'The Crown' Season 3 Star Josh O'Connor Says 'Feel Sorry' for Prince Charles Now Because You Probably Won't in Season 4

Prince Charles once dreamed of being an actor.

It's one of the many things The Crown viewers will learn about the future king of England in the third season of the Netflix original series.

Portrayed by English actor Josh O'Connor, Charles' is reintroduced about halfway through the season, which follows the long-lasting rule of the Prince of Wales' mother, Queen Elizabeth II—played by Olivia Colman—from 1964 to 1977. Charles' college years, during which he was a proud member of the drama club, are among the many areas of the prince's life covered on the show, in addition to his entry into the navy and his early relationship with Camilla Shand (Emerald Fennell).

Despite being among heralded cast members like Colman, Helena Bonham Carter, who plays Princess Margaret, and Charles Dance who stars as Charles' favorite uncle Lord Mountbatten, O'Connor holds his own and delivers an emotionally riveting depiction of a young, sensitive prince destined for the throne.

Through O'Connor's performance, Charles seems much like the black sheep of the royal family. He displays a level of emotion and vulnerability more freely than any of the other key players involved, which is a refreshing note for The Crown, while his struggle to gain their acceptance is disheartening. At the least, O'Connor's characterization of Charles is likely to make viewers feel a bit more empathetic towards the Prince of Wales and the challenges he faced growing up royal.

"The public perspective of Prince Charles is that he's always been this buffoon character," O'Connor told Newsweek in an interview on Friday. "A lot of these sentiments about Charles came from the fact that he was talking about climate change in the '70s and '80s. He had all these ideas that seemed like radical thoughts back then, but now we accept them as the facts. To look back at everything he was doing and talking about then now, he looks much less buffoon like."

Admittedly not as royally obsessed as some fans of The Crown, O'Connor said undertaking the role as Charles allowed him the chance to learn a great deal about who the Prince of Wales was as a young man, what he stood for and how his expressive nature contrast to that of his mother's. It's all resorted in O'Connor's newfound fondness of the person behind the royal title.

"Everything I have learned about him through the making of The Crown has been really interesting. I now have an affection for him and for all the struggles he went through. It's been kind of full circle and now I'm his biggest fan," O'Connor said.

Read Newsweek's full interview with The Crown star Josh O'Connor below.

This interview has been condensed for purposes of editing and length.

'The Crown's' Josh O'Conner on Season 3
"The Crown" Season 3 star Josh O'Connor talks to Newsweek about his role as Prince Charles in the Netflix original series, which released on November 17, 2019. Des Willie / Netflix

Were you a fan of the show before you joined the cast?

I followed it from Season 1, and Vanessa Kirby, who played Margaret is an old friend of mine. So that was cool to watch her do such a phenomenal job as young Margaret. It's been cool to take over the next chapter of it and we had an amazing time making it.

The new cast is full of so many esteemed actors. How was that experience for you?

It was amazing, especially to work every day with Charles Dance. I remember the first day I saw Charles Dance, and I was in awe. I was overwhelmed because I absolutely love him as an actor. Olivia Colman, I've worked with her before, but I've always looked up to her and Helena Bonham Carter. They're all like role models to me. It was sort of overwhelming at first, but then it was just like a pleasure. I spent the whole time learning from them.

What was the biggest thing you learned from working with them?

The biggest thing I learned is how to behave on set. These are people on their A-game, the best of the best. Olivia won an Oscar and yet she's unchanged. She's polite, gracious and looks out for everyone. That's the best thing you can learn.

How did you prepare to become Prince Charles?

The Crown has been up and running for a while, so they have this process that makes them pretty well versed in how to make people perform well. We worked with Polly Bennett, who's a brilliant movement instructor. She worked with me on how I walked and held myself as Prince Charles. She worked with Rami Malek when he was in Bohemian Rhapsody. She's really really brilliant. The show has worked with William Conacher on all the dialects and accents from the very beginning. So I was surrounded by a really great team in terms of the exterior things that we would recognize as Prince Charlsean. Beyond that was the harder challenge of letting go of all that and creating the character, not a mimic of the real person. I wasn't so interested in getting his walk exactly right or looking exactly like him. You work on that stuff because there is a part of you that wants the audience to go, "Oh that's just like Charles," or whatever but you also really want to create a fresh new character.

Did you feel any pressure portraying him and someone who is still alive?

I did feel pressure, and I do feel pressure as everyone does. To be honest, I always feel pressure—maybe a bit more depicting a real person opposed to fiction—but I feel a responsibility for every character I play. As an actor, you become close to your character. You delve into them. They're like your friends, and you build a relationship with them when you're making a film or a television show. So you're protective of them, and you want to do the best thing for them, play them the best way. So that weight on my shoulders is very much there in all my roles. Maybe a bit more in this just because of who [Charles] is.

Were there any aspects of Charles that you related to?

In some ways, yeah. My family and I are very different from the royal family, but I think I've always been interested in the topic of masculinity and the struggles of masculinity, and I have sympathy for his inability or lack of support of his to engage his family with his feelings. Acting for him was a way for him to pretend to be someone else. He's got this huge weight on his shoulders, and to be an actor allows you to remove yourself from some of your worries and take on the role of someone else for a minute. I think in some ways it was a course of therapy for him, which I understand.

Could you speak Welsh before the show?

I 100 percent did not know Welsh, but it was a great experience learning about the culture and the language. I had two great teachers and we worked really hard on the speech. In fact, when I performed it for the first time, one of the audience members—who was Welsh and had been at [Charles'] first investiture—said that I was doing it too well, because Charles apparently wasn't that good at it at first.

If there's one thing you hope viewers take away from Season 3, what would it be?

People should come away from it feeling sympathy and sorry for Charles partly because I think they should—and that means I've done my job well—but also because I know what's coming in season 4. I want them to feel sorry for him now because things might change.

In my eyes, he's a really good man in terms of the real person. He's lived a long life and played an incredible role in the royal family as the Prince of Wales. He's been praised hugely for his work in Wales and for the environment. And also he's been a pretty good father to Prince William and Prince Harry, who I think are turning out pretty amazingly. I really hope that the show will help warm people to Prince Charles. I'm gonna be biased—I don't know how people will react to him in the show—but certainly, I look at him and I think he's a good guy and he's done an incredible job.

When you finally got to sit back and watch the show for yourself, what was your initial reaction?

It's a very strange experience. I've been acting professionally for the last eight or nine years now and I'm only just now getting used to watching myself and not being overly critical. I do find it hard to enjoy it. The experience of filming—that's the enjoyable bit for me opposed to watching it back. Although with this series, I did enjoy watching it back and I'm really proud of it.

'The Crown' Season 3 Star Josh O'Connor Says 'Feel Sorry' for Prince Charles Now Because You Probably Won't in Season 4 | Culture