‘The Crown’: Who Will Play Queen Elizabeth After Olivia Colman?

In recent days, the story of who plays the next Queen Elizabeth in The Crown has come across more like a Monty Python sketch than something worthy of Buckingham Palace: Imelda Staunton will be the next Elizabeth! No she isn’t! We still say she is! Conflicting reports ahoy. 

Here’s the lowdown: it not official yet that Staunton will follow in Claire Foy and Olivia Colman’s footsteps. After the initial reporting, Netflix denied it. However, Deadline insists that the actress is in talks for the role. And this is provided that there will be such a thing as seasons 4 and 5 of the Crown. 

Olivia Colman on the red carpet
Olivia Colman | Mike Marsland/WireImage

Will it be Imelda Staunton or not?

The Daily Mail initially reported that Oscar nominee Staunton had been tapped to play the queen. Since Claire Foy played her in Seasons 1 and 2, and Oscar-winner Olivia Colman is playing her in seasons 3 and 4. So it stands to reason that a third actress would play Elizabeth in seasons 5 and 6, taking us to the present day. 

Except Netflix doesn’t seem sure there will be a season 5 or 6. When IndieWire reported the story, they quoted a Netflix statement that said, “We are currently filming season four of ‘The Crown’ but have not commissioned any further seasons as yet, therefore any news on casting remains pure speculation.”

However, Deadline updated the story that featured Netflix’s quote, but the news outlet also said, “Updated with source confirmation: Imelda Staunton is in talks to replace Olivia Colman as Queen Elizabeth II in seasons 5 and 6 of critically praised Netflix drama The Crown, a source has told Deadline.” 

This is getting as difficult to suss out as any rumor regarding the real-life royal family. 

What else has Staunton done?

If Staunton does indeed get the role, she certainly has no shortage of credentials. For one thing, she trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. For another, she’s an Oscar nominee, having received that honor for her performance in Vera Drake playing a woman who performs abortions in 1950s England, when the practice was still very much illegal. 

In keeping with its practice of hiring just about every acclaimed British actor on the planet, the Harry Potter series cast Staunton as one of the series most memorable villains, playing the detestable Dolores Umbridge, who figured in Harry Potter and Order of the Phoenix as one of Hogwarts’ many frightening and dubious Defense Against the Dark Arts teachers. 

Staunton also has other royal connections as well. She played the Queen Mother in  the BBC drama Cambridge Spies, and she starred in the movie Downton Abbey playing  Lady Bagshaw, a lady-in-waiting to Queen Mary. So she’s played a lot of royal adjacent roles. 

How do ‘The Crown’ seasons break down?

Whether Staunton gets the part or not, the series has been one of Netflix’s great successes. One of its key players behind the scenes is writer Peter Morgan, who had chronicled Elizabeth’s response to Princess Diana’s death in the movie The Queen, for which Helen Mirren won a Best Actress Oscar. 

The first two seasons of The Crown, with Foy as Elizabeth, depicted her life just before she became queen up until the birth of Prince Edward in 1964.  The third and current season covers 1964 to 1977, when Harold Wilson was prime minister, while the fourth season would cover the age of Margaret Thatcher and introduce Diana. 

And that makes for an interesting question. The Crown could conceivably stop there, given that Morgan already covered the aftermath of Diana’s death in The Queen, and Netflix has been known to cap its series around five seasons. For now, it remains to be seen where The Crown has to stop its story.