Actor Tobias Menzies speaks on portraying the late Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, in seasons three and four of Netflix’s historical drama series The Crown (2016-), which has won multiple awards, such as the Primetime Emmys. Menzies has just been nominated for an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series, for his role in the series.
What is it about Prince Philip that intrigued you to take on a challenging role like that?
The truth is that there are bits of me in all of it. The only way I know how to do these things is to personalise it as much as I can and try and find stuff to relate to in all of them. It’s nice when you don’t know so much about the actress you’re watching, there’s something mysterious about that, and allows you to receive the story in a more straightforward way than if you’re conscious of the biography of the person themselves. What I like about acting is you can explore different bits of your personality, some of them quite suppressed.
The casting is perfect, how did all of you get along on the sets?
It’s been a real blessing that we have got along. It’s been, in that regard, a really fruitful experience. I hope that shows in the screening of the work as I think, we’re representing a family. A strange family, but it is a family, and so you need those kinds of gradients and we have very talented people who contribute in very interesting ways to the show.
The Queen doesn’t seem to discuss politics with the Duke in the show, do you think it’s true in real life?
What we do know is that she has been disciplined in remaining apolitical so she doesn’t express preference for different leaders or parties and in that regard I think she fulfilled the role successfully, if that’s what you want in your constitutional monarchy. But it’s possible that they do get into it when they’re on their own and maybe they do gossip and discuss the different personalities. They certainly have a front-row seat in terms of interacting on a personal level with individuals who are involved in these large political events and so have a unique insight into it. It would be interesting to know whether she is as apolitical in person as she is in her role.
You play the role of a much older man compared to your age; how did you pull it off so effortlessly?
The grey in the wig added agency into me. We didn’t do any prosthetics beyond that in terms of my face. It’s hard as you can easily get a bit theatrical. I guess you can act a little stiffer of joint and have a little slower walk. He is also arguably emotionally repressed. You get a sense atmospherically that there’s a lot of emotion of him. I always think that when I listen and watch his interviews that he’s not a cool person. There’s a lot of emotion in him even if he doesn’t directly express it.
How would you describe the relationship between Prince Philip and his children?
This stuff feels delicate. There are clips of him being affectionate, a good father, a warm father and that’s not something that we portray much but certainly the sort of dominant parent relationship he has is with Charles in this show and there seems to be evidence that it is a challenging relationship for him. It seems from the outside their approach to feelings and one’s personal life are at different ends of the spectrum. Philip’s approach to difficult emotions is that he just wouldn’t do it like Charles does. Charles is from a different generation. He’s more emotionally available. I think when he becomes King he will be very different. I love working with [Josh O’Connor], he’s absolutely superb as Charles. I didn’t always get loads to do with him but I got a scene to do with him in the first episode of this season. It was a great few hours.