Prince Charles may be one of the most famous royals in the world, but that doesn’t mean anyone outside the House of Windsor truly knows him.
“I was a big fan of the show, but in my mind’s eye was the Spitting Image (comedy) version of Prince Charles,” O’Connor tells Screen International about his preparations for Season 3 of the hit Netflix show.
“When I sat down with (creator and writer) Peter Morgan… I realized that – as with all the characters in The Crown – they are never quite what they seem in reality.”
The “trick,” according to O’Connor, is to remember that the image we have of Prince Charles is one that's been deliberately honed through decades of carefully packaged photo opportunities and public engagements.
“He is presenting a version of himself that he wants people to see,” says the actor, who's onscreen relationship with newcomer Emma Corrin as Princess Diana will be a key feature of Season 4 of the show.
The huge responsibility of stepping into the heart of one of the history's most famous romances is also something that isn't lost on O'Connor, 30.
“We all have a set position on the dynamic between Charles and Diana,” he tells Screen International. “It’s been great to have the ability to either fight against that or, at times, acknowledge it and also to challenge any question of, ‘Did he ever love her?’
"Personally I think he must have done," he continues. "There’s a wealth of layers and richness to Charles and Diana, and I loved seeking that out.”
Fortunately, fans won't have to wait too long to see O'Connor and Corrin's version of the ill-fated romance either. While other shows were forced to shut down production because of the coronavirus pandemic, The Crown was able to quickly wrap up filming its fourth season a few days earlier than anticipated, indicating that the show may possibly air sometime later this year.
This will see Oscar-winning actress Olivia Colman come back to reprise her role as Queen Elizabeth, alongside Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret and Erin Doherty as Princess Anne.
O'Connor's mind, however, it's currently focused on Season 4 and his opportunity to continue playing Charles. A man he sees as tortured by the demands of duty on his personal, public, and romantic life — something that was brought to life in Season 3 of The Crown through the Prince's frowned-upon romance with Camilla Shand (now Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall).
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“What’s so great about The Crown is that the dynamics at the heart of it are the dynamics of family,” says O’Connor.
“There’s no purpose to Charles’ life other than this idea of duty and power, but he can’t experience that until his mother dies. And he doesn’t want his mother to die. He can’t really enjoy his privilege. He is stripped of that freedom.”