Town & Country – The British monarchy has been very good to Claire Foy. In the year since the actress first appeared onscreen as a young Queen Elizabeth II in the hit Netflix series The Crown, which in its first season followed the monarch’s glittering, tumultuous life from 1947 to 1955, she has become one of the most watched women in the world. Her career (respectable but not exactly on fire before The Crown) has skyrocketed, she has taken home a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Television Drama (as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award), and she is, at press time, nominated for an Emmy.
There’s only one small catch in regard to her relationship with Her Majesty. “I would hate the idea of her watching it,” Foy says.
Although some of the world’s finest performers have earned raves playing the queen, and the monarch’s life has been scrutinized for nearly 70 years, Foy is loath to think that her own performance might rankle Elizabeth. “When you’re playing a real person, you never want to be ghoulish,” she says. “I don’t want to pick apart a person. I want to invent someone. So I would hate for her to watch it and think I overdramatized anything.”
I would hate for her to watch it and think I overdramatized anything.
And despite reports from the occasionally reliable British tabloids that the series has indeed been viewed in the royal household, Foy swats away the notion, if only for her own peace of mind. “I decided a long time ago that she’d never see it,” she says. “If she ever rings me up and tells me that she’s watched, then I will think differently.” (For what it’s worth, Helen Mirren, perhaps the only other actress so closely associated with the queen, sent Foy a lovely e-mail.)
For the rest of us, watching Foy in The Crown the coming months will be very easy. In December will come back for a second season, picking up at the Suez Crisis in 1956, and in October Foy will take to the big screen opposite Andrew Garfield in Breathe, an affecting, astonishing film based on the true story of Robin Cavendish, a man who contracted polio at age 28 and, against all odds, went on to live a long life as an inventor and advocate for the disabled.
After that she’ll star in Unsane, a hush-hush project that director Steven Soderbergh reportedly filmed entirely on an iPhone, and First Man, director Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to La La Land, which tells the story of astronaut Neil Armstrong and features Foy as his earth-bound wife.
“Claire is one of the most exciting actors out there,” Chazelle says. “I was wowed by her performance in The Crown, and even more wowed by her interpretation of Janet Armstrong when she read for the role. Claire has a way of communicating unspoken depths in just a line or a gesture or a look that is truly extraordinary. I couldn’t be more excited to work with her.”
All of this has led to success that Foy did not imagine. “I’ve never been a particularly ambitious kind of actor,” she says. “I was eager to do great things, but I never was like, ‘What I have to do is become massive.’ I just thought, Maybe I’ll do a job here and there, and that’ll be nice and I’ll move on to a different stage of my life.” However, it seems that Foy, like many of the characters she has played, was meant for something greater than she might have planned.
Foy was born outside Manchester, England, in 1984 and grew up in Buckinghamshire, the youngest of three. She was eight when her parents divorced, and while the split was amicable she credits it to some degree with launching her interest in acting. “I watched a lot of films as a child, but that’s because I was being raised by single parents,” she says. “A lot of the time I was put in front of the telly with hope for the best.”
Another early inspiration was her mother’s large extended family. “I grew up in a very Irish family, with character and personality and energy and life, so if you had nothing to say for yourself, what were you going to do?” she says. “There were a lot of us as well, so you had to shout to get heard.”
Foy was a movie buff at an early age but never thought of acting as something she could do professionally. “It was something I loved but didn’t think I could do for a living,” she says. “It was what people in films had done, obviously, because they were special or someone came and found them, but that wasn’t my story.”
I grew up in a very Irish family, with character and personality and energy and life, so if you had nothing to say for yourself, what were you going to do?
Until, of course, it was. While at university she studied drama with an eye toward a career in film production, but in her first year she took a role in a student play and caught the eye of one of her professors. “A drama teacher said to me, ‘What are you going to do with your degree?’ And I said, ‘I don’t know,’ ” she says. “He asked, ‘Have you thought about going to drama school?’ And I was like, ‘Well, no, because that’s not something that I could do.’ He didn’t say anything. I just remember him raising his eyebrow and walking off. I was like, ‘Does that mean he thinks I should go?’”
Initially Foy was resistant. She was interested in politics or communications or, if she could overcome a distaste for science, medicine. “I thought that drama school was like Fame, that you had to wear leg warmers,” she says with a laugh. “I figured everyone would be incredibly dramatic and I would be like a fish out of water and hate it, that it’d be a disaster and I’d be asked to do things I really didn’t want to do—which, you know, is partially true.”
