Wonderland.

EMMA CORRIN

The Crown’s new Princess Diana, and starring in Epix’s Pennyworth, we get to know the newcomer.

Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue black top

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Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue black top
All clothing BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery CARTIER.

Taken from the Summer 2019 issue of Wonderland. Order your copy of the issue now.

Straight out of school, Emma Corrin is set to go stratospheric. Having just announced her role as Princess Diana in The Crown, and starring in Epix’s Pennyworth, Francesco Loy Bell gets to know the newcomer.

As I hurry to meet Emma Corrin on a brilliant May morning in West London, I begin to think that my choice of location for our interview might be a little on the nose. Café Diana — a Notting Hill institution famed for its homage-style décor centred around the late princess whom Corrin will play in season four of Netflix’s global phenomenon The Crown – sits a stone’s throw away from the palace in which she once resided, and is packed full of fantastically garish furniture, framed pictures and roiled newspaper clippings, Diana’s beaming face everywhere you look. Luckily for me, Corrin is supremely relaxed, and sees the funny side.

Born in Kent, the 23-year-old was always into the dramatic arts. Growing up, she was a huge Nora Ephron fan, citing You’ve Got Mail and Sleepless in Seattle as some of her early favourites. She also recalls going to see a lot of theatre, “sitting in the audience and loving it, but also hating it because I used to get so actively jealous of everyone on stage!” Her own first big break came in primary school, when she was cast as the eponymous lead in Toad of Toad Hall (“I peaked too early!”) In the foyer afterwards, she was approached by the mother of a friend, who complimented her and told her she should be an actor. “I think I was just like ‘yeah cool sorted!’”, she reminisces. Her secondary school’s 500-seat theatre allowed her persistent itch for the stage to blossom, and she regularly took part in school productions while she studied there. This continued into her time at Cambridge University, where, despite the manic academic schedule, she played Juliet in a production that toured Japan, as well as a number of other roles. “People at Cambridge weirdly thrive off the pressure of deadlines,” she explains. “It’s such a high-pressure environment that people naturally gravitate towards having somewhere else to vent that energy. Having been in a tech rehearsal all day and then having to go home at 10pm and write an essay, you’re so stressed but also loving it because you’re so busy.”

Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue white mac
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue brown coat
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue white mac
All clothing BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery CARTIER.
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue brown coat

In some ways, Corrin is a standard-bearer for the alternative route to acting success, though she admits that she is, at times, daunted by her relative lack of experience. “It does make me worry that I don’t have certain training,” she concedes, though this fear is a fleeting one, the actor positing experience on set and learning from other actors to be equally invaluable as classes and technical training. And what a cast of actors she has to learn from. Olivia Colman, Tobias Menzies, Helena Bonham Carter, and Josh O’Connor (who will play Prince Charles) will all feature in The Crown alongside Corrin, who cannot stop a huge smile from spreading across her face every time she mentions their names. “They’re the greats, right? Which is just a bit mad. I am so lucky.” Inevitably, the casting process for such a gargantuan project is a lengthy one, and she recalls the difficulty of having to keep everything secret as she progressed further down the line. “I talked to my mum a lot about it,” she admits. “I was doing my finals. I was stressed on the phone like, ‘I don’t know what’s happening!” Eventually, a final “rehearsal” with writer and director Peter Morgan and Ben Caron clinched her the role, and her eyes glisten with pride when she recalls the moment she was informed of their decision. “They offered me the part in person, which was so so sweet. It felt like a proposal; it was the best moment of my life.”

The importance of Diana Spencer to the British cultural psyche, as well as her zeitgeist-defining legacy, cannot be underestimated, and I ask Corrin if she feels a particular pressure preparing for this role. Suddenly, she becomes serious. “Huge pressure. Massively, because people loved her. She was the people’s princess, people lived for her. It’s a lot of pressure, yeah.” There is always a fear for actors playing hugely popular figures that they will slip into the hole of bending a portrayal to the whims of public interest, and Corrin is aware of this danger. Her antidote? “I’m definitely going for essence. Something they have been making clear from the start is that this is not an impression. Any movement and voice work we have done so far has been figuring out why she talks the way she does, and how she was a massive departure from the royal family, a bit like Megan is now I guess, by bringing something different in the way she talks. I’m figuring out my own way of doing it – it’s very much an essence thing.”

Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue blue dress
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue blue dress
All clothing BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery CARTIER.

Before the inevitable pandemonium surrounding The Crown gets into full swing, however, Corrin will star in Epix’s Pennyworth, a spin-off of the Batman series, alongside Paloma Faith. The show will look at the life of the masked hero’s eponymous British butler Alfred Pennyworth, portrayed most famously by Michael Caine. The show is set in 60s London, and follows the eponymous protagonist (here played by Jack Bannon) in his 20s, navigating life in London and meeting Thomas Wayne.

Despite it’s supernatural overtures, the figure of Batman has always been famed for his lack of real “superpowers”, and Corrin insists the treatment of Pennyworth is no different. “It’s very rooted in reality,” she elaborates, “but it’s also really wacky. It’s for a very adult audience, it’s very sexy.” A native Londoner herself, Corrin enjoyed the familiarity of the show’s setting, though she warns against viewers thinking that the London they know is the London the show will present: “It’s set in London, and surrounded by all our familiar landmarks, but they are all kind of twisted, made dark and edgy. Bruno the writer has set it amid all the city’s urban folk law, so Jack the Ripper makes an appearance, and that kind of thing. Oh, and the Queen is really sexy and young.

Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue silk shirt
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue brown cardigan
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue silk shirt
All clothing BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery CARTIER.
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue brown cardigan

Pennyworth will see Corrin take on the role of Esme, Alfred’s love interest and someone who “has renounced her privileged upbringing and moved to London to try and make it as an actor.” Moving away from the usual thrills and frills of the superhero genre, Corrin is excited to dig deep into her characterisation, lauding the show for being “very character driven” and “really intensely human”. “All the characters are very complex,” she continues, and Esme’s quite naïve and optimistic, as well as really brave when she has to be, and quite a realist…she knows what she wants, which is really cool.” Corrin’s pre-Crown schedule will “also include Philippa Lowthorpe’s Misbehaviour, a film about a group from the Women’s Liberation Movement seeking to disrupt the 1970 Miss World beauty competition in London, starring Keira Knightley among others. Corrin is clearly relishing the social impact the film might have, explaining that, especially in the #MeToo era, “it felt really significant, and such a great thing to be a part of. It was such a female cast, a female writer, director, and a lot of the crew were female, which is quite rare. You felt such a feeling of solidarity.”

Even by today’s standards, the speed with which Corrin has ascended from relative unknown to being on the verge household name-dom is staggering. Just three months ago, you’d have been forgiven for not having heard of the young actor having featured only in short film Alex’s Dream and an episode of ITV’s Grantchester. Her next set of projects, however, are a different kettle of fish entirely, and this is not lost on Corrin. “In what world was this ever going to happen?” she asks incredulously, as if she herself has not yet come to terms with the reality of what the next few years will hold. However, she is not phased by the task ahead. “A year ago, I hadn’t even done my exams.I feel like I’m on the cusp of so much, and my life is changing so fast. But if in five years I can look back and feel as much me as I do now, and know that I have navigated this weird transition bit well, then I feel like I will be happy.”

Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue mac
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue black shirt
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue mac
All clothing BOTTEGA VENETA. All jewellery CARTIER.
Actress Emma Corrin for Wonderland Summer 19 issue black shirt
Photography
Bartek Szmigulski
Fashion
Adele Cany
Words
Francesco Loy Bell
Hair
Brady Lea at The Only Agency using Bumble and Bumble
Makeup
Adrian Swiderski at Frank Agency using CHANEL Vision d'Asie: Lumière et Contraste and CHANEL L'Eau Micellaire
Manicurist
Roxanne Campbell at The Only Agency using Roxanne Campbell Nail Lacquer
Production
Federica Barletta
Production assistants
Morgan Hall and Stephanie Bridgeford
BTS video
Kai Gillespie
Special thanks to
Kailedoscope
EMMA CORRIN
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