The Crown: Dominic West defends ‘brave’ Diana ghost scenes from backlash

Dominic West joked he was 'fatter' than King Charles as he responds to claims he's too sexy for the role

Watch: Dominic West responds to the Diana 'ghost' controversy

The Crown's Dominic West has defended the Diana ghost scenes following the controversy.

Talking to Yahoo UK ahead of the launch of the second half of season six of Netflix's royal drama, West says: "I think my initial reaction when I read it was to go, 'Oooh, that’s quite brave.'

"You don’t really expect it in The Crown to have the supernatural suddenly and to have such an artificial dramatic device. Then playing it and then watching it, I thought, 'How else are you going to get very, economically and quickly into what Charles is thinking about Diana at that moment? And what the Queen was thinking about Diana at that terrible time?'

"And I thought it worked brilliantly in that way because that's really what The Crown's about: what are these people thinking about? What are these public people really thinking?

"And that seemed to me a brilliant device to understand that."

Dominic West defended his scenes with Diana's ghost after the backlash
Dominic West defended his scenes with Diana's ghost after the backlash (Netflix)

Season six hasn't been shy of controversy so far, opening with Princess Diana's fatal car crash. Then, upping the ante, young Charles encounters Diana’s so-called spectre when he is flying her body back home from the morgue in Paris.

Talking about shooting his scenes with Elizabeth Debicki, the star of The Wire adds that the 'ghost' scene enabled him to have more scenes with his on-screen wife.

"It was emotional," he explains.

"When I heard that Elizabeth was playing Diana — having long thought she’s an amazing actress — that, ‘Oh God, we’ll have all these scenes’ and of course we have almost none. We had the long scene in the last season and really this one was the only other one.

"And so it was always good news to get a scene with Elizabeth and so I’m delighted that her ghost came back! Otherwise I’d never have acted with her again."

Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki star as Charles and Diana in The Crown. (Netflix)
Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki star as Charles and Diana in The Crown. (Netflix)

It was filming these emotional scenes in The Crown that proved to be the most challenging for West. "It’s always hard to burst into tears," he says. "Peter [Morgan] wrote him as very, very emotional as howling in the hills of Scotland and howling in the hospital in Paris.

"And I did think 'God, how does someone you know as being unemotional and someone who's very British in that way, what are they like when they're going through emotional turmoil?' And that was tricky to try and work out.”

But the actor mastered it by drawing on his own life experiences, saying: "All you’ve got is your own life and that’s all you ever have as an actor really. It was just a common humanity."

The Crown season 6 (Netflix)
There was controversy over Diana appearing as a spectre in The Crown season 6 (Netflix)

Another criticism The Crown viewers keep coming back to is that West is too good looking to play the then-Prince Charles and that TV bosses looked past this on casting him. "Well, I’ve had worse criticisms," laughs West.

In his humble way, the actor playfully said he was "much fatter and older than Charles" at the age he’s trying to depict him. He added: "So no, it’s a nice critique to get. Why do they look past [my good looks]? I don't know. I think I'm much fatter and older than Charles is at the same age that I'm trying to depict him. So I didn't really think of it like that.

"But hopefully, especially this season, it's so much about his interior life and so much so emotional. The Crown is really all about getting under the appearance of the public face. And so that hopefully helps me get away with it."

King Charles pictured with his sons Prince Harry and William
Dominic West mastered the role of King Charles who is pictured here with his sons William and Harry (Getty)
The Crown season 6 (Netflix)
Dominic West playfully joked he was 'fatter' than Charles as he plays him in The Crown season 6 (Netflix)

In real life, West has previously said he loved Princess Diana but playing Charles made him have "a lot more sympathy" for the current King.

He explains "You do inevitably find yourself having sympathy, you're embodying in some way and portraying the inner life of this public figure and inevitably therefore you find common humanity and therefore empathy.

"I lived through Diana's death obviously and all the press and the reports that we had about him, her trial during it and he was the villain of the piece really. And so inevitably I do feel since doing The Crown a bit more sympathy for him, a lot more for it."

Only having a few scenes with Debicki, he admitted he didn't really need to bring his love of Diana to the role. He jests: "Hopefully I didn't let it interfere too much but I wonder if Charles was affected by the public adoration of Diana in the way that we all were? But, I don't know, that's a good question though. I find it hard to answer."

Dominic West had great admiration for his on-screen wife Camilla played by Olivia Williams
Dominic West had great admiration for his on-screen wife Camilla played by Olivia Williams (Justin Downing/Netflix)

West also shares his great admiration for Olivia Williams, who plays his on-screen lover and then wife Camilla. Of his most rewarding moment in The Crown, he says: "I think getting to know Olivia Williams probably because she's great," he said. "She's an amazing person and I got to do loads of scenes with her and we had a ball."

He adds: "I had a ball with all the actors, they're really great actors. When Jonathan Pryce, Lesley Manville and Imelda were in the room, you sort of look, 'f***! I'm with some of the top three actors in the world' really. And that was an amazing experience."

Naturally taking on the role of a real life living king was going to be a little daunting. Having once said he nearly turned the role down, he admits: "I had reasonable grounds for being anxious about or apprehensive about taking the part on. Not least because Josh O'Connor had made such a success of it.

Dominic West in the role of Charles in The Crown (Netflix)
Dominic West in the role of Charles in The Crown (Netflix)

"But people like me can't turn down stuff like this. It's a great, great dramatist writing at the top of his game. And you're with really good directors and really good actors in wonderful scenes and so I've loved every second of it, to be honest."

Coming into the successful series mid-way through was a "mixed blessing", West acknowledges. He explains: "You're on a great show but you've taken over from people, the audience has grown to love and love their performance.

"And Peter said when I first took the job, he said, 'You'll find the first season tricky, much harder because you're getting used to it and we're getting used to you and the second season will be that you're in, it will be much more relaxed and you don't worry about that so much and the audience doesn't worry about it so much.'

"And I definitely found that to be true."

The Crown S6 Part 2 hits Netflix on 14 December.

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