Still, it proved effective. After completing the one-year course at the Oxford School of Drama, Foy landed her first part, in the British werewolf drama Being Human (“I had a terrible time, and I was really bad in it,” she’d say later), and she appeared on the soap opera Doctors. The title role in a BBC adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Little Dorrit was her first big break, and it led to increasingly weighty parts in productions including Upstairs Downstairs and Wolf Hall, in which she played Anne Boleyn.
Then came The Crown. Foy was six months pregnant when she auditioned—her daughter with her husband, the actor Stephen Campbell Moore, was born in 2015—and she didn’t expect to land the part. “There are so many talented, amazing people for every job, it’s a miracle that anyone ever gets one,” she says. “I sort of got to a point in my career where I was like, ‘You know, I’ve done some really amazing things, I really love it, and I’ve been incredibly lucky. But I’m pregnant, and if this is it, then this is it.’ I really got philosophical.” Obviously, she made a good impression.
According to Stephen Daldry, an executive producer and director of The Crown (he also directed Billy Elliot and The Hours), Foy was a natural fit. “She’s always been on my radar, particularly because of her performance in Wolf Hall, but it wasn’t really until I started auditioning her that I realized how perfect she would be to play the young Queen Elizabeth,” he says.
“She’s fiercely intelligent and she has a good heart, but, more important, she has the ability to be both accessible and inaccessible at the same time. On one hand, you think you get to know her, and then sometimes you never quite know what Claire’s going to do next. It’s so true of the queen—in a sense she’s the most visible invisible woman in the world—and I think Claire has some of that.”
Audiences agreed, and the series, which was created by Peter Morgan (who is something of a royal expert, having written the Oscar-winning 2006 film The Queen as well as the 2013 play The Audience), was a huge hit. While Netflix doesn’t release viewership numbers, critics swooned (“Netflix can rest assured that its £100m gamble has paid off,” cooed the Guardian), and the show and its cast (other standouts included Matt Smith as Prince Philip, Vanessa Kirby as Princess Margaret, and John Lithgow as Winston Churchill) became regulars on the awards circuit—even if it wasn’t second nature.
“The Golden Globes were really weird—absolutely amazing, but strange,” says Foy, who keeps her statue in a bathroom. “Because suddenly, without me knowing, while I’ve been busy working, people felt like I belonged in that room. And I’d be like, ‘No, you don’t understand. I haven’t changed. It’s still just me.’ ”
Any feelings of inadequacy were short-lived, however; for Foy there was more work to do. “There was definitely a moment after the awards when I needed to be alone in a dark room to try to understand what’s happening,” she says. “I never got that moment. I got a martini instead and cracked on.”
Indeed she did. After nine months of filming The Crown, Foy took a break before her next project. “I decided that I wasn’t going to work,” she says. “I was going to have loads of time off and just be a mom.” But that didn’t quite work out. A chance run-in with her Little Dorrit co-star Andy Serkis led to her role in Breathe, his directorial debut, and had Foy doing again what has become her signature: playing a real woman whose life has been altered by fantastic circumstances—and making her completely relatable.
“I’m sure everybody in the whole world wanted this part. It’s such an incredible story, and she’s such an amazing woman,” Foy says of Diana Cavendish. “I also felt like Diana and Elizabeth were relatively similar characters in a way, obviously incredibly different but both of a certain generation of women who kept calm and carried on.
That was the challenge for me, to make it different and bring a different life into it.” That effort was successful. Breathe offers a stunning portrait of a couple who overcome terrible odds and gives Foy the chance to sink her teeth into a new character, showing an impressive range and dashing the hopes of anyone wanting to typecast her after Wolf Hall and The Crown.
“One of the great experiences of my creative life was getting to build this relationship and these characters with Claire,” Andrew Garfield says. “I was incredibly grateful and reassured every day working with Claire, because she’s so open and devoted to the truth.”
One truth that’s not so easy for Foy, however, is that the second season of The Crown will be her last. The show reportedly plans to change its cast every two seasons to depict the royal family at different points in time. “I’m in massive denial,” she says. “I don’t feel like it’s over. I’m waiting for it to hit me at some point that this stage of my life is finished, but it hasn’t happened yet.”
And as far as what might come after The Crown—and her forthcoming slate of films—Foy is not certain just yet. “At this juncture I think it will find me,” she says. “I think it will be a good time to sit down and take stock of what I want to do, which is possibly not acting, or where I want to go—all of those things you don’t really have time to think about when you’re working. I’ll probably have to consider all of that at some point, but not quite yet.”
Deadline – Inspired by UK playwright Peter Morgan’s critically acclaimed 2013 play The Audience—which enjoyed a brief but successful Broadway run in 2015—The Crown proved a surprise hit for Netflix when the series debuted in November of last year. Starting with the marriage of Britain’s Queen Elizabeth II to Prince Philip in 1947, a scant few years before her coronation at the age of 25 in 1952, the 10-part first season served as an origin story for the world’s longest reigning monarch.
