Rebecca Humphries On Playing Carol Thatcher In The Crown

The actress has joined the cast for Season 4.

The Other Richard

by grazia |
Updated on

Who is in charge of this country? Is it the monarch: the person on the coins and the stamps and the official, prevailing figurehead? Is it the Prime Minister: the individual nominated for the task of running things and spinning every plate between education, health and foreign policy? Or is it someone else? Someone with no real, tangible power, but who has earned the greatest place in the nation’s hearts and minds? In the next series of The Crown – arriving on Netflix this week – we see such a power play take hold. Queen Elizabeth II comes face to face with two women with the capability to topple her in different ways: Emma Corrin’s Princess Diana, and Gillian Anderson’s Margaret Thatcher. They spar, they beg, they weep. We see the lives behind the headlines. And back home at Downing Street, in between war meetings and milk-snatching, the first female Prime Minister in British history has a family to care for. For actress Rebecca Humphries, who plays Thatcher’s daughter Carol, it was an irresistible challenge.

‘This was actually my third time auditioning for The Crown’, she tells Grazia over Zoom call. ‘I really fancied playing Carol, especially because the relationship between her and her mother is so complex. That relationship, I just thought "oh, there's a lot of juice for me to squeeze out here."'

Their bond is complicated. Thatcher never seemed to care for her daughter as much as she did her son, Mark. Her children were victims of circumstance: they never chose to enter the political landscape, to become targets of hate thanks to their mother’s controversial choices. They had lives beyond Downing Street that became secondary concerns. ‘The thing about Carol is that it's like two different people’, Rebecca says. ‘The woman she was when her mother was in power is a completely different woman to the one that we've become accustomed to. She was still like in her late 20s and early 30s when her mum was Prime Minister, and then it's like she's completely stepped into herself. She sort of had to stop behaving.’

Rebecca Humphries
Photographer: The Other Richard. Styling: Harriet Nicolson. Hair and Make-Up: Grace Hayward ©The Other Richard

Indeed, Carol forged a successful career in broadcasting and writing – to a younger generation she is most famous for sinning series 5 of I’m A Celebrity! Get Me Out Of Here. The fact that the daughter of a woman who is almost universally loathed by the entire working class was able to win a public vote on a reality TV show is testament to her affable character. The richness in archival footage also made it easier for Rebecca to do her research. She consumed as much as she could.

‘It's like food for me’, she says. ‘I love it. I love researching and I’ve always wanted to play someone that's a real person.’ Did she contemplate picking up the phone and calling Carol herself, perhaps to aid her mimicry?

‘Obviously it occurred to me,’ she nods. ‘But The Crown is Peter’s brain. His version of events.’ Peter is, of course, Peter Morgan, who recreated the hit series after finding success with Oscar-winning Queen biopic The Crown. ‘He is a genius,’ Rebecca adds, ‘and because of the way in which he manages to explore these issues, with only the cultural pin in the map of something like “Mark Thatcher goes missing”, I wondered if, actually, speaking with Carol could be confusing?’ It was tempting, though, due to season 4’s slow creep toward modern day. ‘This is a really weird series of The Crown,’ she explains. ‘It’s a time where people who are on the periphery of the royal family are still knocking about, are contactable. This is the first series where we could feasibly have a walking, talking relationship with the people we are playing. So there was no precedent.’ She is confident, at least, that the real Carol has nothing to worry about. ‘I really respect her, and the things that she’s been though,’ she insists. ‘And I don’t think I dishonour it.’

Aside from anything else – playing someone real, starring in one of the most acclaimed shows of all time – getting a part on this series of The Crown ticked off something truly special on her bucket list: working with Gillian Anderson.

‘I’m a big fan’, she exclaims. ‘I saw her in A Streetcar Named Desire at The Young Vic, and I loved her in The Fall. I just thought she was super hot: she is this statuesque, beautiful icon, and I really admire her wanting to take on the role. Everything that she has been branded with – being a super hot, sensual, sexy woman - had to be stripped. She really took it seriously.’

Rebecca’s casting only became common knowledge last month, when a newspaper reported her involvement. The Crown is, after all, shrouded in secrecy. ‘You just respect the project’, she explains. ‘It’s quite a sexy thing to be a part of.’

Regardless, there was one person she couldn’t keep in the dark. ‘I sort of had to tell my mother’, she confesses, with slight reticence. ‘I've done theatre since I first became an actor, and some of this theatre that I've done has been so deep and so dark. So I knew that this would be almost a gift for my mother, that it's all been worth it. That I’m in her favourite television programme.’

We think Peter Morgan would forgive the breach. Just this once.

Photographer: The Other Richard. Styling: Harriet Nicolson. Hair and Make-Up: Grace Hayward

READ MORE: Everything You Need To Know About The Crown Season 4

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