Oliver Chris: Prince William
Tall and blond, 38-year-old Oliver Chris had “spent my entire life with people telling me I look like Prince William, although his hairline has receded quicker than mine.”
The actor, best known for his breakthrough role in BBC3’s sitcom Bluestone 42, had auditioned unsuccessfully several times to play William in US dramas about the Royal Family: “I always walked out with a sense of righteous indignation at not getting it. But, if this is going to be my William, then I’m very proud.”
Actors often watch press premieres of their shows, keen to see how it has turned out. Chris, though, isn’t sure when he’ll feel ready to watch scenes with Tim Pigott-Smith that they played more than 300 times on stage.
“Tim and I were very close,” says Chris, “and the only thing I can hold onto is the preservation of joyous memories and the whole of King Charles III reflects that.”
During theatre rehearsals, Chris and other cast members created an acting style that gives an essence of the real person rather than an impression: “We realised that, the minute you start pastiching them, you lose the emotional content. I didn’t do William’s voice because he has a strange mix of those 1950s Royal vowels and this kind of modern West London sound.” Facially, Chris has copied a particular upwards look, in which William looks most like his mother.
Chris with King Charles III co-stars Tim Pigott-Smith and Charlotte Riley
Even after playing the scenes with Diana’s ghost so often, Chris concedes that they still feel “pretty shocking stuff: “Very emotionally near the line. Some people will bridle at it, but I hope it’s done with enough intelligence and sensitivity not to be gratuitous. I’m very conscious that it’s a real person and a real family. But I don’t think it’s any more intrusive than much of the mainstream media coverage of Diana and her death.”
Chris is also known for his roles in Channel 4 comedy Green Wing, The Office, The IT Crowd, Breathless and The Scandalous Lady W, with theatre credits including A Midsummer Night’s Dream, One Man, Two Guvnors, Twelfth Night and Young Marx in recent years. He also narrated most of the audiobooks for Anthony Horowitz’ Alex Rider book series, though was replaced by Dan Stevens for the last three editions.