Lily James kiss scandal informed how I acted in The Crown, says Dominic West

Dominic West and Lily James pictured in Rome
Dominic West and Lily James pictured in Rome in 2020 - Backgrid

Dominic West has said a paparazzi photograph in which he appears to be kissing Lily James “informed” how he played Prince Charles’s affair in The Crown.

The married actor, who played the then Prince of Wales in the final two seasons of the popular Netflix drama about the Royal family, was famously photographed on an Italian holiday with his much younger former co-star in 2020.

In a picture of the pair in a restaurant, West, 54, can be seen leaning intimately into James, 35, in an apparent kiss.

Speaking to The Sunday Times Culture Magazine, West opened up about the furore over the paparazzi shots of him and his Pursuit of Love co-star, saying that the media frenzy “definitely” helped his performance as Charles in The Crown.

West as King Charles in The Crown with Olivia Williams as Camilla
West as King Charles in The Crown with Olivia Williams as Camilla - JUSTIN DOWNING/NETFLIX

“I’d had a very acute understanding of what it’s like to feel the horror of your name or your photo in the newspapers,” he said, adding: “There is that dreadful freezing moment when something is revealed about you. I think anyone can understand how that feels.

“But I’d been through it and it must have informed how I approached it. That gut feeling of horror isn’t something you get inured to.”

During his stint as Charles in The Crown, West played out some of the most high-profile moments of the King’s relationship with Camilla Parker Bowles, spanning from 1991 to their marriage in 2005.

Events depicted in the fifth season include the marital chaos in Charles and Diana’s relationship, her Panorama interview and the famous confession of infidelity as well as the couple’s separation and divorce.

West told the magazine that the incident with his younger co-star and the resulting media furore was “deeply stressful” for his wife and four children.

West with his wife Catherine FitzGerald
West with his wife Catherine FitzGerald - MEGA

The actor, 54, and James, 35, were pictured in Rome in 2020 appearing to be on very familiar terms as they squeezed onto a scooter together for a sightseeing trip, before stopping at a pavement table for a cosy lunch.

Just 24 hours later, West had flown home to the UK to see his wife, Catherine FitzGerald, and staged a kiss for the cameras outside their family home with a note that insisted: “Our marriage is strong.”

Speaking about the aftermath now, he said: “I hesitate to speak on my wife’s behalf because obviously it was horrible, particularly for her.

“But we do joke about it sometimes. Because whenever we went out together, the papers would always say we were ‘putting on a show of unity’. Even if we’d just been rowing about parking the car or whatever, even if that couldn’t be further from the truth.

“And so when we go out, we do sort of say, ‘Shall we go and have a show of unity up in London?’...That was the best that came out of it, really.”

The actor, who is starring in A View from the Bridge at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until August, also said his wife teases him for not being “very convincing” when playing upper class roles.

West said: “My wife, who is genuinely upper class, always tells me, ‘You’re much better in the working-class parts, you’re not very good as upper class, you’re not convincing at all.”

“Some people look good in stiff collars but I’m not one of them. I understand upper-class ways, and I like those characters, but as an outsider,” he added.