Tobias Menzies On Playing Prince Philip In "The Crown": "He Wants To Sort Of Break Out"

In the latest season of The Crown, which is now streaming on Netflix, the thought of growing older within the confines of one of the world’s longest-running institutions, the British monarchy, is a big concern for many key characters.

But it seems that no one, arguably, has felt the passage of time more — or as deeply — than Prince Philip, who is played by Tobias Menzies (Game of Thrones, Outlander). The character opens up emotionally more than we’ve seen thus far in Season 3, Episode 7’s “Moondust.”

Menzies, who spoke to BuzzFeed News over the phone about the new season, recalled filming one of Prince Philip’s flying scenes in the episode, which takes place right after the royal — already feeling weighed down by the monotony of life in Buckingham Palace — watches astronauts Neil Armstrong, Michael Collins, and Buzz Aldrin launch into space in July 1969.

“It’s more this idea of agency and freedom that he associates flying with and obviously he associates the astronauts with,” Menzies said, referring to the tense aerial scene in which his character pushes a private plane to its limits, seemingly aiming to push through the Earth’s atmosphere like the astronauts his character admires.

“And for a moment, yeah, he wants to sort of break out of the constraints of his life and the timetable,” Menzies said. “It felt like a strong visual kind of scene to articulate him sort of reaching for something.”

Menzies was taken with the character of Philip after watching Matt Smith’s portrayal of the royal in the first two seasons of the show. Menzies was fascinated with bringing to life a character who on the show “is not the most expressive” and peel back what’s going underneath with “the bigger emotions that might be coursing through him.”

Overall, Menzies said, the moon landing episode is a way for Philip to work through his feelings of “what it cost him to be part of this marriage,” as well as introducing the notion that “he might not have fulfilled his potential in some way.”

The role of Prince Philip piqued the actor’s interest because he was a fan of the show’s first two seasons, and of showrunner and series creator Peter Morgan. Menzies said he found the complexity of the show mesmerizing, citing the “interesting combination of family drama,” along with “a larger insight into the sort of institutions and leadership” in Britain, as uniquely compelling.

In preparation for the role, Menzies said he did not actively attempt to make his take on Prince Philip different from his predecessor “because it was going to be different anyway” with him bringing his own flavor to the role. The actor said he relied much more on primary sources, including audio recordings and video footage of the prince, from the 1960s and 70s to “get close to” his best rendition of the role.

Ahead of the new season, Menzies said he felt a “bit of trepidation” for how fans would receive the new cast, especially since viewers had become accustomed to a younger version of the British royal family, but ultimately, “maybe that’s exciting to take that on.”

“The story needs to move on,” he said. “They get older and, you know, that seems as interesting and a fun way of doing it as any.”

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