Welcome back to Buckingham Palace. Two years after it last graced our screens, The Crown returns to Netflix for its fifth season on November 9. Season 5 will track the royal family throughout the 1990s, with Imelda Staunton replacing Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II and Dominic West and Elizabeth Debicki taking over as Prince Charles and Princess Diana, respectively. Beyond the main cast, The Crown Season 5 will also introduce teenage Prince William (Senan West), a new Princess Anne (Claudia Harrison), and two prime ministers who left their mark on British politics, John Major (Johnny Lee Miller) and Tony Blair (Bertie Carvel).
Here’s our guide to the major players in The Crown Season 5:
Imelda Staunton has big shoes to fill as The Crown’s third, and final, Queen Elizabeth II, after Claire Foy (Seasons 1 and 2) and Olivia Colman (Seasons 3 and 4). In Season 5, the Queen approaches the 40th anniversary of her ascension, but new challenges arise on the horizon, including the collapse of the Soviet Union, the transfer of sovereignty in Hong Kong, and the unraveling of Charles and Diana’s marriage, the latter of which presents a constitutional crisis of the monarchy.
Staunton has been a regular presence on the stage and screen since the 1970s, but it wasn’t until she joined the Harry Potter franchise as Dolores Umbridge that she gained wider recognition (she appeared in two of the eight films, The Order of the Phoenix and The Deathly Hollows - Part 1). More recently, the British actress received critical acclaim for her work in Return to Cranford, in which she appeared opposite her The Crown co-star Jonathan Pryce, and 2012 TV movie The Girl. Staunton earned BAFTA TV Award nominations for both projects, as well as an Emmy nod for her performance in the The Girl.
Jonathan Pryce takes over for Tobias Menzies (and Matt Smith before him) as Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh. In the world of the show, Philip and Diana have always had a complicated relationship, but after failing to appeal to her as a fellow “lost, lonely, irrelevant outsider,” Philip seeks to remind her of her obligation to the royal family and the institution.
Pryce has had a long, celebrated career in Hollywood, beginning with his breakout performance in dystopian black comedy Brazil in 1985. He has since dabbled in practically every genre, from musicals (Evita) to period dramas (The Age of Innocence) to big-budget franchises like Pirates of the Caribbean and Game of Thrones. Pryce also has a unique relationship with the royal family: In 2021, he received a knighthood for his contribution to drama in an investiture led by Princess Anne.
The Crown may be about Queen Elizabeth II’s reign, but Season 5 is as much Prince Charles’ show as it is his mother’s. As his relationship with Diana reaches a breaking point, Charles pressures the Queen to grant them a divorce so he can pursue his years-long affair with Camilla Parker Bowles in peace (and yes, Charles and Camilla’s infamous “Tampongate” phone call will be included in the season).
Dominic West’s predecessor, Josh O’Connor, won an Emmy for his performance in Season 4, but now, The Wire star has a chance to put his own stamp on the character. The actor is no stranger to high-profile productions: After wrapping his five-season run as Detective Jimmy McNulty, he played the lead in The Affair, which ran from 2014 to 2019 on Showtime. West is also known for his acclaimed turn as serial killer Fred West in Appropriate Adult and his performance as Jean Valjean in the BBC’s 2018 Les Misérables miniseries.
When we last left Princess Diana (played by Emma Corrin in Season 4), she was resigned to her role in the royal family, but as the 1990s arrive, she and her husband find themselves living increasingly separate lives. With the media scrutiny intensifying, Diana decides to take control of her own narrative by publishing a book that undermines public support for Charles and exposes the cracks in the House of Windsor.
In Seasons 5 and 6, Australian actress Elizabeth Debicki takes on the role of Diana. Debicki booked supporting roles in The Great Gatsby and The Night Manager before breaking out in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, followed by Steve McQueen’s 2018 heist film Widows and Christopher Nolan’s Tenet. She can next be seen in the third Guardians of the Galaxy film, which is slated for a 2023 release.
Since she was introduced two seasons ago, Camilla Parker Bowles (originally Camilla Shand) has cast a long shadow over The Crown, but in Season 5, her affair with Charles becomes public, threatening the monarchy in unprecedented ways.
Olivia Williams assumes the role of Camilla from Emerald Fennell. The British actress’s first major role came opposite Kate Beckinsale in the 1996 TV movie adaptation of Emma, and she quickly landed roles in prominent films including Wes Anderson’s Rushmore and The Sixth Sense. On the television side, Williams has had main roles in short-lived drama Manhattan, Starz thriller Counterpart, and HBO’s The Nevers.
As The Crown’s focus has shifted to the Queen’s children, her sister, Princess Margaret, has taken a backseat, but Season 5 aims to change that by seeing her reunite with Peter Townsend (now played by Timothy Dalton), the man she hoped to marry in the 1950s.
Lesley Manville will close out the historical drama as its third Princess Margaret, after Vanessa Kirby (Seasons 1 and 2) and Helena Bonham Carter (Seasons 3 and 4). Manville is perhaps best known for her frequent collaborations with writer/director Mike Leigh, appearing in eight of his films, including All or Nothing and Vera Drake, from the 1980s to mid-2010s. Viewers will also recognize her from her performances in The Phantom Thread, for which she earned an Oscar nomination, Hulu drama Harlots, and Starz’s Dangerous Liaisons adaptation.
Though The Crown Season 5 ends shortly before Diana’s death, which will be included in the sixth and final season, it does dramatize the early days of her relationship with Dodi Fayed, who died alongside her in the 1997 car crash in Paris. The season will also introduce Dodi’s father, Egyptian billionaire Mohamed Al Fayed, and chart his efforts to earn a seat at the royal table for him and his son.
Portraying Mohamed and Dodi Al Fayed are Salim Daw and Khalid Abdalla. Daw has worked primarily on Israeli productions, but American audiences may be familiar with his roles in Fauda and the first season of FX’s Tyrant. Abdalla came to international prominence after starring in United 93, in which he played lead hijacker Ziad Jarrah. He also led the 2007 drama The Kite Runner and appeared opposite Matt Damon in The Green Zone.
The Crown Season 5 premieres Wednesday, November 9 on Netflix.
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Claire Spellberg Lustig is the Senior Editor at Primetimer and a scholar of The View. Follow her on Twitter at @c_spellberg.
TOPICS: The Crown, Netflix, Dominic West, Elizabeth Debicki, Imelda Staunton, Jonathan Pryce, Khalid Abdalla, King Charles III, Lesley Manville, Olivia Williams, Princess Diana, Queen Elizabeth II, Salim Daw