Netflix’s The Crown: Gillian Anderson will play Margaret Thatcher – and the internet has thoughts

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Kayleigh Dray
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Gillian Anderson for Stylist

Gillian Anderson has said that she’s “so excited to be joining the cast and crew of The Crown and to have the opportunity to portray such a complicated and controversial woman.”

The rumours are true: Gillian Anderson is joining the cast of The Crown – and she’s going to be portraying Margaret Thatcher, aka the UK’s first female Prime Minister.

As fans of the show will no doubt be aware, series two of The Crown concluded in 1964, after the birth of the Queen’s fourth and final child Prince Edward. 

The third series will pick up in the 1970s, and is expected to continue exploring the relationship between the Queen and Prince Philip, as well as giving her children more prominent roles. Thanks to a slip up from star Tobias Menzies, who will play the Duke of Edinburgh, we finally know when the third season will be returning to screens: Sunday 17 November.

Speaking to BBC Radio earlier this summer, Menzies confirmed that the new episodes “start in November”, and that they are currently at work on series four. 

That series will be diving into even more recent history, with the show’s writers set to explore the reportedly frosty relationship between the Queen and Thatcher. And Anderson – who recently won critical acclaim for her stint in Netflix’s Sex Education – will take on the role of the former Conservative prime minister in series four of the show, with filming due to begin over the summer.

The show’s official Twitter account confirmed the rumours with a picture of Anderson and a message from her which said: “I am so excited to be joining the cast and crew of The Crown and to have the opportunity to portray such a complicated and controversial woman.

“Thatcher was undoubtedly formidable but I am relishing exploring beneath the surface and, dare I say, falling in love with the icon who, whether loved or despised, defined an era.”

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As Thatcher remains one of British politics’ most controversial and divisive figures, however, the announcement (unsurprisingly) caused something of a stir on social media.

“Interesting to see how well she plays a really evil character,” quipped one follower.

Another added: “[Thatcher] destroyed an era for working class people. She decimated towns my ancestors had thrived in for centuries. All for the motives of profit and greed.”

And still one more noted: “This is the most conflicting thing in the history of forever.”

Others, though, were excited by the news – and reacted to the announcement in that time-honoured way of the internet: with memes and GIFs galore.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter, there’s no denying that Anderson is joining a royally good cast. 

Here’s who will be playing the show’s most prominent roles, including that of Queen Elizabeth and Princess Margaret, in The Crown’s third and fourth series. 

Diana Spencer - Emma Corrin

Netflix has confirmed that Emma Corrin has been cast as Lady Diana Spencer (otherwise known as Princess Diana) in The Crown.

However, the streaming giant has insisted that Corrin will not make an appearance on screen until season four.

“I have been glued to the show and to think I’m now joining this incredibly talented acting family is surreal,” Corrin said, via an official statement on Twitter.

“Princess Diana was an icon and her effect on the world remains profound and inspiring. To explore her through Peter Morgan’s writing is the most exceptional opportunity and I will strive to do her justice!” she added.

Camilla Parker Bowles – Emerald Fennell

Actress Emerald Fennell will play a younger Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall in the third series of The Crown. The actress is best known for her role as Patsy Mount in Call The Midwife

The third season of the royal drama will chart when Camilla first met the Prince of Wales, who will be played by Josh O’Connor.

Speaking about the role, the actress said: “I’m absolutely over the moon, and completely terrified, to be joining the many hugely talented people on The Crown.

“I absolutely love Camilla, and am very grateful that my teenage years have well prepared me for playing a chain-smoking serial snogger with a pudding bowl haircut.”

Prince Charles – Josh O’Connor

BAFTA nominated Josh O’Connor (God’s Own Country) is set to take on the role of Prince Charles in the upcoming season of The Crown.

It is an important role: indeed, speaking at the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival 2017, producer Suzanne Mackie said that the new season will chart the beginnings of Charles and Princess Diana’s relationship, and will also see the introduction of Charles’ second wife Camilla Parker-Bowles.

