Olivia Colman certainly looks the part of Queen Elizabeth II in Season 3 of Netflix’s The Crown with a replica of the royal’s often-worn pearl necklace, clothing, handbags, and perfectly coifed hair. However, the Oscar-winning actress’s physical portrayal is lacking in one way: eye color. Colman’s eyes are brown while Queen Elizabeth II’s are blue.
Eye color not a problem until now
In Seasons 1 and 2 of the award-winning series, eye color wasn’t on the list of things that had to be replicated — unlike palaces, wardrobes, and jewelry — because Claire Foy, 35, the actress who played a young Queen Elizabeth II — and won a Golden Globe, Emmy, and two Screen Actors Guild Awards for her performance — has blue eyes. That all changed when Colman, 45, signed on to take over the role from Foy at the end of Season 2.
When it came to filming scenes for Seasons 3 and 4 — they were shot back-to-back — in an effort to make the transition between actresses as seamless as possible, producers of The Crown tried changing Colman’s eye color to match Queen Elizabeth II’s and Foy’s in previous seasons. But the task proved to be a lot harder than they realized.
Colman ‘acting behind a mask’ in blue contacts
First, the producers of The Crown had Colman wear blue contacts to disguise her real eye color. But the results weren’t great. Ben Carson, who directed the first four episodes of Season 3, told The Guardian that wearing the contacts made Colman look as if she were “acting behind a mask.”
“It was as if we had taken all of her acting ability and put it in a safe and locked it away,” he told the publication.
During a Sept. 2019 interview with Vogue, Colman said her “very strong eyelids” were a hindrance to the blue contact lenses. “It was basically like an exorcism: ‘Just hold me down and thrust it in!'” she recalled.
So, they had to try another option.
CGI’d blue eyes ‘didn’t feel like’ Colman
After an unsuccessful attempt at blue contacts, the producers took a turn at changing Colman’s eyes from brown to blue in post-production using CGI. That method, like the first, didn’t produce the desired results.
“It didn’t feel like her,” Carson said of using visual effects to disguise Colman’s natural color. “CGI-ing her eyes seemed to diminish what she was doing,” he added.
In the end, they decided to leave Colman’s eyes alone, which is why her version of Queen Elizabeth II isn’t exactly accurate with brown eyes instead of blue.
Despite the difference in eye color, fans have had no problem with the transition to Colman and the rest of the new cast members. Since Season 3 premiered on Netflix Nov. 17, 2019, viewers have praised The Crown and Colman’s performance, remarking that the transition to her from Foy has been “seamless.”
Colman’s role ‘not about looks’
Eye color wasn’t a make or break moment when it came to casting Colman as Queen Elizabeth II. While looks certainly were part of it, they weren’t everything.
“We always thought it should be Olivia, right from the beginning. The thing everybody loves about Claire was that she transmits her humanity in a very simple, plain, not-doing-anything kind of a way: you just get it,” Nina Gold, casting director for The Crown told The Guardian. “We felt that was exactly the same thing Olivia does. It’s not about looks – it’s about a quality.”
For those who have already watched all 10 episodes of The Crown’s third season, check out Netflix’s podcast for the show.