Queen Elizabeth may wear the crown, but it’s Vanessa Kirby‘s Princess Margaret who demands the spotlight in season two of Netflix’s The Crown. The Wimbledon-born actress, 29, is captivating as the Queen’s younger, badass sister—and it’s only amplified in season two. Princess Margaret, who’s fallen deeper into depression following the end of her relationship with Peter Townsend, meets her future husband and begins a family. But all is not as traditional as it seems, and Margaret continues to push boundaries at every opportunity. As Kirby tells us, “I’ve always been so uninterested in playing any kind of archetype of some pure, innocent, virginal woman. I just don’t believe it. Margaret was such a modern woman.”
Although Kirby will pass the baton to a new actress for The Crown‘s third season, she’s soaking up everything about this experience while she can. “I feel like I’ve learned so much from Margaret as a person,” she explains. “I’ve changed irreversibly, and I hope for the better.” The actors only signed on for two seasons, but Kirby says she would have played Margaret as long as possible—prosthetic wrinkles and all. “I would have [played her] forever. She’s like my girl! But I’m sure whoever plays her next will be absolutely extraordinary.” Until then, get ready for 10 new extraordinary episodes of The Crown, available December 8.
How much more protective are you of the royal family now that you’ve played Princess Margaret for two seasons?
Vanessa Kirby: Massively. That’s such a great question because at the beginning, before I did this, I was pretty critical. I didn’t understand. I love the history of the royals. They are so private and sometimes seem inaccessible, so it was such a beautiful thing to get to know them as human beings. That’s what [creator] Peter Morgan does so well; you stop watching the Queen and start watching this young woman dealing with this very difficult thing—and this other young woman, who is a princess and because of that has incredible psychological conflicts and struggles. I’m quite protective of them, especially Margaret. I love her! Wherever her soul is, I’m like, “You are the greatest! I hope you’re having the most amazing time up there!” Every time someone tells me a story about her, I love her even more. It’s just the most amazing gift. To have had a part like this, I just feel like the luckiest person ever.
Season two explores Margaret’s relationship with photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones, who just passed away earlier this year. From what we know, he was bisexual and had a baby with another woman right before he married Margaret.
Vanessa: It’s so fascinating and scandalous, but so unsurprising that Margaret would go for somebody who’s kind of dangerous and hidden and bohemian and cool and edgy and tough and sexy. It was just perfect. We just had the happiest times [shooting those scenes] and just laughed and laughed. It was incredible.
Margaret is definitely the most relatable character this season. So much of what she goes through in terms of heartache is something everyone can identify with. For example, when she finds out her ex, Peter Townsend, is engaged to someone else, she says, “I should have found happiness first.”
Vanessa: In the script, Elizabeth originally says, “I hope this isn’t a race.” That line ended up being cut in that scene because you didn’t need to see Claire [Foy] say it. With one look, she conveys 10 million things. I wanted to inform the impatience and desire to marry Tony, in the same way that Margaret went absolutely into it head first with Peter.
There’s a line in the beginning of episode four where Margaret says weddings are an absolutely bore unless they are yours. I loved that.
Vanessa: She gets it! [Laughs] Margaret had been to so many of them, having had been denied her own [by the Queen]. You just want Margaret by your side because she says everything you’re thinking. That’s why I love her.
Margaret tells her sister that she is “a woman for the modern age who is free to live, to love, and to break away.” Talk about a powerful statement.
Vanessa: I just loved that she felt like she’s found herself for the first time, and I love that I got to play that this season. I thought about playing it super vulnerable and super open and “I’m free now, don’t you understand?” But of all the things that passed between them, Margaret still has this brittleness where she still has to assert herself, and it’s a struggle to be a modern woman. It’s not easy. It’s hard to define yourself because the man has had such a dominance over the last how many centuries. I think it’s our duty now to step up, to step into our power, and start asking and stating who we are and what we want more than we ever had. So I love that about Margaret, and I think that’s why people like her because she’s trying at least not to conform and break away from what everyone expects of her.
This season is the last for you and the rest of the actors, because the next few seasons of The Crown will jump in time. But would you have gone through the aging process just to keep playing her?
Vanessa: Yes, I would have done it. Usually a commitment of six seasons would seem really scary. Two seasons was quite appealing to begin with because then you feel like you’re not stuck with something, but this I would have gone with forever. I said to Peter [Morgan, the creator], “I don’t care! I’ll get as many wrinkles as you want to keep playing her!” She’s my girl! It’s weird passing her off, but I’m sure whoever plays her next will be absolutely extraordinary.
Is there a chance you could come back in flashbacks? Because two very popular characters actually do pop up again this season.
Vanessa: I would love that, but I think that it wouldn’t be for a while, if ever. Once they establish the new faces of the people, if you then put suddenly ours back in there, the viewer might be like, “Whoa! I’ve just accepted that this is now the Queen.” But if anyone is going to cast it successfully, Nina Gold is the one to do it.
How has this experience changed you?
Vanessa: I don’t even have the words for it. I just feel so grateful to do this job. I feel like I’ve learned so much from Margaret as a person. I’ve learned so much from watching people like Claire and Matt. I feel supported by all the producers and directors. They’re like family. I think I’ve changed irreversibly really, and I hope for the better. Things bother me less in a way, because I’ve had such a happy time that, in a way, you can’t expect everything to be amazing all the time. I’ve been so lucky to have something in my life be so beautiful that everything else becomes brilliant, too. I feel undeserving and incredibly lucky and just so grateful to have experienced a role as wonderful as Margaret in my lifetime.
Did you take anything from the set to commemorate your experience?
Vanessa: I think once I went home in one of her necklaces by mistake! But it actually was! I mean, we don’t wear the real jewels. They’re fake, but they look real. I think I was wearing something really casual and then I went to dinner and was like, “What is that?! Oh God, it’s Margaret’s! Oh shit!” [Laughs] I have this little ring, which was our Peter Townsend ring. In the first season, she wore this ring that he gave her, which is this little black stone, so that’s really special. Also, they gave me a really beautiful picture…it’s not beautiful of me, it’s beautiful of Margaret, but it’s the picture in the newspaper at the end of episode four. They gave me that picture and that kind of encapsulates the transformation she goes through to become a modern princess. That really means a lot to me. That’s at home, though I don’t know if I’ll put it on my wall because that might be a little weird, but I’ve got pictures of her everywhere in my house anyway!