The Crown’s Tobias Menzies on Philip’s ‘great ingenuity and great energy’

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor
·3 min read

The Crown star Tobias Menzies has spoken of the “dignity and patience” of the Duke of Edinburgh.

The Outlander actor played Philip in two series of the lavish Netflix drama, opposite Olivia Colman as the Queen.

Menzies, who took over the role from Doctor Who star Matt Smith for the third and fourth series of the show, watched hours of interview footage to prepare for the part.

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Speaking to the Guardian’s Today In Focus podcast, he said: “There’s a lot of different forces at play within him.

“He was someone who was very wary to show his feelings and yet, atmospherically, he’s not a cool presence, he’s quite hot … He’s abrasive.

“He’s challenging. He’s funny. But there’s an energy about it: it’s not calm, it’s not gentle. And those things seem to be kind of warring inside him.

“So, actually, for someone who doesn’t want to give much away, he often feels like he is giving quite a lot of way.”

Tobias Menzies as Philip with Olivia Colman as the Queen (Netflix)
Tobias Menzies as Philip with Olivia Colman as the Queen (Netflix)

He added: “For someone who clearly was not comfortable with [the role], he managed to do it with quite a high degree of dignity and patience.

“The idea of this alpha male spending his life walking two or three steps behind his wife … to be in an almost entirely ceremonial position, it’s fascinating.

“It’s the stuff of Greek drama. [It] is to his credit, the effect he’s had on that institution, on that family.

“He took that completely non-role incredibly seriously, applied a huge amount of energy and inventiveness, and created a life for himself with great ingenuity and great energy.

“I think the institution itself benefited from that … he was partly involved in the transition from an aristocratic family to one that was marked by largely middle-class values.

“He helped to open it up and, to a certain degree, demystify a lot of the stuff that was going on, and modernise it.”

After Philip’s death at 99 on April 9, Menzies quoted Orlando from Shakespeare’s As You Like It.

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He wrote on Twitter: “If I know anything about the Duke of Edinburgh I’m fairly sure he wouldn’t want an actor who portrayed him on TV giving their opinion on his life, so I’ll leave it to Shakespeare. ‘O good old man! how well in thee appears The constant service of the antique world…’ RIP.”

Smith, who played the part for series one and two, also offered his own tribute, saying: “Prince Philip was the man. And he knew it. 99 and out, but what an innings. And what style.

“Thank you for your service old chap – it won’t be the same without you.”