It also offered an introduction to actress Claire Foy, who—along with co-stars John Lithgow, as Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Matt Smith, as her husband Prince Philip—received glowing reviews for her performance, which earned her a Golden Globe just over two months after Season 1 aired. In December, the story will continue, acquainting Her Majesty with dangerous affairs in the Middle East and a more embarrassing scandal closer to home.
How did this part come to you?
It started the usual way – I got sent the script. It was slightly tempered by the fact that I was five months pregnant at the time [in the fall of 2014]. So when my agent mentioned it, I was like, “Do you really think I want to have a three-month-old baby and do a nine-month TV series while I play The Queen of England? Are you insane?” [laughs] So I was reticent about it. But my agent said, ‘They just want to talk to you.”
So I went, and it was nice, and they said, “Would you mind coming back and maybe doing a test?” I thought I’d have to go to LA, because it was Netflix, so I said, “Well, that’s not going to happen, because I can’t fly anymore,” but they said, “No, we can do it in London.” So I went back, and Stephen Daldry and I went over a few different scenes. Then they said, “Do you want to do it?” So it was a bit of an odd experience because at no point did I really consider it a serious possibility. And at no point did I really think that I would be who they were looking for.
What were they looking for in your audition? Were they looking for somebody with a strong resemblance to The Queen?
No. Well, we did do a costume fitting, but obviously, with a giant baby bump it was hilarious, because I was wearing a gown and a wig and a crown—I looked like a pregnant toddler. I think, knowing them now, they just wanted someone to discover [the part] with. It was very open. Maybe because I was pregnant, I was just very relaxed. Then, in November, they told me that I’d got it, and we started shooting in the July the following year. We knew that it was commissioned for two series from the off, and that we’d shoot all 10 episodes in one fell swoop. There was going to be no pilot.
What kind of research did you do?
Oh God. I can’t really remember. I think I did what I usually do, which is to buy thousands of documentaries and watch them all, because you can pretend it’s work. And then I got loads of books and read them. Actually, I had a very long time to get used to the idea of playing the Queen. I’ve never really had that before, actually—that expanse of time to get into character. Then we started working with a voice coach, William Conacher, who’s a genius—we couldn’t have made The Crown without him. It all happened very slowly, which was probably a benefit. There was no pressure to make any sudden, mad choices.
How do you approach playing such a famous real-life character?
You just have to take a step back from it. It’s an exercise in not jumping ahead of yourself and second-guessing every decision that you make—you have to try to go slowly, and not overwhelm yourself. I don’t really know what I do when I approach a character, apart from just try to get to know them and understand them. For the Queen, I just felt like there was a huge hook for me in the fact that she lost her father when she was very young. Just as a person, I was thinking how that must have felt, and how lonely she must have felt, and how scary. Then all of a sudden you’ve got the biggest responsibility of your life, and the one person that you want to help you isn’t there anymore.
What kind of conversations did you have with The Crown’s writer, Peter Morgan?
Peter had written every single script by then, and by the time we’d finished Season 1, he’d finished Season 2 as well. He’d written everything. Obviously, Peter comes from a theater background as well, so he works in a very different way, in the sense that if he’s watching the rushes and he sees something he likes, or he doesn’t like, he will alter it and move things around to enhance the story. He’s always thinking of ways to spice things up, or approach a scene from a different angle if it’s not working. And as an actor, that’s amazing, because you know that there’s someone somewhere who’s paying attention.
What’s the appeal of Peter Morgan’s writing?
I think he’s incredibly intelligent about the ways in which people communicate, and it’s not about what we say—it’s about our actions, and our choices, and also how we hurt each other. I think the undercurrent of a lot of his writing is about how we can be careless without realizing it. The scenes are so full because they aren’t written just to make the story move on, they’re about people being in a room, battling to get to…well, God knows where. There’s always an element of not knowing where the character’s going to go. And sometimes I don’t think he even knows.
In the UK at least, there was a sharp intake of breath when the project was announced, and it does go into some deeply personal areas of the Queen’s life. Were you ever nervous about that?
No. If I hadn’t read the script I would think, Oh my God, that sounds like walking into a pit of fire. Why would anybody want to do that? I wouldn’t have touched it with a bargepole. But then you read Peter’s script and you just go, Well it’s not like that at all. It’s not what you’d imagine, it’s not that kind of salacious biopic. You’re reading it and you’re going, Oh my God, this actually happened. And it just carries you along with it. I thought I’d be an idiot not to dive in.
Did you ever use Peter as a resource during the shoot?
