Welcome to “Remote Controlled,” a podcast from Variety featuring the best and brightest in television, both in front of and behind the camera.
In this week’s episode, Variety’s executive editor of TV Debra Birnbaum talks with Matt Smith, the star of Netflix’s “The Crown.” Smith discusses the evolution of his role as Prince Philip, and how the second season lives up to Season 1’s universal acclaim.
Smith opened up about how his character’s storyline expands in the new season. “There’s a lot of misconceptions about him as a character and him as a person. The more you sort of delve into him and the more you begin to look into his past, you see that actually it was very tragic and there was a great deal of pain in it,” he hints. “Hopefully it will reinform people’s perception of him in the future.”
He also admits he didn’t know much about Prince Philip or the royal family before the show.
“My feelings have changed completely about him,” Smith shares. “I have a much more affectionate opinion of him than I did. I learned who I saw him to be, and I really admire the things in him that a lot of people who watch the show don’t admire.”
While Smith notes many viewers don’t appreciate Prince Philip’s “alpha-ness,” he says it’s something he has grown to cherish that about the character.
“His intention and the truth of his love, there’s a purity to that and an honesty to that, even though he may or may not have made mistakes along the way,” he says.
Still, Smith doesn’t deny Prince Philip has made some missteps. “That’s not me commenting on his alleged infidelity, but I think he’s definitely made mistakes in the emotional choices that he’s made,” Smith says, adding, “As a man, I don’t judge that. I empathize with it.”
In his research, Smith said he learned a number of things about the prince. “I was surprised what a committed dad he was because a lot of the time he was doing the parenting because he was away. Again, that was a misconception about him because he has a tricky relationship with Charles, but I think he was quite involved with that.”
Smith adds, “I didn’t know he had such a dramatic childhood. There was so much tragedy involved.”
Despite the show being rooted in history, Smith says the series continues to surprise him. As the show moves forward to approach the Thatcher years, the Clinton era, and the Iraq war, a different actor will assume the role of Prince Philip, but he says he’s ready to turn over the mantle. “Parts are there to be reinterpreted,” he says.
Smith, who portrayed the 11th incarnation of the Doctor, also praised “Doctor Who’s” decision to cast a female lead for the upcoming season.
“I think it’s going to be a very exciting time for the show,” he says. “I think a show like that really thrives off choices of flair, whether that be in the acting or the direction or indeed, the fundamental choices that make the show.”
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