olivia colman playing the queen

How Olivia Colman transformed into the Queen for The Crown

Olivia will star alongside Helena Bonham Carter

Aisha Nozari

The much anticipated third season of The Crown will be arriving on Netflix on Sunday 17 November, starring Olivia Colman – who is taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth from Claire Foy – Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip and Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret. Needless to say, before reprising the main role Olivia had to immerse herself in royal research in order to best represent the Queen, but exactly how far did the Oscar-winning actress go? The answers might surprise you. In fact, Olivia had to make changes to her walk, her voice and even her emotional range before the cameras started rolling.

 

WATCH: Olivia Colman reveals why it's hard playing Queen Elizabeth

The walk

One of the biggest challenges Olivia faced was mimicking the monarch's movement. The actress had to immerse herself in research in order to achieve the perfect gait, telling Harper's Bazaar in October: "I don’t really enjoy research. But for this, I have to accept it. I can’t just sit like me, I have to sit like her, and look like pictures of her. They have been teaching me how to walk – I'm really terrible at that, I have no physical awareness." The Fleabag star hilariously added that initially her royal walk had been compared to that of a farmer.

MORE: Helena Bonham Carter reveals Princess Margaret's ghost gave her a backhanded compliment on The Crown role

The voice

In the same Harper's interview, the actress revealed that she even struggled with the Queen's voice, despite being British herself. Olivia explained: "I thought that general 'posh' would do it, but apparently not. Really unusual vowel sounds. If you're saying 'yes', you say 'ears'." The actress then giggled: "It's fun to do, isn't it? It's very hard to stop. Ears."

Olivia added: "Once you start going through it, you realise that every syllable in every word… you've got it wrong." But thanks to an "amazing" voice department, the Peep Show star was eventually able to nail the royal accent.

olivia colman playing the queen

The appearance

Needless to say, Olivia's transformation into Queen Elizabeth was detailed. Speaking to L'Officiel magazine, The Crown's makeup and hair designer Cate Hall revealed that a whopping 47 wigs were used throughout the series. But the biggest challenge according to Cate was making sure Olivia's wig was the perfect shape. The talented artist explained: "The most iconic element we know of the Queen is the shape of her hair, which hasn't changed for sixty years. So the most important thing was to establish the hair shape for the 1960s. The wig contains at least three or four different colours of real human hair, made by Alex Rouse.

MORE: Who is Olivia Colman's husband? Everything you need to know about The Crown star's family

"We had to take a lot of weight out of our hair to give it a kind of lightness over the previous period, because part of the character's achievement is not just the obvious type, it's the Queen, but it's how the Queen behaved from 1964 to 1977 with as few fake devices as possible."

Olivia has also discussed eye colour, explaining that she couldn't bear the pain involved in wearing fake blue contact lenses for filming. Although the Oscar-winning actress attempted to wear contacts for her transformation into the monarch, the actress' "strong eyelids" made wearing them too painful. She told Vogue: "[Putting the contacts in] was basically like an exorcism: [I said], 'Just hold me down and thrust it in!'"

Ben Caron, who directed four episodes in season three, added that they also decided not to change her eye colour in post-production in the end, explaining: "It didn't feel like her. CGI-ing her eyes seemed to diminish what she was doing."

olivia colman playing the queen

Adapting her emotions

Not all of the changes Olivia underwent were physical, the actress had to overcome emotional challenges, too. The Queen is known for being unshakable, whereas Olivia is a very emotive actor, so had to take a more solemn approach. The actress explained: "Claire [Foy] was so brilliant at it that for the first few months, I just thought, 'What would she do?' and I did that. I'm not very good at not moving my face."

One scene in particular proved difficult for Olivia: the Aberfan storyline. (In 1966, in the Welsh village of Aberfan, a colliery spoil tip slid down a mountain onto a primary school killing 116 children and 28 adults. The Queen refused to visit the site for eight days and faced public backlash. In 2002 the monarch admitted it was her "biggest regret.")

During filming, Olivia was given an earpiece in order to take her out of the intensity of the moment. She explained: "So they gave me an earpiece and put on the Shipping Forecast and I just listened to that and pretended that was all that was going on."

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Political views

It seems Olivia has even changed her political views since portraying the Queen. Speaking to The Sunday Times, The Favourite star elaborated: "I’ve become a lefty monarchist, and there’s not many of them about. Who could stick with something like that for so long, quietly and with such humility?"