An acting neophyte rises to a prince on ‘The Crown.’
Luther Ford had never studied acting when he was cast as Prince Harry for ‘The Crown.’
By DOUGLAS GREENWOOD
A COLLEGE STUDENT CAST TO PLAY A PRINCE
LONDON — Playing Prince Harry in the final season of Netflix’s “The Crown,” Luther Ford said he felt like royalty.
The actor, who was still a student when he was cast in the role, said he would be picked up by a chauffeur from the apartment he shared with roommates in Bournemouth, an English coastal city, and be driven to an ornate set or a British castle, where he was surrounded by well-known actors.
“It was a complete change” from his previous life, the 23-year-old said in an interview last month, adding that being a part of the show “doesn’t stop surprising me.”
Before “The Crown,” Ford said he had not been on a professional set or considered acting as an occupation. When Netflix announced it would welcome applications from newcomers for the part of Prince Harry, a friend suggested that Ford audition. In October 2022, he got the part, took a break from college, where he was studying filmmaking production, and a month later started shooting the show.
The show’s sixth and final season was split in two, with the final six episodes arriving on Thursday. The first batch of episodes took place in the summer of 1997, around Princess Diana’s fatal car crash. The final episodes see Ford’s Harry and Prince William (Ed McVey) grappling with their mother’s death and life as very famous teenage royalty. While William heads to college, meets Kate Middleton (Meg Bellamy) and begins to contemplate one day becoming king, Harry struggles to find purpose, and his drinking and weed smoking start to concern the family.
Harry — who “stepped back” from royal duties in 2020 and now lives with his wife, Meghan Markle, and their two children in California — has said he watches “The Crown.” Ford put that out of his mind for his performance, he said, and instead tried to focus on how the role was written by Peter Morgan, the show’s creator.
Drinking a beer in a London restaurant, Ford discussed his fear at joining “The Crown” as a newcomer, getting into character and how the popularity of Harry and Meghan’s Netflix documentary, alongside his memoir, “Spare,” affected his performance. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.
How did you feel when you were cast as Harry?
At first I was like, “This is amazing — brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. I’m going to tell everyone.” But the first rehearsal was when I realized, “Oh, this is actually serious, and this is not going to be something I’m just going to walk through.” I was so naïve, and then when I actually got there, I was looking at the script like, “God, I don’t know how to act. I don’t know what I’m doing.”
How did you get out of that mind-set?
Well, you’re reassured by the cast and the producers. I thought it was going to be really tense and stressful, but they were so relaxed. They didn’t make a big deal out of it. I didn’t have acting classes, but I had a movement coach and a dialect coach. Maybe because I’ve been making films, I understood the set.
Did you have an interest in the royal family before you started?
Not particularly. They are embedded in British culture whether you like it or not. I didn’t love them or hate them, I was semiimpartial. The fact that I didn’t know a huge amount about the royal family and the fact that I had been cast, that kind of made me feel like, OK, well, there must be something I’m doing that just works for the character.
During filming, Harry and Meghan’s documentary series was released. Then came “Spare.” Were you given direction, from directors or producers, on how to — or whether to — interact with them?
I listened to the audiobook of “Spare” all the time while filming because he’s reading it. It was good for the voice. But I would only use it in the sense of what Peter’s scripts were exploring, because otherwise, there was too much to worry about. It’s not about doing an impression, but capturing a kind of essence or a flavor. So we were encouraged to focus on the timeline of the show because the rest is somewhat irrelevant.
In between getting cast and starting rehearsals, what did your research process look like?
I hadn’t been taking it seriously at first because I was so shocked, and was thinking about the end point and how exciting that would be. But then I realized, “Oh, I need to do some work.” I basically locked myself in
‘It was useful to feel out of place.’
a room for a period of time, and did some revising.
Netflix sent me this pack of interviews, books, documentaries, articles, and I went out and bought five red notebooks. There was one that was the “Best of . . . ,” with information and quotes. One was Diana’s quotes.
Like her supposed motto for her sons: “You can be as naughty as you like. Just don’t get caught”?
Yeah, that’s me being in “The Crown.” I wasn’t supposed to be there. That summed up the experience.
How do you start to relate to someone like this?
One of the things Peter was interested in exploring in terms of brotherhood, and the institution was the idea of Harry being the black sheep of the family.
In a funny way, I related to that because, as a non-actor who was new to that world, going onto “The Crown” set, it didn’t take a huge stretch of imagination to feel like an outsider. When you’re surrounded by some of the best British actors I didn’t immediately feel like I fit in with them. I leaned into the fact that it was uncomfortable for the role. It was useful to feel out of place.
At what point in that process did you meet Ed McVey, who plays William?
I did six auditions, and I met him on the third. He’d already got the part, and we just got on. I knew that it felt easy between us, and I felt like I could make him laugh. Even though it was his first screen job, the fact that he’d gone to drama school, I just looked up to him. He was more experienced than I was, and he is older than me, but only by a couple of months. And so naturally, I felt just like the younger brother.
Did you have a technique for getting into character?
I met with a young marine. And even though the show doesn’t touch on it, he taught me how to march. From a posture standpoint, the way in which they hold themselves, their chest is out. Even though it was just a tiny adjustment, the posture was probably the most transformative thing, because I think instinctually, if you go on set with some of the most established British actors, your instinct is not to puff your chest out, like you don’t want to be seen.
Do you want to act again?
I’ll do more acting if someone wants me to. I really enjoyed it, and it gives you access to the world of filmmaking and a set in a way that, when you’re working your way up behind the camera, doesn’t happen. I’ll keep making films, regardless. To me, directing and filmmaking feels like the long-term goal.
Did your relationship to Harry as a person change in the process of doing this?
Yeah, I’ve thought about him every day. By thinking about someone and researching a lot about them, you build up a lot of empathy for them. It’s your job to like them in some way.
And are you interested in what he thinks about your take on him?
It would be a lie to say no — but I’m definitely not holding my breath for a statement.
New York Times