Yeah, definitely. I would say to him, “I don’t think this is right,” and he would say, “Well, it is.” But he would take what I’d said on board, and he’d think about it, and sometimes he might say, “Well, let’s do it a different way, and then we’ll see in the edit.” It was the same with the directors. There was always a conversation.
Can you think of a specific example of a point where you said you thought something was wrong or needed clarification?
I remember one time when me and Matt were about to shoot a scene where we had to have an argument about the coronation. We really struggled with the intellectual argument of it. We were asking, “Are we acting them as a married couple, or are we acting them as the Queen and her consort? Who are we being?” Because in the end, we wanted it to be just a husband and a wife having a row, without bringing God, and all of the royal family, or an orb and a scepter into it. It diminishes it. You can’t run away from the reality of their life, although I think sometimes we wanted to, because it would—ever so slightly—have made our choices a bit easier. But we never took the easy route, I don’t think. As a team, I think we always said, “Fine, we’ll do it.” And the show’s the better for it.
Were you surprised when the show was such an instant hit?
God, yeah. I mean, we knew Netflix wanted it to have a broad appeal, be something that lots of people could watch. But I think we thought that it would mostly attract the kinds of people who would be inclined to watch a period drama or a program about the royal family. I was just shocked about the breadth of the audience and the different people who were watching it. Like 10-year-olds, and 25-year-old men—not really who I’d thought would be the target audience for it. But it was coming at people from all angles—like, their mums would tell them to watch it, or their children would tell them to watch it. That’s a very rare thing in this industry, and I feel very lucky that I’ve been part of something that people genuinely talk to each other about. It’s lovely.
It seems like it was only a matter of weeks between the show airing and you winning a Golden Globe for your performance.
I know! It was mental. Absolutely blooming mental. I suddenly found myself in a very odd situation, and I was thinking, This is strange. Six months ago, I would not have been here.
What can you say about the second season of The Crown? Obviously, there won’t be any bombshells because it’s based on a true story.
[Laughs] No, look on Wikipedia.
Do you have any particular memories from shooting that second leg?
Oh God, so many. It’s sad because people go and people come. There’s no John Lithgow this time—you have prime ministers coming and going, which is sad because you have to say goodbye to another actor. But we all went through the whole thing together, at the same time, so me and Matt just became terribly close through the whole thing. I always will love doing scenes with him. We just became even more of a family. It wasn’t like they were forcing people to come back to work—people genuinely wanted to come and make it again, and that was before we even knew it had been a success. Before it had even come out, people had signed up for another nine months of the same thing.
What’s next for you?
I’m in Andy Serkis’s new film, Breathe, which comes out in October, and I’m dead proud of that, so that’ll be lovely. And this is absolutely ridiculous what I’m about to say next: I’m doing a film with Damien Chazelle and Ryan Gosling—in October, as well—where I play Janet Armstrong. It’s called First Man. [laughs] I’ll probably be struck by a bolt of lightning before then, but apparently, that’s happening.
People – Claire Foy could not be more thrilled that her Netflix hit, The Crown, has been nominated for 13 Emmy awards.
“It’s such an honor,” the actress — who is nominated outstanding lead actress in a drama series — says in the current issue of PEOPLE.
Foy, 33, is looking forward to reuniting with her castmates at all the parties surrounding the Sept. 17 awards show.
But the U.K.-based star, who has a 2-year-old daughter, has another reason she’s excited to head to Los Angeles in a few weeks.
“I live in London and I have a child, so getting on a transatlantic flight and having my hair and makeup done and getting to wear a beautiful dress and have a night out is amazing,” says Foy. “It’ll be magic — aside from the jet lag!”
Los Angeles Times – Claire Foy has spent most of the last two years playing Queen Elizabeth for the Emmy-nominated Netflix period drama “The Crown,” wearing tiaras and tartan, acting with the utmost reserve and enduring loads of questions about whether playing a monarch improves one’s posture.
On the latter front, Foy laughs off any illusions of regality, happily slouching in a leather chair throughout a leisurely interview at Netflix’s curated Emmy promotional space in Beverly Hills. Fresh off a transatlantic flight, London to Los Angeles, Foy is famished, devouring a Twix bar, only to find, minutes later, that somehow the chocolate worked its way into the designer trousers she borrowed for the evening event, a Q&A with costar Matt Smith and James Corden at the film academy’s Samuel Goldwyn Theater across the street.
“I’m such an idiot!” Foy shouts. “I’ve got chocolate on my bum!”
“You know,” she adds, after a couple of minutes of light dabbing averts the crisis, “if they were my own clothes, I wouldn’t be bothered. I’d be, like, ‘Eh. Who cares?’ Personally, my main use of clothes is if I can wipe my hands on it.”
