The Crown was an ambitious show from the beginning: six seasons covering 60 years of reigning monarch Queen Elizabeth II. But more remarkable was the how. Instead of casting one set of actors and aging them up and down, The Crown's producers decided to recast the show every two seasons. It seemed an impossibly tall order. How does one land three sets of leads and keep a consistent quality of performance, plus on-screen continuity? With its latest casting announcement, the show continues to prove it can be done, since Game of Thrones star Jonathan Pryce will play Prince Philip in The Crown's final two seasons.
Pryce's appointment means The Crown has scored a casting coup in every set of the primary lead characters, Queen Elizabeth, Prince Philip, and Princess Margaret. Claire Foy may not have been a household name before she played Elizabeth in Seasons 1 and 2, but any PBS-head will tell you her turn as Anne Boleyn in BBC's adaptation of Wolf Hall promised she was the savviest of choices. Seasons 3 and 4 landed a double-whammy of castings: Oscar winner Olivia Colman, who had just played Queen Anne in The Favourite, would play Elizabeth, and Oscar winner Helena Bonham-Carter, whose credits are simply too numerous to list, was cast as Margaret.
Now the final round of casting has outdone itself again, with all three roles going to iconic actors. Oscar nominee Lesley Manville will play Margaret, whose latest turn over at PBS on World on Fire opposite Sean Bean is a highlight of 2020. Imelda Staunton, who is already an icon as the face of benign evil, Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series, plays Elizabeth. They'll be joined by Pryce as Philip, making Seasons 5 and 6 an official hat trick of leads.
Like Bonham-Carter, a list of Pryce's credits would fill an entire article, so let's just hit a few highlights: The most obvious is his role as the High Sparrow in Game of Thrones Seasons 5 and 6, followed by his Oscar-nominated turn as Pope Francis in Netflix's The Two Popes. Before that, he played yet another religious figure, as Cardinal Wolsey in Wolf Hall alongside Claire Foy.
Before Game of Thrones, Pryce was already a fantasy icon as Sam Lowery from Terry Gilliam's cult hit Brazil. (If you've never seen it, please do; it's 1984 with a happy ending.) He's done everything from James Bond villainy to bumbling comedic work in the Pirates of The Caribbean films.
At one point, The Crown was only going to have five seasons, ending with the late 1990s. But recently, Netflix declared the show would go the full initially-planned six seasons after all. With a cast this good, it's easy to see why.
Meanwhile, The Crown Season 4 will debut on Netflix later in 2020. Season 5 is not expected to arrive until 2022.