“As someone who has never acted before, it wasn’t a challenge to feel like an outsider,” remarks Luther Ford, the fresh face who stars as Prince Harry in the sixth and final season of The Crown. While Ford may have never stepped foot into drama school himself, he is far from being a stranger to the world of storytelling. Having studied directing and film production in university, a number of artful shorts now sit under his belt—years of experience behind a camera being something he wields to his advantage when it lands on him instead. “It took the pressure off in a way because it’s not just about your acting but there are so many different elements that come into play,” he adds.
But Ford is not the only newcomer to join the drama slate this late into its running. Fellow actors Ed McVey and Meg Bellamy—who play Prince William and Kate Middleton respectively—are also the bright-eyed faces making their screen debuts with the hit Netflix historical series created by Peter Morgan. With it, comes an immense amount of pressure no doubt, considering the hold the show has had on global audiences, not to mention its stratospheric cast, from Claire Foy to Elizabeth Debicki and Jonathan Pryce. Yet one thing’s certain: Ford, McVey and Bellamy have all emerged triumphant, portraying their characters with arresting finesse.
No doubt, grandiose hours of hard work and endless preparation went into Ford’s final on-screen effort—who holds his own opposite his distinguished co-stars, working with McVey, his brother-in-arms to portray the fictional throes of a royal blood bond like no other. With the second part of The Crown Season 6 out now, the newly-minted actor opens up to Vogue Singapore about his love for storytelling, navigating the weight of such a high-profile role and being an integral part of one of the greatest historical series of the past decade.
What drove you to audition for The Crown and how did you feel when you landed the role of Prince Harry?
I had watched the first two seasons with my parents and liked it, but I hadn’t seen everything else. In a way, it might have been good that I hadn’t, because I think when I did get the part and went back to watch it, it was quite intimidating watching it, because it’s just that good. Watching it and realising that I was going to be a part of such a big thing was an interesting feeling.
I got the part through an open casting call—somebody in my family had sent it to me. But I have never been to drama school and it wasn’t in my plans to become an actor. I did study film production, and that’s the world I want to be working within. It’s all related for sure and there’s a good chance that anyone really interested in storytelling would be interested in acting too since they’re the same kind of worlds. So yeah, it came about very unexpectedly.
The stakes can get pretty high when you’re playing such a high-profile role that depicts a fictional slant on reality. How did you navigate that and prepare for the role of Prince Harry?
Well for starters, there’s a whole research team dedicated to just providing the actors and writers with a ton of material; articles, books, documentaries and anything of that sort. There’s a dialect coach, who just focuses on the voice. That felt the most important to me; once I grasped the voice, it felt like everything else was a little easier. There’s also a movement coach, who would think about how these people might hold themselves, how you as a person usually hold yourself and how that might be different from the character you’re playing. So there are loads of people involved.
I think it’s kind of difficult playing someone so famous because there’s so much media and existing material surrounding them that the search could never end. But at some point, you do have to sort of just leave it and focus on the scripts. Instead, you need to see them as characters and figure out what Peter Morgan is exploring, which, like you said, is ultimately fiction.
Have you been able to relate to your on-screen character on any level?
I read something where I think the late Princess Diana had said to Harry: “You can be as naughty as you’d like, just don’t get caught.” I think that resonated with me. In relation to the whole situation of how I ended up in the show and my naivety towards everything. I think I felt quite brave, because I didn’t have anything to lose when I was auditioning. So it felt very cheeky, you know?
Peter also writes a lot about the dynamic between William and Harry, and there’s also the dynamic between Margaret and Elizabeth. He explores the idea of the black sheep, and again, I could relate to that—in terms of working on such a high end production like The Crown. Don’t get me wrong, everyone’s really nice but as someone who has never acted before, it wasn’t a challenge to feel like an outsider. So that was really useful and I kind of used that in playing my character.
What was it like being on set with some of the biggest names in the industry?
I mean yeah, it was scary at first. I remember the first time we all had lunch together. We were filming in Lancaster House, which is like five minutes from Buckingham Palace. So it’s a very royal location. And we went downstairs and about six of them were all sitting around this little table in full costume, eating lunch. I was just looking at them, thinking it was so surreal.