Foy, Oxford-trained, extraordinary as Anne Boleyn in the 2015 BBC adaptation of “Wolf Hall,” Emmy-nominated for her quiet, controlled portrait of Elizabeth on “The Crown,” immediately comes across as an earthy sort. Having just finished shooting the second season of Netflix’s royal drama — each 10-episode run took nine months to film — she has no immediate plans to work (“I can’t even contemplate doing anything at all”) and eagerly shares two pressing, personal goals for her time off.
“I’d really like to go rock climbing, not rock climbing like Tom Cruise hanging off a mountain, but, because I’m not physically strong or muscle-y, I’d like to take that challenge, just a wall, you know,” Foy says. “And I’m going to fly a plane for the first time. I love being in the sky, but I also have a fear of flying. So it’s a weird fascination.”
Foy clearly likes a challenge, which is why she’s happy that the producers of “The Crown” decided to recast the entire show for the third season, which will jump ahead in time to the 1970s. Playing Elizabeth for six years would have presented its own mental demands, but at age 33, Foy is more interested in exploring her range than in trying to combat the complacency that can set in when working on a long-running show.
“I need change, and, not that I think I’ll ever get a part that’s like the queen again, but I need to play somebody who expresses themselves and is able to communicate on a more open level,” Foy says. “And that’s not Elizabeth.”
Indeed. Although the queen holds the center of the story in “The Crown,” guiding the audience through the events, Elizabeth doesn’t reveal her emotions freely. You can see her mind moving a million miles an hour, thanks to Foy’s sublime ability to convey thought through facial expressions, her eyes — “big saucer eyes that are like a window into her soul,” says Dearbhla Walsh, who directed Foy in her first lead role, 2008’s “Little Dorrit” — registering nervousness, naiveté, a growing confidence and a pained resignation to subjugating desire for duty.
After 10 hour-long episodes, Elizabeth remains something of an enigma, a woman caught between centuries of tradition and a longing to fulfill the intimate promises she made to herself and her family.
Don’t look for any dramatic changes in the show’s second season, which Foy describes as Elizabeth and her husband, Philip, still chafing at his role, facing down the ’60s and the ’60s winning every time.
“It’s a torrent coming at them and they don’t know how to cope,” Foy says of upcoming episodes, which take place between 1955 and 1964. “They judge it wrongly every single time.”
Foy’s favorite episode focuses on John and Jackie Kennedy visiting Buckingham Palace in 1961, contrasting the youth of the Kennedys with the royals’ middle-aged mopes, one couple embodying a new hope, the other a stagnation.
The women didn’t immediately bond, with Jackie telling Gore Vidal that she found the queen “pretty heavy going.” But beyond the culture shock, Foy says, the women shared a strange connection in that they were both the star attractions, much to their husbands’ resentment.
“I loved the episode because it’s about these two disparate women, women who are so very observed, coming to know each other,” Foy says. “It was such fun to play.”
The only playing Foy plans on doing now is of the park-and-playground variety. She has a 2-year-old daughter with her actor husband, Stephen Campbell Moore. When she learned of her Emmy nomination last month, she was out for an evening walk in Hampstead Heath, near their London home.
Foy shoots down any and all rumors about upcoming roles. Will she be playing Lisbeth Salander in “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” the long-delayed follow-up to the 2011 David Fincher film “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo”? (“Good god, no. I’m not even in the same arena.”) How about starring opposite Ryan Gosling in Damien Chazelle’s Neil Armstrong biopic, “First Man”? (“He’s a very special director and I loved ‘La La Land’ and … I’m not talking!”)
She issues the latter denial with the sort of enthusiastic burst that punctuates much of her conversation. When more food arrives, Foy greets each item with unbridled joy — the tandoori chicken elicits a gasp, the onion and Stilton cheese tart is “amazing!” the cucumber sandwiches are “marvelous!” — and you can understand why she’s eager to move beyond the prim and proper queen, the woman King Edward nicknamed Shirley Temple.
Not that she hasn’t come to love Elizabeth.
“Did you know that I met her once?” Foy asks. “Years and years ago I was in a Charles Dickens program with a thousand other people celebrating the bicentenary of his birth. And then I stood in line and my name was shouted out, and I shook her hand. It was really lovely.
“But I came away going, ‘God, they work hard,’” Foy adds. “It’s 11 o’clock at night; she was 85, 86. I wouldn’t want my grandmother up, shaking the hands of a thousand people at that time. But that’s her job. It’s all so regimented. I admire her because not in a million years could I do that.”
