'The Crown' Seasons 5 and 6: New Cast Members, Timeline and Everything We Know
By Stacy Lambe
With The Crown season 4 now streaming on Netflix, anticipation is already ramping up for the upcoming next two seasons of the Emmy-winning historical drama about the royal family. Over the past year, the streaming platform announced some of the new stars taking over for the current cast in season 5 -- prepare to say goodbye to Olivia Colman and hello to Imelda Staunton -- and confirmed that season 6 will be its last. From the cast to the timeline, here is everything ET knows about the final two seasons of creator Peter Morgan’s series:
New Cast Members
Per tradition of the series, The Crown recasts the lead roles every two seasons, meaning that following seasons 3 and 4 audiences will get a whole new cast. So far, Netflix has announced several key roles, including Staunton taking over for Colman as Queen Elizabeth II, Jonathan Pryce following Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Lesley Manville stepping in for Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Elizabeth Debicki playing Princess Diana after Emma Corrin originated the role in season 4, and Dominic West replacing Josh O'Connor as Prince Charles.
Other major roles still to be announced include Princess Anne, who was originated on screen by Erin Doherty in season 3, and her younger siblings, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, who seem likely to appear in smaller roles after making their debuts in season 4, with the former going through his own martial problems with Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson, around the same time as Charles and Diana.
And given that a young Prince William and Prince Harry briefly appeared in season 4, they may get more screen time -- and possibly speaking roles -- in 5 or 6.
Meanwhile, the most coveted non-royal parts are the new prime ministers -- John Major and Tony Blair -- to immediately follow Margaret Thatcher (played by Gillian Anderson in season 4). Blair was notably played by Michael Sheen twice in Morgan’s other films, The Deal and The Queen, which starred Helen Mirren in the titular role in the aftermath of Diana’s death.
Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth II
The Crown is the latest major franchise for the Oscar-nominated actress, who has previously appeared in the Harry Potter movies as Dolores Umbridge and as Lady Bagshaw in the 2019 Downton Abbey film. “I have loved watching The Crown from the very start. As an actor, it was a joy to see how both Claire Foy and Olivia Colman brought something special and unique to Peter Morgan’s scripts. I am genuinely honored to be joining such an exceptional creative team and to be taking The Crown to its conclusion,” Staunton said when cast.
Later, while speaking with ET, Staunton added, “I don’t want to let the air go out of the balloon and I really have to bring it home. I would love to do that for all the people who have gone before me.”
In July 2021, Netflix shared the first official look at Staunton in the role, showing a much older portrayal of the Queen.
Jonathan Pryce as Prince Philip
The Oscar-nominated actor makes a welcome return to TV after playing the High Sparrow on Game of Thrones and appearing on the Amazon original Tales From the Loop. “I am delighted to be working with Netflix again. The positive experience I had making The Two Popes has given me the confidence to tackle the daunting prospect of portraying Prince Philip. To be doing so with Peter Morgan in the company of Imelda Staunton will be a joy,” the actor said when his casting was announced.
Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret
The longtime English actress was previously nominated for an Oscar for the 2017 film Phantom Thread and was last seen on TV in the Hulu original series Harlots and can be heard narrating the HBO Max romantic comedy series Love Life. “I could not be happier to be playing Princess Margaret. The baton is being passed on from two formidable actresses and I really don’t want to let the side down. Furthermore, to play siblings with my dear friend Imelda Staunton will be nothing short of a a complete joy,” Manville said in a statement.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, the actress revealed that she is digging into her research and already planning a special night out with her two Margaret predecessors. “I’m now rewatching The Crown because, ultimately, yes I’ll read the books, yes I’ll listen to Margaret talking, yes I’ll look at endless footage of her. But at the end of the day, I have to look at what Vanessa did, look at what Helena has done, and pick up the baton of those two great actresses and carry on being that Margaret,” she said, adding, “That’s definitely on the agenda -- a three Margarets dinner happening somewhere. I will do it and it will happen.”
Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana
After her breakout roles in the 2016 limited series The Night Manager and the 2018 film Widows, Debicki’s profile continues to rise with a coveted role in Christopher Nolan’s Tenet and now, the final seasons of The Crown. “Princess Diana’s spirit, her words and her actions live on in the hearts of so many. It is my true privilege and honor to be joining this masterful series, which has had me absolutely hooked from episode one,” the actress shared in a statement.
Later, Debicki revealed why she is such a huge fan of the series. “My very dear friend Vanessa Kirby played Princess Margaret in the first two seasons so beautifully. That's why I started watching it, really, and I remember watching it thinking, ‘This is remarkable.’ Everything people do on that screen is just incredible acting,” she told ET. “For me to even start to swim in that ocean is incredible. And obviously Princess Diana was a truly profoundly remarkable, unique woman, so it's nothing but an honor to be asked to play her.”
After various reports that West has been tasked with replacing O'Connor as Prince Charles, Netflix officially confirmed the news by releasing an image of the English actor as the aging royal. In addition to starring in the upcoming final two seasons of The Crown, West is also slated to appear in Downton Abbey 2, which depicts a time before Queen Elizabeth II took the throne.
Typically, each season covers roughly a decade of time. With The Crown season 4, which introduces Princess Diana to the story, spanning from 1979 to 1990, season 5 is likely to pick up shortly after. However, since Debicki was cast for seasons 5 and 6, it’s safe to assume she’ll appear in most if not all of the final season, meaning that the series will likely end around or shortly after Diana’s death in 1997. If that is the case, then that seven to 10 years could be stretched out over two seasons.
Considering that Morgan previously wrote the 2006 film The Queen, about the events immediately following the young royal’s shocking death, it’s unlikely he'd want to retread too much of the same territory. (The film earned Morgan an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay and Mirren an Oscar win for Best Actress.)
But the last few episodes could jump forward in time, not only introducing Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton, but depicting the time leading up to Princess Margaret’s death in 2002. That would provide a fitting closure to the relationship between the queen and her sister, perhaps the series' most important relationship. And with Staunton and Manville in those roles, it is hard to imagine not wanting to get the most out of their time on screen together.
Filming and Premiere Date
Considering The Crown seasons 1 and 2 premiered back to back in November 2017 and December 2018 before taking a two-year break. Season 3 and 4 premiered in November 2019 and 2020, almost exactly one year apart. That means audiences likely won’t see the series return to Netflix until 2022 at the earliest.
Meanwhile, given the coronavirus pandemic, there’s also been no formal announcement about production starting up on the new seasons. And given how much it has slowed productions down all across the world, The Crown could even be delayed until 2023.
In March 2020, when ET spoke with Staunton about season 5, the series had only just finished production on season 4 before “the world has gone upside down.” At the time, the actress said she hadn’t seen any scripts and was just in the midst of her own research into the queen, taking advantage of the extra time at home.
With the release of the first look at Staunton in costume in July 2021, it is safe to say the series is fully back in production.