'The Crown' Seasons 5 and 6: New Cast Members, Timeline and Everything We Know
By Stacy Lambe
While The Crown season 4 has yet to debut on Netflix, anticipation for the upcoming next two seasons of the Emmy-winning historical drama about the royal family is already ramping up. The streaming platform recently announced some of the new stars taking over for the current cast -- 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 and production, here is everything ET knows about The Crown seasons 5 and 6 so far:
New Cast Members
Per tradition of the series, after seasons 3 and 4, The Crown will feature all new performers in the lead roles. So far, Netflix has announced several key parts, 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, and Elizabeth Debicki playing Princess Diana after Emma Corrin originated the role.
Other major roles still to be announced include Prince Charles, who was previously played by Josh O'Connor, and Princess Anne, who was originated on screen by Erin Doherty. Their siblings, Prince Andrew and Prince Edward, are likely to appear in smaller roles. Meanwhile, the most coveted non-royal parts are the new prime ministers, which include John Major and Tony Blair.
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, while later telling ET, “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.”
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.
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, while speaking with ET, 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 said. “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.”
Until The Crown season 4, which introduces Princess Diana to the story, confirms what years it’s covering, it’s unclear when season 5 will start. 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 Diana’s death in 1997.
Considering that Morgan previously wrote the 2006 film The Queen, about the events immediately following the young royal’s shocking death with Helen Mirren playing the title role and Michael Sheen as Prime Minister Tony Blair, 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, specifically to depict the time leading up to Princess Margaret’s death in 2002, which 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 2017 and 2018 before taking a two-year break and season 3 didn’t premiere until 2019, it’s likely audiences won’t see the series return to Netflix until 2022 at the earliest. (Season 4 is expected to arrive “very shortly,” but Netflix has not made any formal announcement about its return date.)
Meanwhile, given the coronavirus pandemic, there’s also been no formal announcement about production starting up on the new seasons. In March, 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.” She 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.