Variety – “It’s six degrees of separation,” said Nicole Kidman, of her connection to Claire Foy. The two women had gotten to know each other when Kidman was on stage in London with Foy’s husband, Stephen Campbell Moore, in a production of “Photograph 51.” But it’s their TV roles that have everyone talking — Kidman as an abused wife in HBO’s “Big Little Lies,” and Foy as the reluctant Queen in Netflix’s “The Crown.”
The actresses open up to Variety about the roles that may win them Emmy gold.
Congratulations on your Emmy nominations. What do they mean to you?
Nicole Kidman: I’m absolutely over the moon, because obviously this is something that from conception all the way to now has been my baby and to see it get acknowledged in this way is extraordinary. It’s good to have all of the cast and all of the production and the director and everyone’s nominations. It just makes for a sort of joyous celebration.
Claire Foy: I feel the same. I think it feels a bit surreal because we finished shooting the second (season) of “The Crown” now, so it feels like we’re at the end, even though (the Emmy nomination) is about the first series. So exactly the same as Nicole really, that so many people from the show have been nominated, but it’s just a lovely excuse for everyone to get back together again and celebrate something that was so lovely to do. You get to celebrate it in a way where we can all go, “Hooray!”
What do you each look for in a part? What makes you say yes to any given role?
Kidman: For me, it changes every time. It can be a director, it can be the actual character and the journey of that character, it can be a small role in a film that I feel is really compelling. It can be because it’s being directed by a woman, or it’s written by a woman, it can be because my friend’s starring in it. There’s so many different reasons I do things. But, I suppose the underlying current for me is the idea of not doing something I’ve done before. I call myself a character actor and I’m always trying to stay a character actor.
Foy: I’m one of those people where I don’t really know what it is really until it’s front of me, and I have definitely said no to things that on paper would make a lot of sense. Or would be a really great part, but for some reason, I don’t feel like I’m the right person for that part or I don’t understand it in the same way as other things. That’s not to say I’ve done things that I completely understand, because the majority of my jobs, I’ve been terrified about not really getting to the heart of it or struggling to. I’m realizing the more jobs I do and as my career goes on that there seems to be a theme of choosing the things I’m most scared of doing in a weird way. I’ve never really taken a job and not been scared of some sort of aspect of it. It’s the challenge of it, I think.
What was it about these roles in particular that made you say this was something that you wanted to do?
Foy: I think this part came along at a point where for me, because I was having a child at the time, it wasn’t so much just about the role. It just felt like a bigger life choice for me. I feel like I was making the choice to play this part without really taking into account all the elements of it in a weird way. I think I just instinctually went, “Yes, this is what I’m going to do now, and this is the decision I’m making and god knows how it’s going to go.” It’s got to be the most technically difficult job I’ve ever done, purely because when you’re playing someone who has existed, or is recognizable, it comes with a whole other set of challenges which sometimes when we’re just playing a fictionalized character, you could say it’s a little bit easier. I was very much intrigued by the idea of how on earth do I play this person and not make it a caricature and also how do I play this person when they’re really recognizable as a 60 to a 90 year old, as opposed to a 25 year old, vulnerable, confused, young mother and wife, who people know very little about. That was the challenge side of it, I suppose for me.
Kidman: Well, you triumphed. We all fell in love with you. I think I would have played any of the roles in the novel. I just wanted to get it made. Reese (Witherspoon) and I wanted to keep our promise to the author, which was we would get the book made for her, and that we wouldn’t disappoint her. I would have played any of them, but Liane (Moriarty) said, “I’ll only give you the rights if you play Celeste.” She basically cast it. I went, “Okay.” She knows the intricacies of the character, if that’s what she feels is most aligned to me, so as I delved into it, I was like, “Hmmm, OK.” Then it took on a whole different life for me. Because it was a six month shoot, I was just so absorbed in her. I’m so glad that was the role I play, and now look at the rest of the roles and think, “Oh my gosh, I couldn’t have played any of them. What was I thinking?”
Foy: How did you approach it just from being a producer in the beginning?
Kidman: We both felt frustrated with the roles we were being offered in terms of film, and not really being offered anything in television. We were like “OK, how do we make things happen for ourselves?” We’re very good friends, and I’m very good friends with her producing partner, and it was one of those situations where it was just kismet. We were all like, “Wow, this is a great book.” It just bloomed out of frustration. Then we were in the fortunate position of everything happen very quickly, so within six months, we had our writer, we had our director, we had our cast and we were just waiting to go into production.
Given that frustration about the lack of good roles, what does it mean to both of you to have embodied these two strong women. Do you think more such roles will follow?
Foy: In England, there’s been a lot of kind of controversy at the moment because it came out in the press that the BBC had been paying these female TV personalities a third of what they were paying the male TV personalities.
