BEST IN SHOWS

Emma Corrin Lets Schitt Happen

On TV, Corrin is The Crown’s Diana. But at home, she’s working on “A Little Bit Alexis.”

by Lynn Hirschberg

Emma Corrin as David Rose from 'Schitt’s Creek.' Courtesy of Public Eye Communications. Corrin wears a Jazzy Goes Berserk sweater; Converse sneakers. Hair by Ali Pirzadeh. Makeup by Lucy Bridge

For W’s second annual TV Portfolio, we asked 26 of the most sought-after names in television to pay homage to their favorite small-screen characters by stepping into their shoes.

When it was announced that a young, up-and-coming actor named Emma Corrin would play Princess Diana in The Crown’s fourth season, the excitement from fans of the royal Netflix drama series was immediately palpable. The role would not be an easy one, especially as it would require the actor to portray a younger Diana and the early days of her tumultuous relationship with Prince Charles, but Corrin nailed it. So much so that the actor’s version of Princess Diana’s signature bashful facial expression became a meme, and her performance went on to garner critical acclaim on the awards circuit, including a Golden Globe win earlier this year and an Emmy nomination this summer for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series.

Now that Corrin has moved on from Princess Diana—with a play in London called Anna X, inspired by the drama of socialite grifter Anna Sorokin, and the forthcoming My Policeman, with Harry Styles—the world is eagerly awaiting what the actor will do next. In the meantime, Corrin has been trying to slow down, when possible, and catching up with Dan Levy, the Emmy-winning star of Schitt’s Creek—which also happens to be the series Corrin paid tribute to here.

What is it about Schitt’s Creek that spoke to you?

Schitt’s Creek has become my go-to, comforting favorite; it’s a they-feel-like-my-friends kind of TV program. One of my best mates from school had told me about it ages ago. When I watched it, I devoured the whole thing. I actually met Dan. Dan Levy came to see my play, and I had dinner with him. He’s a gem. He’s the wisest, kindest, funniest person, and I didn’t want it to end. I feel like we could have talked forever. It was really nice.

Did you tell him you were paying homage to him in W magazine?

I did. I was like, “Oh, I’ve got a shoot tomorrow. I’m dressing up as you.” He looked terrified. He was like, “Oh no.” But I sent him the picture, and I think he likes it. I got the seal of approval.

Did you have a hard time picking an outfit?

Yeah, I definitely wanted that sweatshirt, because I feel like that’s the iconic one. But there are so many good ones. Basically everything he wears, and everything Catherine O’Hara wears, is incredible. I could have done [the whole family]. I wanted to learn the dance to “A Little Bit Alexis.”

People think of you as dramatic, but have you ever done a straight-up comedy?

I haven’t, actually, and my friends always say that I’m never funny on purpose. If I try to be funny, I’m very not funny. But [Anna X] the play that I’m doing at the moment, weirdly, is sort of a comedy. We only discovered this when it started. I guess when I was rehearsing with the writer and director, everyone heard the jokes so many times that we didn’t laugh at them. When we actually started performing it to audiences and everyone was roaring with laughter, we were like, Whoa, this is a comedy? It’s quite fun to flex that muscle, which is something I haven’t done before.

Corrin with Josh O’Connor on ‘The Crown.’ Des Willie/Netflix

How did you first hear that you were going to play the part of Princess Diana in The Crown?

I was at the end of my auditions. I was actually taken to the set where they were filming some of season 3, and did a couple of scenes with Josh [O’Connor, who plays Prince Charles], and then the director and one of the producers proposed to me in this sort of “Will you be our Diana?” way. It was mad. I think I probably blacked out.

Did you dress the part in a Diana outfit for the audition?

I did white jeans, crisp blue shirt, and I said to my agent, “I’m going to get my nails done.” She said, “Great idea. Great commitment.” I got them in the most electric, vivid blue, and my agent was like, “You will change that immediately. Never do that again.” I was like, “Well, the ring was blue; she was kind of funky,” and she said, “No, Emma. This is so wrong.”

Was there one of her costumes that immediately put you in character?

I loved this vintage YSL leather bomber jacket and hat that she wore at some point. I was obsessed. Very her, very cool. And then there was this blue and white dress that was very her as well.

What’s great is you get to have an evolution as Diana, because she started out very prim. And you perfectly did the eyes looking down, eyes looking up thing.

I got that from a cat. Not my cat, but a cat that used to come and sit on my wall. Me and Polly, who helped me with movement and character and stuff, were talking about what animal [Diana] would be, and we couldn’t figure it out for ages. Then I was watching this cat who was watching my puppy, and this cat was just sitting on the wall like this [makes a face]. I was like, Whoa, it’s that, because cats are powerful, can be very mysterious, coy. When they’re friendly, it’s amazing, and you feel like you know them, but you don’t. And I was like, Great, it’s her. Perfect.

If Diana was a cat, which animal are you?

Every time I ask someone to tell me, “What animal do you think I am?” they always say a bird, because I’m very flighty. It’s the worst one. Who wants to be a bird? I feel like you want to be something like an otter, or a meerkat.

Did you watch yourself in The Crown? Do you like to watch yourself?

I felt very ambivalent toward it. I could. Some people have a very visceral, absolutely cannot watch myself [attitude]. I felt quite detached from it, and then, when it came to it, I was like, Oh no, no, no. I sort of watched an episode or two and was like, Okay, this has been fine. But it’s weird, sometimes I’m scrolling Netflix, and I forget that it's on there, and I'll see my face, and it is so strange. A few times when I’ve been alone, scrolling, I’m like, Should I just watch an episode? Would that freak me out? What would that be like? It’s a weird one.

Whenever you have success, people tell you a million things. What is the best advice that you’ve received lately?

It’s a very simple one, but it’s very much for me, because I move a million miles an hour through everything: When you’re living a pace of life where you’ve got a lot of stuff happening to you all at once, stop and let it go a bit, and chill out and actually just try and sit in moments, as opposed to always thinking or planning or worrying about the next thing. Dan Levy was interestingly telling me—because we had dinner with my flatmate, as well, and we’re having various crises that you have in your 20s—“Guys, honestly, your life will change so much, and in ways that you cannot expect, [so stop] worrying about trying to fix everything and have it exactly the way you think it should be, or preempting things or trying to have control over everything at this stage of your life.” He said, “Don’t sweat it, because you have no idea what’s going to happen, and stuff changes. Just let it go a bit.”