She may not play the monarch; but Helena Bonham Carter steals the screen as Princess Margaret in The Crown

''Being royal seems like a nightmare!''

By Maddison Hockey with Jenny Cooney Carrillo
In Helena Bonham Carter's impressive 36-year career, the versatile British actress has played her fair share of queens.
First appearing as Anne Boleyn in 2003 telemovie Henry VIII, Helena has also played Red Queen in Tim Burton's whimsical reimagining of Alice in Wonderland, as well as King George VI's wife Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) in The King's Speech.
Now, Helena's playing a Princess – Margaret to be exact – in season three of The Crown. And despite Princess Margaret being bumped down the line in succession to the throne, she may be the most fitting royal role Helena has played.
"I played a lot of queens," Helena, 53, says with a laugh, "But each queen is obviously different... actually, there's a bit of the Red Queen in Margaret."
Helena Bonham Carter in The Crown. Image: Netflix
In fact, if you ask Helena, she believes its Margaret who should have been Queen rather than her older sister Elizabeth.
"I think she would have been a more natural queen," Helena says matter-of-factly. "The irony was that one wanted to be the other – they were born with wrong dispositions."
The award-winning actress and mother-of-two is no stranger to successful series and films.
With more than 90 acting credits to her name, Helena has proved her versatility in Hollywood, appearing as Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter films, as well as roles in Les Misérables, Fight Club, Planet Of The Apes and Sweeny Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street.
Helena Bonham Carter in Harry Potter. Image: Warner Bros
The actress seemed all but destined to play Princess Margaret. In fact, her late uncle, Mark Bonham Carter, a Liberal MP and Grenadier Guard at Windsor, was a good friend of the princess.
"My uncle was actually very close to her," Helena recently told Entertainment Weekly.
Helena possesses photographs of her uncle and Margaret together – and once met the Queen's sister herself.
"She was pretty scary," Helena recounted to EW. "At one point, she met me at Windsor Castle and asked, 'You are getting better [at acting], aren't you?'"
Ben Daniels (right) plays Princess Margaret's dashing husband Lord Snowden. Image: Netflix
Helena felt it appropriate to gain the princess' blessing before playing her in The Crown. Given that Margaret died in 2002, it proved difficult, but not impossible.
According to The Guardian, Helena contacted Margaret beyond the grave using a psychic.
"She said, apparently, she was glad it was me," the actress revealed at the recent Cheltenham Literature Festival.
"I asked her: 'Are you OK with me playing you?' and she said: 'You're better than the other actress' …that they were thinking of.'"
The role has given her an even greater glimpse into life in the Royal Family. Helena admits it's not one she'd personally enjoy.
"I think it's an extraordinary life to take on," she says. "[But] I think it's a nightmare."
Helena Bonham Carter is the perfect fit for the role. Image: Netflix
It's well acknowledged among the new cast of season three and four that there's pressure to live up to the exceptional representation of characters and drama The Crown's fans have come to love.
Yet Helena hopes to bring her own touch to her depiction of Margaret, separate from previous roles and from how Vanessa Kirby, who played the troubled royal in seasons one and two, portrayed the troubled princess.
"I watched Vanessa, not for what she did, because I know I'm an entirely different actor," Helena explains, "[But] there were certain things she did that I wanted to do in the new [series], so you have an echo of the past."
"You take the past – what they have done – and absorb it. And then you begin the future with a new partner."
Vanessa Kirby played Princess Margaret for the first two seasons. Image: Netflix
In fact, Helena felt most pressure stemmed from having to play someone so iconic.
"It's daunting to play someone so well known," she says. "Everybody has an opinion about them – everybody."
Ben Daniels, who's enjoyed TV roles in House Of Cards and The Exorcist, takes over from Matthew Goode as Antony Armstrong-Jones (later Lord Snowden), Margaret's husband.
"You have all these different characters and then you have the DNA and you go, 'OK, our relationship – and our Margaret and Tony – are going to be a result of all these different strains,'" Helena says.
"It would have been sort of weird to sort of do an impersonation of what Matthew did," her co-star Ben, 55, adds.
WATCH NEXT: What Did The Crown's Major Players Look Like In Real Life? Story continues after video...
The Crown's success may put a level of expectation upon the stars, but it was also a driving reason for Helena and Ben to sign on.
"It was a gift, and it's not just because its royalty," Helena says, "It's also about family, and family in an impossible situation. And it has such resonance."
Also, The Crown is a hit.
"For us, it's good to be in hits!" Helena adds with a laugh.
Want more exclusive interviews and behind-the-scenes access to Netflix's The Crown? Pick up your copy of the new collector's edition of TV WEEK Close Up, on sale now.
TV WEEK Close Up, on sale now Image: TV WEEK
The Crown Season 3 premieres Sunday, November 17, on Netflix.

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