Imelda Staunton, Elizabeth Debicki and New Cast of ‘The Crown’ Take the Helm at Season 5 World Premiere

The actors behind The Crown‘s latest version of the British royal family — including Dominic West, Jonathan Pryce and Lesley Manville — welcomed fans to the ’90s at the world premiere of The Crown‘s fifth season on Tuesday night.

On a wet evening in central London, with Queen Elizabeth II no longer on the throne, a fresh cast for Netflix’s hit series ushered in its long-awaited return. 

Season five’s Prince Charles (played by West), led the lineup on the red carpet for the show’s world premiere at the brightly lit and aptly named Theatre Royal Drury Lane. It was here a young Jonny Lee Miller used to sell programs and ice cream, according to Pryce, who stars as a 70-year-old Prince Philip. These two were joined by Imelda Staunton (Queen Elizabeth), Elizabeth Debicki (Princess Diana), Manville (Princess Margaret) and self-dubbed Jonny Lee “Major” (playing former Conservative Prime Minister Sir John Major).

“I know the last couple of weeks there’s been a lot of talk about The Crown. Tomorrow, when people get to see it, the talk is going to be about how magnificent this new series is,” said Netflix’s co-CEO and chief content officer Ted Sarandos, speaking exactly two months to the day since Queen Elizabeth II’s death and in the wake of a barrage of online scrutiny regarding how the show depicts the U.K.’s most famous family.

“This is the story of the royal family…dramatized through stories, some very memorable — some forgotten, judging by the Google activity that happens every time we drop a new season,” added Sarandos, shortly after the audience had been serenaded with a string quartet rendition of the series’ theme tune and a brief ballet performance. “But these are the stories that shaped this country during Queen Elizabeth’s 70-year reign.” 

Peter Morgan’s latest installment of the historical drama — its YouTube trailer caveated, for the first time, with a reminder it is a fictionalized portrayal — picks up in the early ’90s, with public apathy toward the queen looming and the monarchy’s future uncertain. 

In the latest episodes, the War of the Waleses takes center stage, with then-Prince Charles distracted by a quest to not only buoy the sovereignty but also galvanize it and Princess Diana navigating their disintegrating marriage.

Morgan briefly spoke of his pride in the cast’s performance and congratulated casting director Robert Sterne, while Debicki took a moment to celebrate the crew as the room fizzed with anticipation (and not just from the champagne). “We love you all so much,” she said. “I have no idea how a camera works, but we really do adore you.” 

Viewers can expect a “cinematic” experience, according to Sarandos, as they follow the darkening rain cloud trailing the Queen for much of the decade, including 1992’s “annus horribilis” speech and Diana’s infamous BBC interview where, with a sullen candidness, she admitted to journalist Martin Bashir (played by Prasanna Puwanarajah) that “there were three of us in this marriage, so it was a bit crowded.” 

Morgan revealed that the team was already 10 weeks into filming the sixth and final season of the series, though he gave no indication as to when viewers can expect its arrival. “I’m leaving in five,” Staunton joked (she’s really due on set Wednesday morning).

As for how she embodied Princess Margaret, Manville joked, “I smoked a lot of cigarettes and drank a lot of whiskey. I’m a wreck.” 

More newcomers to “the Firm” include Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles, Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne, James Murray as Prince Andrew, Emma Laird Craig as Sarah Ferguson, Salim Daw as Mohamed al-Fayed and Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Fayed. Perhaps understandably, many eyes were on a young Prince Harry, played by seven-year-old Teddy Hawley, who showed up rocking a red velvet tuxedo.

Season five of The Crown premieres on Netflix on Wednesday.

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