The Oscar nominee, 54, recounted her interaction with Queen Elizabeth II‘s late sister to Variety while discussing the upcoming fourth season of the Netflix series. While Margaret never got a chance to see Carter’s performance (the princess passed away in 2002 at age 71), she didn’t hesitate to share her opinion of the actress’ craft when they met years earlier.
“She was very small and I went up to her and she kind of knew who I was because she knew my uncle very well. She said, ‘Oh Helena, yes, you are getting better at acting,'” the Alice in Wonderland star recalled. “And I just thought that is so inimitably her, which was basically a compliment put down … It wasn’t really a compliment, was it?”
In 2018, the Emmy-winning series confirmed that Carter would portray Princess Margaret, previously played by Vanessa Kirby, as Olivia Colman took over the role of the queen from Claire Foy. To get a better sense of Margaret’s character, the Big Fish actress spoke with a handful of the princess’ close friends who were able to separate her public persona from her true personality.
“I feel it’s my responsibility to try and find the essence of somebody, the true person. Margaret was a victim of a lot of prejudgment I think, and bad opinion. And she was much more complicated than she’s been generally portrayed,” Carter explained. “It was very easy once I started talking to people then, in fact there were many, many, many more facets to her that nobody really wanted to know about. And then also in some ways, all the positive doesn’t really make good press.”
During her lifetime, Margaret was viewed as a controversial member of the royal family. After ending her engagement to recently divorced Group Captain Peter Townsend, who did not receive the royal family’s approval, she married photographer Antony Armstrong-Jones in 1960. The couple welcomed son David in 1961 and daughter Sarah in 1964. Margaret’s relationship later became the subject of public scrutiny and the pair eventually divorced in 1978.
As she prepared to take on the role of the “royal rebel,” Carter was determined to do Margaret justice.
“A lot of people wanted to talk about her — and also stick up for her,” she told Town & Country magazine in November 2019. “Because they feel like there’s only been one side told, or that she’s been misunderstood and vilified when there was a lot that was wonderful about her.”
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