The Emmy nominee recalls the moment she found out she would playing the iconic role

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The first time Emma Corrin stepped foot on the set of The Crown was actually during season 3, not season 4 when she made her onscreen debut as Princess Diana.

"They were doing some pickups for season 3 and they had asked me to come to set where they were filming to do a chemistry read with Josh [O'Connor, who played Prince Charles]," she says in the new issue of PEOPLE, on stands now.

"I remember we did the scene a couple of times and then Ben [Caron, the director] turned to Suzanne [Mackie, the producer] and was like, 'Can I do it now?' And he sort of got down and was like, 'Will you be Diana?' It felt kind of like a marriage proposal."

Needless to say Corrin said yes.

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Credit: Hollie Fernando

Corrin, 25, got to work researching Diana. "To start with there was a lot of reading, and watching and that kind of thing," she says. "But I actually found that I sort of reached a bit of a brick wall with it."

So she began working with a choreographer, who helped her with the many dance scenes in The Crown. "A lot changed when I started working with Polly Bennett and we did a lot of character and movement stuff together," says Corrin. "We started working on basically figuring her out, inside out. So taking our story, the scripts, and figuring out her arc over the series and what she'd be feeling at this moment, and then why she would do that."

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It was successful, as last month Corrin's work was nominated for an Emmy for best supporting actress in a drama series. Even some of Princess Diana's friends reached out to her. "And I had heard from them, and it was really wonderful to sort of hear how much it had meant to them," she says.

While the journey has been intense, she's grateful to have shared it with O'Connor, 31.

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Emma Corrin as Princess Diana
| Credit: Des Willie/Netflix

"He is just the best friend I could have wished for," says Corrin. "Just constantly had my back. And we have a very similar sense of humor, and that kind of thing. I think our lives have changed in quite similar ways, but we have similar philosophies on that kind of thing, which is really, really helpful. I feel very, very grateful to have had him by my side and to have him by my side now."

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Prince Charles (Josh O'Connor) and Lady Diana Spencer (Emma Corrin) in The Crown
| Credit: Des Willie/Netflix

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The Crown seasons 1–4 are streaming on Netflix now, and the 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will air September 19 at 8 p.m. ET on CBS.