallible figureheads of the state.
While talking to Variety in a recent interview, Smith was on hand to explain just why he loves playing the role so much and revealed what he thinks is the key factor of nailing the character: the “deep conflict” that comes from his desire to be a husband and the head of the family but also his duty to fill a supporting role as Elizabeth’s consort.
“I’m always really compelled by the deep conflict in Philip. He’s a very male character, whatever that means nowadays, and his duty to his wife and the strange conflict it generates in him: the desire to be the head of the family and being usurped.”
Much was mined from Phillip’s unease at adjusting to life as the Queen’s other half during season 1. As Smith says, Phillip is portrayed as a traditional “male” who wants to be the one to take charge of situations, but is forbidden from doing so due to royal tradition and Elizabeth’s own stubborn nature.
With season 2 right around the corner, Smith also teased that the Windsors’ marital troubles will continue in the new run. The former Doctor Who star referenced a scene to come in a future episode which perfectly sums up Phillip’s character for him.
“There’s a scene in Season 2 where Philip and Elizabeth have an argument about where Charles should go to school. He says, ‘You can’t keep falling back on what the royal family needs, what about what I need?’ And I like the fact that Philip’s needy! He’s a needy man but he’s also a really male man. He needs her attention.”
The Crown season 2 lands on the streaming service this Friday, December 8th.