The English Royalty has always been of interest to many cultures all over the world, and America especially, as England is after all, our Mother. With Netfilx‘s epic series, The Crown, the storytellers go beyond the surface of the gilded castles and the elegant costumes to offer a glimpse of the real life family dynamics between Queen Elizabeth II and her father, sister, mother, husband and Winston Churchill as a beloved mentor, rather than merely the icons we think we know.
Although the crew was thrilled to work with a big budget, one of their biggest challenges was the mandate of the ten week prep time. This would include recreating and shooting the Queen’s spectacular wedding as well as her official coronation. Martin Childs, the project’s production designer and Michele Clapton, their costume designer, served the series well, indeed.
Childs began his work in the British television industry as supervising art director on the wildly popular series, Press Gang, where he would meet writer/producer Steven Moffat of Doctor Who and Sherlock fame. Childs is more known for his work on Shakespeare in Love (1998) and the exquisite Hughes Brothers‘ film, From Hell (2001). Childs began his remarks about working on The Crown versus From Hell by noting, “Well that is a VERY different London, isn’t it.”
One of his biggest concerns on the award winning epic series was being constantly aware of locations that could pass for Buckingham Palace and “just the sheer mileage of the place.” He had to be considerate of the fact that the crew could use and break down a location for more than one part of the family’s intimate world. Childs especially wanted to establish the Queen and her husband, Philip‘s private sleeping quarters as a character.
Philip’s bedroom was separate from the Queen’s, but importantly, was always kept in view within frames. Childs was going for a “frames within frames look.” Another example was using the Villa Windsor in Paris for the Coronation scenes and then quickly converting it back to Buckingham Palace. Childs never wanted the locations to actually stand out, as his aim was to create a world where the emotional lives of the Queen, her sister Princess Margaret, Philip and Churchill especially, could be believed, instead of the audience concentrating on the family’s impossible wealth. Significantly, Childs added, “at that point, the country was on its knees and Churchill had no more money to spend.” With a bit of constraint, Childs was able to show how their world was starting to decay.
Similarly, costume designer Michele Clapton’s goal was not to make her work on The Crown stand out as extraordinary, but to tell the story with the costumes. She noted she was lucky enough to work with an enormous team to handle the intense and busy schedule. Clapton revealed, “The directors had the confidence to
allow you to get on with the work. There isn’t time to have many discussions with a schedule like this.” Known for her Emmy winning work on Game of Thrones, Clapton and her team were united in the goal to tell the story visually. “So few of us know the real story of this incredible young woman put in this situation with her husband, sister and mother.” The BAFTA award winner began her film career with the beloved director, Richard Stanley, on his thriller, mystery, horror film Dust Devil in 1992 in Africa in Namibia. It was an exciting adventure indeed to work with the young director on his low budget film as she said she loved the “making, breaking, serving, ripping, sewing and frantic pace.” On the the grand episodes of The Crown, she is concerned with recruiting, having enough people, filling the massive space and working with the best craftspeople in the business.