Is The Windsors a job you'll always make time for?
Absolutely. When it came up ages ago, they checked in with me and I was definitely available. Then as it gets closer to the time, availability gets a bit squeezed, but you're trying to do everything to make sure that you're available. As soon as it came back though, I was up for it.
What can we expect for Harry and Megan (Kathryn Drysdale) for the Coronation Special?
In the show, they are in their California idyll with their simple, back-to-basics life, free of the cares of the royals – I don't know what their real California life is like, but I shouldn’t think it's very basic. Then the coronation comes up and there's a dilemma about whether they go or not. Can Harry be truly at peace and miss his father's coronation, a potential reconciliation with his brother and all of that? Do they go or do they not go? Which is pretty much what's happening in real life!
How are they feeling about “the firm” now?
The joke in the show is that Harry isn’t the sharpest tool in the box, so I play it as if Harry is looking to Meghan to answer every question he’s asked. There’s also that historical rivalry between Meghan and Kate (Louise Ford) and Pippa (Morgana Robinson), so there are lots of axes to grind in the show. For Harry, there's a bit in the show about Wills (Hugh Skinner) and Harry's different versions of memories they have of their childhood together. For Wills, there's a Merchant Ivory-ness to his memory. For Harry, it’s more of a Raging Bull boxing ring. So there's resentment on Harry’s side – it’s whether he'll come back to bury the hatchet or not. I don’t think he has a single thought about his relationship to the Crown in the show, though. I don't think he really knows what's going on.
Has Harry’s Californian life meant you’re really dressing down more now?
I'm in more pastel shades and linens now. I don't wear a uniform any more, which is a great relief. I'm grateful to Harry for that.
How do you work so well with Kathryn Drysdale?
We're both extremely funny! Honestly, I credit the scripts. Obviously the material is rich, but the jokes are just brilliant. They land every time. I hesitate to say this, but you don't really have to do much as an actor. The director says ‘just a bit faster’, and that's it. Kathryn is lovely to work with and it's a very clear process. We just turn up and say the lines with joy and relish.
What was your favourite moment from the special?
When I first walked on set again, I was reminded what a joy it is to be with that cast. They're all incredibly funny and it's very hard not to giggle. I'm a terrible corpser. The first scene we did was with Wills and Kate, and it was all I could do to stop giggling. There was another scene with Harry where Charles (Harry Enfield) turns up as a monk, having been on a spiritual journey. It has come as a surprise to me in my career to be making comedy at all, but it's a great pleasure.
You never know which direction Hugh’s going to take a vowel, do you?
That's exactly right. I remember he had “helicopter” in the first series, and there's a good joke about that in this special. He's also got his out-and-about scheme and I'll let you imagine which way he takes those vowels. He does it with such conviction, as if it's completely natural, but it’s so absurd. There's something brilliant about the absurdity and the seriousness of these characters that really works.
What’s the biggest challenge of making The Windsors?
It's literally keeping a straight face. There isn't another challenge, although I always feel a great pressure if there's a punchline in the script, because I'm not a comedian and others in the cast are much more naturally, effortlessly funny. I get tense about whether I can make this obviously funny line funny or not. But even that is easily outweighed by the challenge of keeping a straight face.
Have you ever met a member of the royal family?
No, not in person. Not intimately, as it were. Only in a crowd.
What do you think that you'd say to them, or they might say to you?
Do they always know who they're meeting and why? I’d try and hide, although I doubt I'd ever be put in that position, given what I've done in my career. I doubt they'd allow it! I'd probably say the wrong thing. I’d say ‘hi’ or curtsey by mistake, like Liz Truss.
Will you be watching the coronation itself?
I'm going to be watching the Coronation Special! Yeah, it's a historic moment, isn't it? So I probably will watch it, out of curiosity and FOMO.
What’s coming up next for you?
I’m about to finish filming Scoop, a Netflix film about the Prince Andrew and Emily Maitlis interview – so more royals! Although I’m not playing Andrew or Emily Maitlis. After that, I don't know. I'm going to get a puppy and spend a few months training it. That’s not a euphemism, by the way!