Foy: All of a sudden, they’ve been looking into how many women there are in drama and things like that. I feel like especially in the U.S., the female leads in TV are ever so slightly stronger than it has been in film. I think there is more opportunity for female characters to lead a show, and for people to suddenly go, “Hey, this is really interesting. It’s a woman that I recognize.” I think the conversation is should always be being had, and it should always be there, but I think that the fact that people like Nicole are finding work and making work is a sign that it’s something that needs to change, but it’s only changing by us doing it.
Kidman: I still think if you pull up the statistics, because I like to be always given the numbers because then you actually see the reality, I think it’s still pretty poor. It’s really moving rocks up the mountain. It’s certainly not easy, it’s not suddenly become easy either because of these, and “Wonder Woman’s success” didn’t suddenly open huge amounts of doors. It’s always the needle moves very slowly. But you have to keep moving forward, we don’t want to go backwards. Also the greatest thing on “Big Little Lies” was calling up people like Laura and Shailene and Zoey and hopefully if we ever get to do something, if not this, we have something else together, creating more roles that are fantastic roles for all different ages of women. But those phone calls going, “Hey, we’ve got this role, are you interested?” That’s brilliant to be able to do that.
Will we see more from that dream team that you assembled?
Kidman: Yeah, we’ll give it our best shot. You know? But it’s hard. It’s hard to get source material, it’s hard to come up with ideas, as we all know, and then it’s hard to make them compelling, and particular the standard of television now is so high, which is fantastic, but you’ve really got to do an enormous amount of preparation and thinking before you just jump in. There’s certainly things brewing and that’s just my small little contribution. We’re all trying to do it, but it just requires constant work and support and discussion.
Both of your projects, though, involved working with male showrunners and directors.
Kidman: We had just one director, Jean-Marc (Vallee), and at one point, he was going to do (half of the episodes), and then we were going to have a female, so it was going to be half and half, then we bowed down to the auteur vision, just for the series, to have him do everything, because he acquiesced and said he would. For us, that was so necessary because his style is very particular and to try and have anyone else try and come in and mimic that style I think would have been not good. Then we had obviously David E. Kelley who we went out to and asked him to write it. It was a very good balance actually. We had so many women in terms of the actors and producers, then having a male director and a male showrunner was a lovely balance. They were definitely outnumbered. The percentage was far more female skewed, but I think their contribution was really important and it was fantastic to have that male contribution. I’ve also subsequently done Jane Campion’s series (“Top of the Lake”) where that was a female director, so I had the same experience of television but with her helming it, and that was pretty special as well, and very different.
Foy: We had obviously Peter Morgan. It was interesting actually talking to him about having done “The Queen” and having done “The Audience,” he had lived with this woman for a long time, and I think he wrote her very, very well. Hans Zimmer did the music for it, and he said that he wanted it to be masculine and muscular, which I found really interesting. Because the music for “The Queen” was very romantic with violins and stuff, and obviously it was quite foreboding and overwhelming. It kind of gave the show another aspect, the music of her. I always felt like Elizabeth was a woman in a man’s world. But in a way that she wasn’t asking to be there. I’ve had lots of people say that she was a feminist and a woman in a man’s world and she was kind of forging ahead and she was a very, very reluctant figurehead and so it’s quite difficult as a modern woman to approach a person who was operating in that world. In the second (season) we have our first female director. She’s a very interesting female director, because she came from documentary so she’s approach it with absolute realism. I have to say that I absolutely adored working with all the directors that we have, male or female. But there was a sort of shorthand, I suppose, with a female director that you wouldn’t necessarily have. But it’s my job to say I don’t agree with that, I don’t think that’s right, I feel uncomfortable doing that, I don’t agree with your opinion actually about that. I don’t think a woman would ever do that. I also always think it’s very odd if there’s not a woman in the editing room, or there’s not a woman in post production somewhere who’s able to go, “Um, can I just say that I think that that,” you know, I think that’s a very important thing to get the yin-yang when you’re making something.
Was there one specific scene that was particularly challenging for you?
Kidman: It was challenging in the sense of initially just choosing to jump in and go, “Okay, we’re going to go there, and we’re going to try to tell a story sexually as well as the emotional story.” But the sexuality of this couple has to be really telling each moment and each part of their journey rather than it being a kind of time out for everybody to watch a sex scene. That was the great part of Jean-Marc, Alex (Skarsgard) and I going, “Okay, what will we have to do to make this really complicated, so people could choose to watch it, to be compelled by it, to see the toxicity of it, yet also the chemistry of it?” Each one of those scenes that we had to do was difficult at first, but then it just became imbuing the character’s journey together and why they’re together and why they’re hurting each other. It wasn’t difficult, it was just we wanted to be very precise with it and not have it be indulgent or exploitive at all. I’m just glad that people were able to get into the psyche and feel instead of judging. Which was important because I think the judgment particularly on people in abusive relationships a lot of times just falls on the victim, because it’s like, “What are you doing? Get out, show some strength. Come on. You must see it.” That sort of black and white reaction to it.
