Making The Crown

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NETFLIX’s award-winning series The Crown launched its second season on Dec. 8, continuing the series’ exquisite narration of Britain’s history through the reign of Queen Elizabeth II.

The Crown Season 2 shows the queen’s younger years as the monarch and her family live through the 1950s and the swinging ’60s.

“Season 2 picks up from 1956 and continues with the Suez crisis and it then goes from 1956 to 1963,” Andy Stebbing, the series’ co-producer, said in an interview at the series’ main filming location, Elstree Studios in Hertfordshire, England.

As in the first season, the show’s producers wanted to depict Britain’s major political events in painstaking detail but were quick to point out that the series is “not a documentary” but a “character-driven drama” written by Peter Morgan, the show’s creator.

“The detail is probably what makes it so good and so watchable. We’re trying to show our audience what it’s like being part of the royal family, so the detail is incredibly important, especially to get the [historical] events right. We spend a lot of time trying to get the detail right, from the costumes to the actors, even down to the extras — from the footman to the number of horses there were in the real event. But then sometimes it is good to deviate from that as well,” Stebbing said.

To show how much work goes into making The Crown, Stebbing, along with the show’s supervising art director Mark Ragget, costume designer Jane Petrie, costume coordinator Jo Bradley, and textile artist Louisa Sorrentino, gave a group of visiting journalists a tour of the show’s production sets at Elstree Studios.

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Mark Ragget, The Crown’s supervising art director, said the show employs scenic artists whose job is to “age” set pieces. The Crown Season 2, he explained, depicts a post-war Britain, which means interiors of royal residences were not looked after and “were a bit of run-down.” Scenic artists would then come to the set to do marbling and graining, create water stains on furniture and add crackle to paintings to make them look worn. Above photo shows Claire Foy shooting a scene in Lancaster Mansion, one of the show’s film locations. — Photo: Robert Viglasky / Netflix
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An actor playing the famed photographer Cecil Beaton captures Philip’s (Matt Smith) first official portrait as a Prince. Shot in Lancaster Mansion, one of the show’s film locations.
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“You probably heard people refer to it as Queen’s crown and the King’s crown. Well that’s erroneous. There’s no such thing,” said Major David Rankin-Hut, the show’s royal advisor. “There’s only the Royal Crown. But the difference is, when a new queen or king ascends the throne, he or she can change it slightly. Photo shows Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) formally making Philip (Matt Smith) a British Prince — Photo: Robert Viglasky / Netflix
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Some scenes require computer-generated imagery (CGI) to illustrate the scale of a major event. The show hired a visual effects studio that does crowd replication, photo real digital set extensions, and other visual effects. 
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Scenes that show cars entering and exiting the gates of the Buckingham Palace, politicians gathering at Downing Street, and the queen boarding the plane at the London airport are filmed at Elstree Studios’s back lot and are then edited to add CGI. — Photo: Stuart Hendry / Netflix
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While the show has a room filled with vintage pieces worn by characters and extras, it also has its own dye shop where Jane Petrie, the show’s costume designer, works with textile artist Louisa Sorrentino to design special outfits for certain scenes. Costume coordinator Jo Bradley said that oftentimes, Petrie would find a picture, which she’ll take down to the dye workshop and have Sorrentino screen-print it into a fabric and have it tailored by a dressmaker. “The costumes that we make for the main cast are not necessarily the exact replica of what the Royal family wore. There is a certain degree of artistic license between Jane and the directors. It gives us an idea of shape and feel. But sometimes there is a change of color or change of shape,” she said. “Jane has got color palettes for each location. So it might be teal and green on one location, or it might be sort of ambers and browns. She does this so the actors kind of pop out a little bit but also as a crowd that they look kind of united,” she said. — Photo: Alex Bailey / Netflix
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Final preparations for the Queen Mother, played by Victoria Hamilton — Photo: Robert Viglasky / Netflix
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Racks of vintage pieces worn by the shows’s characters — Photo: DESWILLIE / Netflix
The Queen (Claire Foy) and Jackie Kennedy (Jodi Balfour) share a moment. — Photo: Alex Bailey / Netflix