It should also cover the decolonisation of Africa and the Caribbean, the birth of Prince Edward (March 1964), and Prince Charles’ movement into the public eye following his coronation as the Prince of Wales in 1969.

Speaking about the role, the actor said: “I am thrilled to be joining The Firm for the next instalment of The Crown. Seasons 3 and 4 will follow some of the most turbulent events in the Prince of Wales’s life and our national story and I’m excited to be bringing to life the man in the midst of it all.”

He added: “I’m very aware it’s a formidably talented family to be joining, but reliably informed I have the ears for the part and will fit right in.”

Queen Mother –Marion Bailey

Marion Bailey (Allied) will channel the formidable Queen Mother in the upcoming season.

“Wonderful to be joining The Crown,” she said. “It’s a brilliant show and we have a tough act to follow but what a gift to be playing the fascinating and greatly loved Queen Mother. Thrilled to be on board and working with such a top notch team.”

Erin Doherty – Princess Anne

In the third season of The Crown, Erin Doherty will play Princess Anne.

The actress, who has appeared in Call the Midwife, said it feels “ridiculously special and surreal” to join the show.

“There is such a rare dynamic within Princess Anne that I am incredibly grateful to be able to explore,” she added. 

“She is a woman of great strength and heart, and I feel privileged to fight her corner.”

Queen Elizabeth – Olivia Colman

As previously reported, Olivia Colman will be stepping into Foy’s queenly shoes for the third season of the critically-acclaimed show.

“I’m so thrilled to be part of The Crown,” said Colman. “I was utterly gripped watching it, a proper ‘just one more’ feeling.”

Paying homage to her predecessor, she continued: “I think Claire Foy is an absolute genius. She’s an incredibly hard act to follow. I’m basically going to rewatch every episode and copy her!”

Prince Phillip – Tobias Menzies

Tobias Menzies The Crown
Tobias Menzies starred as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh in The Crown.

Tobias Menzies, best known for appearing as Edmure Tully in Game of Thrones and in the dual roles of Frank/Black Jack Randall in Outlander, will play the sulky prince in the next series of Netflix’s hit royal drama.

“I’m thrilled to be joining the new cast of The Crown and to be working with Olivia Colman again,” said Menzies. 

“I look forward to becoming her ‘liege man of life and limb’.”

Prime Minister Harold Wilson – Jason Watkins 

Jason Watkins has also been announced as a new addition to the cast, playing Prime Minister Harold Wilson in the hit historical drama.

The actor said: “I am delighted to become part of this exceptional show. Harold Wilson is a significant and fascinating character in our history, so I’m looking forward to bringing him to life through a decade that transformed us culturally and politically.”

He added that he was “excited” to be working so closely with Olivia and the whole team.

Princess Margaret – Helena Bonham Carter

Yes, you read that right: the actual HELENA BONHAM CARTER is joining the show. And, as the actress previously played the Queen Mother in The King’s Speech, there’s an extra-special royal link: she’s basically playing her own daughter this time around.

“I’m not sure which I’m more terrified about — doing justice to the real Princess Margaret or following in the shoes of Vanessa Kirby’s Princess Margaret,” Bonham Carter said in a statement. 

“The only thing I can guarantee is that I’ll be shorter [than Vanessa].”

The casting news comes hot on the heels of The Crown’s recent pay scandal, in which it was revealed that Foy had been paid less than her co-star, Smith.

After her wage packet was made public (Foy was reportedly paid $40,000 per episode for the first two series), the producers of the show issued an apology to both her and her male co-star over the pay disparity.

“We want to apologise to both Claire Foy and to Matt Smith, brilliant actors and friends, who have found themselves at the centre of a media storm this week through no fault of their own,” said a spokesperson for Left Bank Pictures.

“Claire and Matt are incredibly gifted actors who, along with the wider cast on The Crown have worked tirelessly to bring our characters to life with compassion and integrity.”

Executive producer Suzanne Mackie later promised: “Going forward, no one gets paid more than the Queen,”

You can read more on the gender pay gap here.

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This article was originally published on 4 May 2018, but is regularly updated with new cast announcements.

Main image: Matthew Shave


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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