It's no secret that The Crown, like the individuals whose lives it so lavishly depicts, is getting the royal treatment.

The new Netflix drama series chronicling the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II is being billed as the most expensive television production ever created, with a reported budget of $130 million (NZ$177 million).

With a regal price tag like that, The Crown has earned a fair share of attention ahead of its worldwide debut today on the popular streaming service.

And, given the exponential budget - a figure that's been widely reported but not confirmed by producers - the pricey prestige drama certainly has some heavy hitters involved. Claire Foy (Season of the Witch) plays a young Queen Elizabeth II, the hunky Matt Smith (Doctor Who) stars as Prince Philip, John Lithgow (3rd Rock from the Sun) shines as Winston Churchill, and Jared Harris (Mad Men) stars as King George VI, among others.


With the likes of Billy Elliot director Stephen Daldry, and screenwriter Peter Morgan (best known for other royal works such as The Queen and The Audience, both starring Helen Mirren) behind the series, expectations were always going to be lofty.

But, while creators will likely be tuned into social media for initial reaction this weekend as Downton Abbey fans and royal family junkies around the world weigh in, there's no hint of nerves from Claire Foy and Matt Smith ahead of the release of the 10-episode first season.

The chemistry between the British co-stars is instantly evident, who joke playfully about what a "chore" it was to work together.

"We're good pals and we work hard. Do we take it seriously enough? Probably not," Smith tells "It's just sort of ridiculous because she's always dressed up as the Queen!"

The 34-year-old hunk, playing a young Prince Philip, then Lt. Philip Mountbatten, describes taking on the huge role of Elizabeth's beloved husband as "fascinating".

"Philip had the most extraordinary early life," he says. "I think we have a preconception of Philip nowadays as the man he is, this man who makes these social guffaws. But actually he lived these really tragic formative years and it was just oddly fascinating. And my affection and appreciation for him, and indeed the royal family, grew enormously."

Potentially surprising to many viewers will be the inclusion of multiple nude scenes peppered throughout the series. Prince Philip is seen sleeping naked in bed on a number of occasions, as well as bare-chested and dripping in sweat in a rowing competition.

A scene from The Crown, Netflix's latest TV series. Photo / Timeout
A scene from The Crown, Netflix's latest TV series. Photo / Timeout

While Smith jokes that the 'bum scenes" are "the best bit of acting I did in the entire show," he says it was important that the lavish drama was as historically accurate as possible (fun fact: Prince Philip did sleep naked).


"Would it have been the same if he had got up in a pair of pyjamas? No."

But how will viewers take to this "sex symbol" Prince Philip?

"I think it's trickier for the audience ... because people think Philip is a certain way and actually he's not. He was a very different man when he was young and even the man he is now, I think he's completely misread, so it will be interesting for the audience," Smith says.

Seeing a confident, athletic Philip with plenty of sex appeal as he captures the attention of a young Princess Elizabeth is just one of the many shocks viewers can expect from The Crown. Many of the scenes are far removed from the formal occasions in which we're all used to seeing the British royal family - part of director Peter Morgan's ambition to portray Elizabeth in some of the most intimate and turbulent moments across a decade of her early life, exploring the delicate balance between her private world and public life.

Another emotionally-charged scene sees Elizabeth's little sister Princess Margaret, played by Vanessa Kirby, enjoying an illicit kiss with Group Captain Peter Townsend (Ben Miles), who later proposed marriage to her but was deemed unsuitable as he was divorced.

But the opening scene in episode one might be one of the most strangely shocking of the entire series, revealing King George VI (Jared Harris) coughing up blood into a royal lavatory bowl. Morgan's decision to focus on the king's lung cancer and depict him as incredibly vulnerable in his final years might be criticised by some, but it was all part of putting the House of Windsor under the microscope. In a later scene, the King casually drops the c-bomb while exchanging lyrics with his staff.


"You get to know them as people," Foy said. "The fact that I got the chance to read books about her [Queen Elizabeth II] and about them, and the time to investigate them as people is really lovely and I feel quite lucky really."

A scene from The Crown, Netflix's latest TV series. Photo / Timeout
A scene from The Crown, Netflix's latest TV series. Photo / Timeout

"It's certainly good to be Peter Morgan's queen," she adds.

On exposing certain truths about members of one of the world's most famous families, Smith said: "It's a fine line between wanting to tell the truth and give people a version of the character that they know and understand, but then also you want to tell a story that's dramatic and interesting and engaging as a drama.

"We're trying to capture the energy of these people, it's not a spitting image," he added. "The difficulty is getting them right and it not just being an imitation. No one wants that."

The fact is, Peter Morgan didn't have much to go on in terms of what goes on behind closed doors. The award-winning screenwriter has never actually met Queen Elizabeth II in person, and has said on a number of occasions that he never wishes to. But he's spent a career imagining and researching every detail of her life and has successfully tapped into the family's very private world in an attempt to "make them human beings".

He also reportedly employed a team of eight fulltime historical researchers to assist him.


"We had so many people informing us about etiquette," Foy says. "Also historically, we had amazing voice and dialect coaches, and amazing researchers who have us all this material, videos and books, quotes ... so we were incredibly supported all the way really."

But no, Morgan's not at all concerned about the possibility of the Queen herself settling in to binge-watch The Crown during some rare downtime at Buckingham Palace.

"These are the most written-about, satirised, portrait-painted people in the world. What do they care?" he said during an interview with Radio Times.

With the second season already being filmed and director Stephen Daldry revealing that he envisions the drama continuing for six or seven seasons, we can expect many more royal revelations and juicy details in the near future.

The Crown premieres on Netflix on November 4.