Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, Queen Elizabeth’s troubled younger sister, in the hit Netflix series The Crown, has said that she believes those involved with the show have a “moral responsibility” to emphasize that the show is not factual.
Bonham Carter’s intervention, which comes in a new official The Crown podcast, seems likely to heap further pressure on the streaming giant to preface the show with a disclaimer along the lines of the “based on a true story” formula commonly employed in Hollywood movies. Britain’s culture minister has already urged such a move, saying of the show: “It’s a beautifully produced work of fiction, so, as with other TV productions, Netflix should be very clear at the beginning it is just that. Without this, I fear a generation of viewers who did not live through these events may mistake fiction for fact.”
The newly-released podcast, which was recorded earlier in the year, focuses on the seventh episode of the show which tells the story of Margaret discovering she has two first cousins suffering from genetic disorders who have been hidden away in an asylum and declared dead.
Asked by podcast host Edith Bowman about her relationship with her sister, and why the queen declined to give her a more prominent role in the family, Bonham Carter says, “I don’t know what happened in the real version. But in our version we are talking about a time when rules were rules. And that’s what defines the monarchy.”
Bowman responds: “I’ve got to keep reminding myself that Peter’s version is a dramatized version.”
Bonham Carter replies: “It is different. It is dramatized. I do feel very strongly we have a moral responsibility to say, “Hang on guys, this is not history.’ It’s not a drama doc. We’re making a drama. So they are two different entities.”
Bowman then describes reading the research document that underpins the episode, which includes photographs and an account of the existence of the two incarcerated sisters.
Bonham Carter replies: “That is amazing. That is a proper documentary. Then Peter switches things up and juggles.
“The story about Katherine and Nerissa is absolutely true. Whether Margaret had that sense of empathy with them and whether she didn’t know about it, [I have] absolutely no idea. But Katherine and Nerissa and three others were locked up and declared dead when they were very much alive.”
Bonham Carter described the director of the episode, Jessica Hobbs, as “fantastically thorough,” and said, “Part of the rehearsal is working out the background and working out the whole of the family tree and the different members... people behaved oddly and then people never really talked about them. These days they would easily have a label slapped on them.”
Bonham Carter described playing Princess Margaret as “a great marriage” and said she is reading a book entitled, The Wicked Wit of Princess Margaret.
Bonham Carter says Margaret is now “embedded” in her and says: “She is definitely with me. I felt very much she is having great fun, and her ability to have fun and keep things in proportion has meant that I can feel her enjoying it. Honestly, I think she is like, ‘This is fun.’”
She said: “She is a real gift as a person to me too, she has left her imprint on me. That is often what happens with people you play. You carry bits around, beyond the actual performance in life.”
Bonham Carter adds: “She has given me some boundaries too which I’m not very good on. I’m very available to everybody and anybody. And sometimes… people should really [slips into Margaret’s voice]... fuck off.”