The much-anticipated fifth season of "The Crown" gives a deeper meaning to "heavy is the head that wears the crown."
It's the 1990s, and the British monarchy is in turmoil: A fire tears through Windsor Castle, public antipathy is on the rise, separations lead to divorces, phones get tapped, secret relationships are outed and adultery is revealed in the family. Questions begin to mount about stability, loyalty and duty, leading Queen Elizabeth II to reflect, Prince Charles to become frustrated and Princess Diana to tell all.
But that's not everything.
There's also a changing of the guard in creator Peter Morgan's royal soap opera, which lands Wednesday on Netflix. Keeping with its tradition of recasting lead roles every two seasons, "The Crown" introduces new but familiar faces this season.
The cast brings a whole new flavor and energy to the show, Morgan told Tudum, Netflix's fan site, adding that "The Crown" not only needed it but also profited from it. This not only includes the key players introduced this season but also the secondary ones — Olivia Williams as Camilla Parker Bowles, Claudia Harrison as Princess Anne and Jonny Lee Miller as Prime Minister John Major.
Here are the actors who play the lead royals in the 10-episode drama that spans 1991 to 1997.
Following the footsteps of Claire Foy (Seasons 1 and 2) and Olivia Colman (Seasons 3 and 4), Staunton steps into the shoes of Elizabeth, who is facing the most challenging decade yet. On getting the job, Staunton stated that she was honored to be part of the team and "to be taking 'The Crown' to its conclusion." "What has been nice, and I hope I don't prove them wrong, is people saying, 'I'm really looking forward to seeing her as the queen,' '' Staunton told Tudum.
Staunton can play serious and fun. In 2005, she earned an Oscar nomination for playing an abortionist in "Vera Drake." She also has been in "Harry Potter" movies and "Shakespeare in Love." In the "Downton Abbey" movie, she appeared as the Queen's lady-in-waiting alongside her real-life husband, Jim Carter, who plays Mr. Carson.
A note to Staunton: No pressure, but Foy and Colman have won Emmys for their roles as the queen.
As Queen Elizabeth II: "If we can't admit the errors of our past, what hope for reconciliation can there be?"
Emmy-winner Tobias Menzies hands over the baton to Pryce to be Prince Philip, aka the Duke of Edinburgh.
"Doing this and looking into Philip's background and finding out what made him the man he was — that was the interest to me," he told Tudum. "I'm more interested in their life, their emotional life, which is what 'The Crown' explores."
Calling it a daunting prospect to portray Philip, Pryce credits his confidence for playing the role to the positive experience he had with Netflix when making "The Two Popes." He also is known for his role as the plagiarizing husband in "The Wife" and "Evita," a ruthless media baron in "Tomorrow Never Dies" and playing High Sparrow in "Game of Thrones."
As Prince Philip: "She [the queen] never stops. She never complains. She never puts a foot wrong. She's utterly magnificent, and they print rubbish like this."
When Josh O'Connor, another Emmy winner, took his bow at the end of Season 4 as Charles, West inherited the role.
"This is such a big show and has had so many great performances in it," West told Tudum. "If you can be part of a show like this, you got to go for it if you can."
He defended the criticism the show has been getting for its accuracy and sensationalism. "I think people understand, because the cast has changed every two seasons, that this is not an imitation," he told the fan site. "This is an evoking of a character. That's really where the show lives: in the imagined conversations of their private life, which is something that no one knows. I think that's what it gets a lot of criticism for. How can you know what they talk about in their private lives? The obvious answer is we don't, but we have an incredible writer, a dramatist, who imagines based on exhaustive research, and that's really part of the fascination of the show."
A side note: His real-life son Senan, will play a school-going Prince William in this season.
West's other roles include TV dramas "The Wire" and "The Affair," and movies "Chicago" and "Tomb Raider."
As Prince Charles: "I've done as you asked Mummy. I've tried to make it work for 11 years."
The Australian actress takes over the role of playing Princess of Wales from Season 4's Emma Corrin, who got an Emmy nod for lead actress in a drama series.
Debicki has said it was a privilege to play Diana and be part of "a masterful series," which has had her "hooked from Episode 1." She told Tudum the role motivated and kept pushing her "to either find new ways to approach it or sort of get around the added layers of pressure. As an actor, you open the portal and this huge tsunami of information comes at you. I happily swam around in it."
Her other movie credits include "The Great Gatsby," "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2" and "Tenet."
As Princess Diana: "Well, there are three of us in this marriage, so it's a bit crowded."
Helena Bonham Carter is out and Manville is in, but she is no "Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris" here. She sheds her naivety and cockney accent to play the royal rebel and younger sister of the queen, Princess Margaret.
When it was announced that she had snagged the role, Manville tweeted: "I could not be happier to be playing Princess Margaret. The baton is being passed on from two formidable actresses and I really don't want to let the side down."
The British star has five BAFTA nods and one Oscar nomination to her credit. She has played varied roles that range from a high-strung business partner in "Phantom Thread" to a good fairy in the "Maleficent" movies.
As Princess Margaret: "You [to the queen] cannot bring yourself to acknowledge what happened to me and the part you played in it."