'I Went Into A Terrible Slump When It Was Over': Dominic West On The Crown's Final Season

The Bafta winner opens up about the Netflix drama's final outing and why King Charles is such a "hard part to shake off".
Daniele Venturelli via Getty Images

After six dramatic seasons, three completely different casts and more wigs than you could shake a royal sceptre at, The Crown – inarguably one the most talked-about TV dramas of the streaming age – is about to come to an end.

The final six instalments of the award-winning show are set to begin streaming on Netflix this month, rounding off a journey that began with the wedding of Princess Elizabeth in the late 1940s, and continued right through to the 21st century and the late Queen’s Golden Jubilee.

As you’d expect, much of the action this time around revolves around the man who would eventually become King of England, Prince Charles, portrayed by Dominic West.

Dominic says these new episodes reintroduce us to Charles at “in one way, the lowest point of his life”, with the first half of the season focussing on the events leading up to Charles’ ex-wife, Princess Diana’s death, as well as its aftermath.

What I felt about this season is that it’s him as ‘father’,” Dominic tells HuffPost UK. “And therefore, as a father myself, putting myself into the awful situation of what he’s got to deal with, with his sons, and how he has to parent them. And I suppose we haven’t necessarily seen so much of that from him before.”

Dominic West in character as Prince Charles in Netflix's The Crown
Dominic West in character as Prince Charles in Netflix's The Crown

At the very beginning of the new season, before the devastation that would follow, Dominic observes that Charles is enjoying new-found “freedom”, as he commemorates the future Queen Camilla’s 50th birthday with a soirée at Highgrove.

“Suddenly he was free,” Dominic says of this period. “He wasn’t pretending to be anything anymore. He was with the woman he loved, and his life had sort of come good. And then… yeah.”

The new episodes were filmed last year, at a pivotal moment for the British monarchy, with production briefly shutting down when the news broke that Queen Elizabeth II, whose reign the entire show centres around, had died.

With the Queen’s death dominating the news cycle at that time, Dominic – along with the rest of the country – found himself glued to watching the real-life figure he was set to portray in one of the most popular TV shows around, as he navigated the next stage of his public life.

And it was during this news cycle that inspiration apparently struck.

King Charles pictured during the "pen incident"
King Charles pictured during the "pen incident"
WPA Pool via Getty Images

I have to say the pen incident definitely coloured my performance,” he recalls.

“What was amazing about that was how his mum had spent whatever it was, 70 years, not displaying an iota of emotion publicly, and what I love about him is, straight away, he’s emotional, and we can see an unguarded moment.

“Unguarded moments like that are such a goldmine for actors, and I obviously loved and used all of that material. And it was wonderful, I loved it! I love how emotional he is, and how open he is, and how unguarded he can be.”

Netflix made the decision to split The Crown’s final season into two parts, the first of which began streaming last month. And while admittedly critics were a little less convinced by the first batch of episodes than previous offerings from the hit show, Dominic himself is standing by the show.

Acknowledging the more tepid reception, he says: “I watched it with my family, and my mother-in-law, and actually for all the reviews and the critics I read, it’s a rattling good watch.”

“You go straight through, it doesn’t hang around does it?” he continues. “It’s a really good piece of entertainment apart from anything else. And I think that’s really our first duty, and I think that’s where it succeeds so brilliantly.”

Dominic says Charles is at "the lowest point of his life" during The Crown's sixth season
Dominic says Charles is at "the lowest point of his life" during The Crown's sixth season
Justin Downing/Netflix

One part of the sixth season that critics and viewers alike had a lot of feelings about were scenes featuring a “ghostly” apparition of Princess Diana. Following Diana’s death in episode three, the following instalment saw Elizabeth Debicki appearing as a vision of Diana to both the Queen and Princes Charles, while both royals grappled with the impact of her death.

“I must admit, when I first read it I thought, ‘oooh, how’s that going to work? That’s quite daring’,” Dominic admits. “But seeing it, and playing it, I sort of realised, ‘how else do you get across what Charles and what the Queen is thinking about Diana’? You can have her in voiceover, but it’s just not as dramatic.

“So, I think it works really well. And I think it’s a very neat dramatic device to get across what The Crown is all about, which is, ‘what are the inner thoughts of these people who wear the crown?’.”

With the show now over, seemingly for good, Dominic is now getting ready to say goodbye to one of the most prolific roles of his career, which he’s revealed is not something he found easy.

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki joined The Crown in its fifth season as Charles and Diana
Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki joined The Crown in its fifth season as Charles and Diana
Keith BernsteinKeith Bernstein

“For the ending, we were in Yorkminster with a full orchestra, a full choir, 400 extras bowing to me as I walked down the aisle with Olivia Williams down the aisle,” he says. “And then the next day, we had to wave to another 400 crowd who were waving flags with our faces on.

“I just thought, ‘this is good as it gets, it’ll never be this good again’. And yeah, I went into a terrible slump when it was over. It’s terrible when your wife and kids don’t bow to you like they do at work!”

And it appears the Bafta winner is still having some trouble slipping out of The Crown mode, and often finds himself “suddenly” slipping back into Charles’ mannerisms.

“It’s a very hard part to shake off!” he explains. “I found myself doing it the other day, fiddling with my ring finger, and all the little things he does, and the way he points.

“And, of course, he’s so current and in the news every day. I’m still following him avidly, what he’s getting up to.”

Dominic in character with co-star Olivia Williams
Dominic in character with co-star Olivia Williams

While The Crown has its own dedicated research team, Dominic did plenty of homework of his own to help him get into character, which included reading “everything Charles has ever written” and listening to his audiobook on numerous occasions.

As a result, Dominic says he has a new-found respect and admiration for the King.

“I do, I really admire him. I think he’s a force for good,” he insists. “And I think the things that he cares about, and has campaigned for are important things.

“And I think he’s also managed to recreate a purpose for the monarchy. What’s the point of the monarchy…? I think he’s come up with a pretty good answer.”

He adds: “I think he gets a lot of flak, less so perhaps now, but I do feel a bit protective of him. Just because I think he has been heroic in many ways.”

Dominic West with King Charles in March 2014
Dominic West with King Charles in March 2014
WPA Pool via Getty Images

As the show that millions of viewers around the globe have formed an opinion on in the last seven years draws to a close, Dominic admits he’s not sure what he wants people to take away from The Crown’s final act.

But what did he take away from it himself…?

“I took its cufflinks! But don’t tell production,” he says with a laugh.

Or, at least, he tried to take them.

Dominic recalls: “I had to give them back, actually. I did get caught red-handed, yeah. But also, when the hell am I going to wear them? I just wanted a tiny souvenir.”

Don’t worry, though, folks. He didn’t come away completely empty-handed.

“So instead, I got a whole pile of coasters with my face on them,” he adds. “And a tea-towel.”

The final six episodes of The Crown season six will be available to watch on Netflix from Wednesday 14 December.


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