Tobias Menzies On Playing Prince Philip In "The Crown": "He Wants To Sort Of Break Out"
The actor talked to BuzzFeed News about his character's most emotionally resonant episode to date.
In the latest season of The Crown, which is now streaming on Netflix, the thought of growing older within the confines of one of the world’s longest-running institutions, the British monarchy, is a big concern for many characters.
But it seems that no one has felt the passage of time more than Prince Philip, played by Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones, Outlander). In Season 3, Episode 7 ("Moondust"), his character opens up emotionally like we’ve never seen before.
Menzies, who spoke to BuzzFeed News over the phone about the new season, recalled filming one of the flying scenes in the episode. It takes place right after Philip — already feeling weighed down by the monotony of life in Buckingham Palace — watches astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launch into space in July 1969.
“It's more this idea of agency and freedom that he associates flying with and obviously he associates the astronauts with,” he said in reference to the tense aerial scene in which his character pushes a private plane to its limits, seemingly aiming to fly through Earth’s atmosphere like the astronauts he admires.
He added, “And for a moment, yeah, he wants to sort of break out of the constraints of his life and the timetable. It felt like a strong visual kind of scene to articulate him sort of reaching for something.”
He said he was taken with the character after watching Matt Smith’s portrayal in the show's first two seasons. Menzies was fascinated with portraying someone on the show who “is not the most expressive” and peeling back what’s going on with “the bigger emotions that might be coursing through him.”
Overall, he said, the moon landing episode is a way for Philip to work through his feelings of “what it cost him to be part of this marriage,” as well as introducing the notion that “he might not have fulfilled his potential in some way.”
The role of Prince Philip piqued his interest because he was a fan of Peter Morgan's, the show's creator and showrunner, and the show's first two seasons. Menzies said he found the complexity of the show mesmerizing, citing the “interesting combination of family drama [with] a larger insight into the sort of institutions and leadership” in Britain as uniquely compelling.
In preparation for the role, he said, he did not actively attempt to make his take on Prince Philip different from that of his predecessor, “because it was going to be different anyway” with him bringing his own flavor to the role. The actor said he relied much more on primary sources, including audio recordings and video footage of the prince from the 1960s and ’70s, to “get close to” the role.
Ahead of the new season, Menzies said, he felt a “bit of trepidation” for how fans would receive the new cast, especially since viewers had become accustomed to a younger version of the royal family. But ultimately, he said, “maybe that’s exciting to take that on.”
“The story needs to move on,” he said. “They get older and, you know, that seems as interesting and a fun way of doing it as any.”