I expected the atmosphere to be quite stressful and tense but it was very relaxed and well-oiled. Even the ensemble scenes which required the family to be all together. Everything felt very natural and they were very welcoming of us. But they also didn’t baby us which was quite good in a way. I learned a lot by just watching people like them working. They don’t even need to give you advice verbally. Just sitting next to them and watching them act was amazing enough. And it makes it so much easier to act yourself. Because you believe what you’re seeing, for example, watching someone like Imelda Staunton being so focused and professional. For someone who’s never done it before, it’s a challenge to maintain your focus throughout a day and continually deliver the same thing. But that certainly wasn’t the case with her; she would give so much regardless of whether the cameras are on her or not. So I suppose that was a big lesson, in knowing what your job is, and understanding that it’s not necessarily about you. It was helpful to kind of have space initially, because it was so overwhelming. It was nice to not be treated like I knew nothing, because I did know nothing. Yet people trusted me, for whatever reason.
A great deal of your scenes are done with Ed McVey who plays Prince William. What went into building that on-screen relationship with McVey?
I found it easy to feel like a younger brother around Ed because he had been to drama school. So he definitely had more experience than I did and I kind of looked towards him naturally.
Before I got the part, we did two chemistry tests—he had already gotten the part. So I did two auditions with him, where he was also auditioning with other people who are also auditioning for Harry. I think we had a natural chemistry where we made each other laugh. But just the whole experience of it, and sharing that experience with the person that is playing your brother led to a bond that came naturally from the sheer intensity of doing everything together. We had our first day and our last day together. He’s in it a lot more than me, but I think there was one day when all my scenes were with him. So he felt very much like my personal touch point on set, which if you think about it, is arguably similar to the characters Peter is writing about. Two people who are the only people that really understand what the other one is going through. So I think it was very organic, the kind of closeness we had.
You’ve also majored and completed your studies in directing, with a couple of short films under your belt now. What drove you to that space in film?
It started out as just a hobby. My best friend and I would just be making these videos together all the time and that’s kind of like all we’ve ever done together. And we’re still doing it together. At the start, it was just putting the camera down, clicking the ‘Record’ button, and then having some fight on camera because we were kids and violence was what we were attracted to. But then it grew into this thing that I really enjoyed doing. Then when I went to university, I realised that all the playing around and experimenting taught me so much. When I started film production, I think I realised I just loved filming and editing. And I loved watching films—I still do. I liked exploring rhythm through editing and experimenting with the medium; it’s just something I’m definitely going to do long term.
Directing and acting are both different sides of the same coin when it comes to storytelling. But on a personal level, would you say your eye for film has altered your personal approach to acting?
It was definitely really useful in relation to filming for The Crown because when I was on set, there were just so many people around who had such specific jobs and it was really helpful to have an understanding of what was going on, knowing that their focus was not just on you. They’ve all got jobs and their own areas of focus too.
But it also helped me understand the director’s aim a little more because I understood the process that comes afterwards. It took the pressure off in a way because it’s not just about your acting but there are so many different elements that come into play at the editing stage too. On another level, it was also really enjoyable knowing that I was working with all these directors who I really admire.
Tell us about the fashion and was there anything you would have loved to keep in your own wardrobe?
I mean, just getting to wear all those tailored suits measured to the exact shape of your body was absolutely crazy, you know? There were these black tuxedos that me and Ed were wearing in one of the Christmas scenes on the balcony. Those were really nice and I would have loved to take mine home. But yeah, it was fun. There were just so many different departments that would help us get into character; like the hair and make-up department too. And I was just a small part of all that.
Amy, the costume designer for The Crown, was very adamant that the casual wear worn by William and Harry would never be washed or ironed. So our jeans for example, at the end of the day, she’d tell us to take them off and we would put them in this bag. Three months later, I’d pick up the same jeans, take one look at them and there would be the same stain from a bit of cake back then. For her, it was about conveying an aspect of William and Harry’s life—which functions just like normal people to some extent. That they’re teenage boys, they’re messy, not stylish at all, and just quite real.
Lastly, what’s next for you?
In an ideal world, I would love to do both directing and acting. I think it’s a very hard industry and it’s hard to make acting a career. Like I said, I love storytelling, and acting is definitely a part of that. And also sort of valuable in terms of directing too—to be able to understand what it is like to act. But yeah, I’ve had a great time. So we’ll see. But I would love to do more acting, I definitely would.
Styling: Ben Scholfield
Hair and make-up: Charlie Cullen
Outfit: Saint Laurent
The final season of The Crown is now streaming on Netflix.