The Crown is nearly here — and with it, an intimate look at the future queen and her prince.
The highly anticipated 10-episode Netflix series, set to premiere on Friday, will follow a 21-year-old Princess Elizabeth (Claire Foy) from her marriage to Prince Philip (Matt Smith) in 1947 to the sudden death of her father George VI (Jared Harris).
Speaking with PEOPLE, Foy and Smith opened up about stepping into the shoes — and private chambers — of two iconic public figures.
Once she joined the project, the 32-year-old English actress quickly found that research on Queen Elizabeth II was hard to come by: Whereas with Philip, “there’s a wealth of information because his life wasn’t lived from the age of birth in the public eye … [but it’s] impossible to get firsthand accounts of Elizabeth because she’s so protected. And if you do get them, it’s [from] someone who isn’t coming into it straight.”
Smith, 34, admits he learned that the “fascinating” future Duke of Edinburgh’s “had a very traumatic early life in many ways. So when you learn about all that, it really informs you who he is now. He has a real sense of trying to keep the family together, and he wants to have a sense of family — and when you understand his previous life it really gives you a context of who he is now.”
Adds Foy, “What surprised me most was seeing how much he’s a family man, and maybe she is not the conventional mother that we imagined.”
Noting that their inspirations are “so real and complicated,” Foy and Smith tease some moments in the series about which viewers could have only speculated up to this point.
Of tense, private scenes, Smith promises, “They’re the most revealing and normal, but the most dramatic and charged with so much stuff.”
Foy adds that show is “a real portrayal of marriage, it’s not sugarcoated. It’s not a ‘prince’ and a ‘princess’ having a relationship, it’s tough. They’ve got two kids when she comes to throne, it’s a real 1950s conventional marriage and it’s a shock to the core by her having to become the queen.”
She continues, “Just seeing them living together in that space and the dynamic of their relationship is very interesting. They’re very, very different characters, but somehow their love for each other is stronger than all of that.”
The Crown begins streaming Friday on Netflix.