Foy: The coronation was challenging because I just didn’t want to look like I was very, “And I’m the queen!” (Sings.) I didn’t want it to be kind of like angels singing, that sort of thing. That was actually Philip Martin. Amazing director. But it was the writing, he would approach something not directly, like with the coronation, for example, from her uncle, the man who should have been King. You’re watching it from his perspective, which is really clever, because it means you’re not just doing a carbon copy of an actual event that happened, which can just be regurgitating history. I think the one thing that I always had to stop myself and be constantly be checking myself was not allowing myself to get too overemotional. To remember to put restrictions on myself in terms of my emotional capability I suppose. I’m not painting every actor into the same brush, but I’m a very emotional person and I love feeling things, so I tend to approach things kind of quite openly, I suppose. But to play someone who’s from a completely different background, a completely different time and to constantly remind myself, “Well now actually, she wouldn’t kind of be laughing so much.” So I had to remind myself to speak within the parameters and emotions. And within that, try and create thoughts of other emotions and ways of communicating. It was all a challenge in that respect.
Kidman: I also love the marriage, I love how it was the chemistry between the two of you. Just fantastic. You just danced so well together, and you really understood the bowing down and having to acquiesce and your commitment to the crown and to god and to being in a higher realm and him having to understand.
Claire, I know you’re not going to be playing her after this season. Is it going to be hard for you to let go of those comfortable shoes?
Foy: In the immediate aftermath, it never ends. Because you’ve got ADR, and you’ve got all the publicity and all those different things. The train keeps on rolling. I don’t feel that the cord has been pulled quite yet. I’m holding onto that. I think once I move onto the next character, I think, once I’ve stepped onto the next steps, I’ll realize I’m not going to play her again. That’s fine, I’ve never actually stayed in character for longer than two seasons. I’ve always for one reason or another moved on, and so that’s fine, but I feel like this part and this show and everything has been a very special part of my life for all sorts of reasons. The journey it’s gone on and the friends I’ve made. I feel like that will be the thing to let go over the fact that it’s over now, but it’s kind of stand on my own two feet, and off I go. Hopefully I won’t have a mental breakdown. I can’t wait to see who else plays her. I can’t wait to watch it from the outside and see someone else reinvent it.
You both did a lot of research to help you shape your characters. How important is that for you in any given role?
Kidman: Depends. I mean, something like “Killing of the Sacred Deer,” I didn’t do any research. Nothing. Because Yorgos Lanthimos, the director, just kind of wanted me to show up and he didn’t want any preparation or what he called, “actor-y” dialogue or discussion, so there was nothing. For “Big Little Lies,” I wanted to know a lot about abuse and the different forms of it, and the insidiousness of it. You can see Ted Talks and then I think there’s certain just emotional things that you research, but you don’t discuss. I’m a big believer in keeping some of the mystery in terms of how a performance comes to fruition, because in this day and age, every thing’s so dissected and analyzed, and there’s some magic involved. You can’t put your finger on what it is that creates those things, and so to overanalyze them, or talk about them somehow demystifies them to a place where they’re not as compelling.
Foy: If you have a director who just wants to work with you, and wants you to live it, and believe it, and the only preparation you can have, really, it’s about yourself I suppose. You just turn up and be a human being. I’ve always been ever so slightly anxious about improvisation because I do like to work with limits. I think it depends on if you know the facts, then at least you’re going to be true to a given situation. You’re not going to go wildly off into the realm of playing someone with a limp and stay within the realms of the reality for that person at that time in their life. That’s the amazing thing about being actors, is you are given the opportunity to try and understand what makes other people tick and there’s always a point with anything I do where I also go, “I’m never going to get that, I’m never going to understand it. I never will, I never will.” There is a magic there. There is a reason why people play certain parts and do certain jobs. It’s because of who they are. You can try and kind of pick that apart, understand how everyone played the part. You’d never get to the bottom. Well, I hope people don’t. I remember leading off what you said about how you love acting, because you are interested in the way that human beings work and how we feel and what we think and psychology and the way we do things. I’m with you, I think that’s kind of the amazing thing, and there is no kind of preparation for that really in a weird way.
Kidman: We get such a gift as actors, because we enter into the heads and the bodies and the hearts and the souls of other people. We see the world through other eyes a lot, and I think that puts you in a place of deep empathy if you really go in, because you get to look from all different perspectives at the human condition.