When “The Crown” star Matt Smith was asked if he knew whether or not the Royal Family has watched “The Crown,” he gave IndieWire a line from classic spy thrillers: “If I’d told you, I’d have to kill you.”
That’s an unusual thing for an actor to say while promoting their show, but Smith did at least clarify that “I’m pretty certain that someone has seen it. In fact, I know that someone else has seen it.”
Then he repeated: “But if I told you which ones, I’d have to kill you.”
While it remains a mystery as to whom Smith was referring, he was otherwise relatively candid about shooting Season 2 of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Smith plays Prince Philip, husband to Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy), in the series.
Season 2 marked the end of his participation in the award-winning drama dramatizing the life of the British royal family, beginning with the early years of Queen Elizabeth and ending… well, we’re not really sure yet.
The show is recasting all its major roles due to a planned time jump forward — it’s confirmed that the show will continue on for Season 3, with Olivia Colman announced as the successor to Foy’s Golden Globe-winning turn as the Queen. It’s a choice that Smith sees as a benefit, given the amount of history to mine.
“What’s so clever about it is you get to cover so much. You’ve still got Thatcher to come. You’ve still got Clinton, and before then there’s Nixon… there’s some really interesting characters coming our way,” he said. “And then politically… I mean eventually, they’re going to have to get to Donald Trump. How are they going to do that?”
Not to mention Princess Diana, and the epic drama surrounding her presence. “Her entrance into the family and her death are going to be crippling,” Smith said, noting that he believes creator Peter Morgan will continue the series at least to that point. “[Morgan] would go that far. It will go that far, I really believe it. I think it’s too important not to. I think we’ve got it, now we’ve started. Who knows? I am not Peter Morgan. I don’t write 10 episodes of ‘The Crown’ every year so I’m sure that’s not without its difficulties. I just think there’s so much to explore, you know?”
While Morgan has made a career out of dramatizing British politics, writing films like “The Queen” and “The Special Relationship” to spotlight specific incidents of British history, “The Crown” represents perhaps his most dedicated effort, one that Smith views as “really important,” because of how Morgan approaches these historic figures.
“I think he is quite tough on them as characters. It’s sort of easy to idolize them and you can’t — even someone like Philip,” Smith said. “Even in Season 2, he does stuff where you go: ‘Man!’ And there’s that whole part of his story where you’re like, ‘where does he go? What does he do? Does he come back? What’s going on? I don’t know!'”
As Smith continued, “These aren’t easy things that Peter is investigating, I suppose. But ultimately, that’s what makes you care about them as a family. That’s what’s really important. Because we recognize them to be like us.”
While Smith will be enjoying Season 3 from the sidelines, he’s well-prepared for the experience of letting a show go, thanks to his breakthrough role in British drama — playing the 11th Doctor of “Doctor Who.”
“I am aware of what it’s like to hand over a part you really like playing to someone else,” he said. “I always knew that was going to be the case, and actually as an actor, I am quite happy. I am quite pleased about it because, being honest with you, the idea of spending six seasons on anything makes me feel a little jittery… I think if they pull off this feat of TV where every two years they change the cast — what a wonderful thing to be part of.”
Still, there’s a lot he says he’ll miss from being on the show: “I’ll miss Claire. And I’ll miss Vanessa. I’ll miss my friends. I’ll miss Stephen Daldry. And I’ll miss the quality of the writing. Peter’s writing is so brilliant,” he said. “But I feel really lucky that I’ve got to play this wonderful iconic man and that it was different to the work I’d done before. A bit like I did with ‘Doctor Who,’ I’ll just tune in as a fan.”
“The Crown” Season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.