The Crown is a series looking at the life of Queen Elizabeth II. Her’s is an interesting story and her marriage is a story of love and devotion. Elizabeth is essentially the unexpected queen, having grown up far from the line of succession. Then her grandfather died and her uncle became king then shortly abdicated, leaving her father to take the throne. He died at the young age of 56 and Elizabeth found herself on the throne. One of the essential characters in her first years was Winston Churchill. Playing Churchill in the series is John Lithgow, who recently spoke to the media about this show and his role.
“Well, I would say the hardest thing was just getting over the fear,” the actor acknowledged. “I was very intimidated by the entire prospect of playing Churchill, being an American playing the ultimate Englishman among the best theater and film actors in England. I simply immersed myself in the history of Churchill, as much video and audio as I could find, all spring before I even came to England to start rehearsing. I found that just about every Englishman I met had an impeccable impersonation of Winston Churchill. This scares the hell out of you. But I just, you know, the way I approach any acting role, there’s me and there’s the character, the real life character, if it happens to be a real life character. It’s sort of like Venn diagram. What I come up with is some amalgam of the two of us. The entire challenge is, in my own mind, forgetting the real Churchill at a certain point and making viewers forget the real Churchill and making him just as authentic as I can.”
Churchill is a well-known figure and anyone who lived during his lifetime knows of him and his devotion to his country and freedom. “What people mostly know about Winston Churchill is an extremely public figure, a famous figure from history. Everyone has heard his speeches. What’s really fascinating is looking behind that. It’s very hard to find footage or audio of the real Churchill. He is extremely different from the public, very stentorian and oratorical Churchill. But when you find him, it’s gold.”
John Lithgow was excited to take on this role. The award-winning actor is known for both comedy and drama. Besides his research of Sir Winston Churchill, Lithgow credits his costumers and makeup artists with transforming him into the historic figure. “I had the greatest fat suit ever created. I’m about 14 inches taller than he was, so I simply thought small. And bit by bit I turned into my version of Churchill.”
Besides John Lithgow, The Crown also stars Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II and Matt Smith as Philip Mountbatten.
The Crown premiers November 4 on Netflix.