After two seasons of The Crown, my routine is fairly well-developed. I watch a scene. I Google. I watch another scene. I Google again. Did Prince Philip (Matt Smith) really cheat on Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy)? (Maaaaybe.) Does the queen really have her own private train? (Yes.) Were the corgis actually that adorable? (Obviously!)
Let's be clear: The Crown is a work of fiction, albeit one based on true events. But the reason everything feels so real is because the show is a trove of detail — from the gold embellishments of Buckingham Palace, down to the minutiae of royal protocol that governs almost every aspect of the queen's life.
In any other context, this could all be excruciatingly boring. It's a testament to the show's creator and writer, Peter Morgan, that the 10-episode seasons, the second of which was released on December 8, feel like a naughty peek behind the curtain of royal life, rather than a history class taught by Ben Stein.
That binge-worthy narrative is built on the bricks laid by Morgan's crew and research team, who pore through the books, documents, and photographs that inform the end result. For Season 2, that meant delving into a timeline of historical events ranging from the Suez Crisis to the Profumo Affair. And then there's all the stuff we associate with royalty: the palaces, the yachts, the carriages, the gowns, and of course, the crowns.
The Crown presents a particular challenge because, unlike period dramas that take place before the era of television, there is actual, real-life footage of most of its major events. In other words, people will know if you get it wrong. Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones' (Matthew Goode) wedding, the focal point of Season 2's seventh episode, was the first-ever televised British royal wedding, and almost 20 million viewers tuned in. It's a kind of double-edged sword that on the one hand, provides ample resources for research, but is also a point of comparison for nosy viewers who want to do a little digging of their own.
So, what's it like to work behind the scenes of Netflix's most expensive and ambitious production? To find out, I spoke to some of the people responsible for making all the royal magic happen.