How ‘The Crown’ Hair and Makeup Team Captured Princess Diana and Princess Margaret on the Final Season

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Photo Source: Des Willie/Netflix

“We were as committed to 1963 as we were to 1993 as we were to 2003,” says hair and makeup designer Cate Hall about her work on “The Crown.” The final season of Peter Morgan’s Netflix historical drama about the British royal family brings the story into the 21st century. Here, the three-time Emmy nominee and her colleague Emilie Yong-Mills reveal the secrets to capturing the looks of the Windsors in both public and private spaces. 

The final season is set between 1997 and 2005, with a focus on the aftermath of Princess Diana’s (Elizabeth Debicki) death. How did you approach your work as the series got closer to the present day?

Cate Hall: In some ways, it’s a lot easier because there’s so much reference material available. That also means there’s more scope for criticism, but you have to ride that out and do your best. All we’re trying to do is help an actor create a performance that feels believable and that people can engage with and buy into. If [we] do that and it feels robust, we’ve done our job.

The show recreates the last images people remember seeing of Diana. What was it like working with Debicki on this part of her story?

CH: The tricky thing was [representing] those private moments [between Diana and her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, played by Khalid Abdalla] on the boat, because how do you say “Diana” without that iconic silhouette? We changed the parting in the wig because we wanted to help Elizabeth create that performance of private, relaxed free time—that tiny glimpse of Diana as a mum and a woman in her 30s on holiday. Elizabeth was focused on that, too. And we tried different shapes, tweaking, and products to find something that we could all say, “Yeah, that feels Diana-ish. That’s Diana-ish enough that we can believe it.” 

Cate Hall working on The Crown

Cate Hall working on “The Crown” Credit: Keith Bernstein 

Meg Bellamy played Kate Middleton this season in her first significant role. What was it like to work with an actor so new to the industry?

CH: Take away any darkness, [feeling] jaded—any negative experience anyone’s ever had in the industry. Everyone carries their own experience of life; so if there has been no experience, what you have is a very innocent excitement; and [Bellamy] was thrilled to have the part. 

Emilie Yong-Mills: We’ve been on the job for so long; then this young cast came in, and we were buoyed by their energy. 

How did you change Lesley Manville’s appearance after her character, Princess Margaret, suffers multiple strokes?

CH: This was our favorite challenge of the whole season and probably our favorite episode, [Episode 8, “Ritz,”] to work on. Lesley is an amazing actress. We already had a great relationship [with her] from Season 5, and I think [she] was excited to get started. She’d been to stroke units, and we had done a load of research. Instead of sticking something on her face, we had an appliance made that clipped onto her teeth so it would affect her speech and move her mouth without [us having to glue] on a prosthetic piece. It could be clipped in and out in seconds. Then, we did a lot of painting, shading, flicking, and texturizing, and we glued her eye very subtly down. 

EYM: It’s important for the character, because makeup and her look were such a big part of Princess Margaret; so [we] would still have to do her beauty makeup on top. 

What advice would you give aspiring hair and makeup designers?

EYM: It’s arming yourself with…knowledge—so learn barbering, haircutting, and everything you possibly can. That’s the great thing about our job: There’s always something else you can learn or practice. 

This story originally appeared in the Dec. 28 issue of Backstage Magazine.