Gillian Anderson is Margaret Thatcher in The Crown Season 4. The latest episodes of the award-winning Netflix series show Queen Elizabeth II (Olivia Colman) and the U.K.’s first female prime minister at odds with each other.
Despite taking on the role of a historical figure and the scrutiny that comes with it, Anderson wouldn’t have wanted anyone else to play Thatcher.
‘The Crown’ only wanted Gillian Anderson to play Margaret Thatcher
Robert Sterne, who cast The Crown Season 4, opened up to Elle in December 2020 about casting the role of Thatcher. He’d known the episodes would center around the queen, Princess Diana (Emma Corrin), and Thatcher.
In casting the prime minister, he only had one actor in mind, Anderson. At the time, she’d been dating Peter Morgan, the creator of The Crown.
“There was always a list of one,” Sterne told Elle. “We had thought of ideas and talked it through a lot, but we always knew Gillian Anderson was totally amazing.”
“It seemed like a fresh and interesting way of going,” he added. “We were very lucky she said she’d do it—she’s such a clever character actress.”
Anderson joined the cast of The Crown Season 4 alongside Colman, Corrin, Joshua O’Connor (Prince Charles), Tobias Menzies (Prince Philip), Helena Bonham Carter (Princess Margaret), and Erin Doherty (Princess Anne).
Gillian Anderson admits she’d have been ‘really dumb’ to turn down role
In a December 2020 interview with Entertainment Weekly, Anderson discussed her role as Thatcher. She admitted it wouldn’t have been a wise decision to turn down the chance to play her on The Crown.
“It is one of those roles that, if you’re asked to do Thatcher in The Crown you’d be really dumb not to say, ‘Yes,'” Anderson said. “I think I would have really regretted it, had I done that, and somebody else taken it, and done a good job.”
The actor continued: “I kind of felt that it was a welcome challenge,” she said. “Yes, [it was] daunting in the sense that, as you say, a lot of people have very strong opinions about her, and will have a lot of opinions no doubt about how she’s portrayed and how I’ve played her. That, at the end of the day, is par for the course.”
How Gillian Anderson prepared for her role on ‘The Crown’
Anderson told Harper’s Bazaar in November 2020 that her version of Thatcher involved a lot of trial and error. After reading up on Thatcher and watching videos of her, Anderson began doing camera tests in full hair and makeup.
As the actor said, the initial look was “a big mess.”
“I watched some of the playback as I was kind of trying out how to hold her head and how to walk and all that kind of stuff,” she said, later adding, “I had to kind of reel it back and start to work on other aspects of that.”
She wore two wigs while filming — one for the first half of the season and another for the second — along with Thatcher’s signature pouf and lipstick.
In the end, Anderson fine-tuned her performance resulting in praise from both critics of viewers.
Watch The Crown Seasons 1 – 4 on Netflix.