At the beginning of 2016 if you’d ask your average nine-to-fiver who Claire Foy is, they probably wouldn’t have been able to tell you. Fast forward to November and the launch of Netflix’s big budget drama, The Crown and Foy was the name everyone was talking about. Her petite frame and steely glances, coupled with her and on-screen husband Matt Smith’s natural and easy chemistry quickly made it hard to imagine anyone else bringing Queen Elizabeth II to life on-screen. And even those of us who weren’t really into the Royal family were completly gripped by Foy’s ability to humanise Elizabeth Mountbatten as she tries to balance the public with the private.
But it was only this week, when Claire Foy took to the stage to accept her first ever Golden Globe award (winner of the Best Actress in a Television Drama) for her performance in the series, that you realised just how hard she has been working towards that moment and how little we really knew of her.
Born in Manchester, Foy is the youngest of three siblings. Her mum worked for a pharmaceutical company and her dad was a sales consultant. After her A-levels, Foy went on to study drama and screen studies at Liverpool John Moores University with has been quoted as saying she had a vague ambition to become a cinematographer. It was only post university, that Foy decided to pusue acting, opting for a year’s course at the Oxford School of Drama. ‘I wouldn’t have been able to go to drama school when I was 19, Foy has said in an interview. ‘I don’t think I was even conscious of life… I was like a zombie. But when I finished uni’ I just realised… just go and do it, stop being a knob’.
After a string of small television roles, Foy got her first big break in 2008 the BBC adapation of Little Dorrit. Dearbhla Walsh who directed several of the episodes has been quoted as saying: ‘What stood out was her fragility, and her extraordinary eyes – big saucer eyes that were like a window into her soul. It was very clear [from casting meetings] that there was something exciting about her.’
Next up came roles in The Promise, The Night Watch and Upstairs Downstairs. Foy has also starred opposite Nicholas Cage in Season of the Witch which she has described as a ‘really bizarre experience’ and has also appeared opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Wreckers, ‘He’s a complete geek… he’s got more brain power than I will ever have so it just makes it so difficult to have a conversation with him,’ Foy has said of her co-star.
But it was her portrayl of Anne Boleyn in the BBC adapation of Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, that really caught the industry’s attention and she was nominated for several awards including a Critics Choice Television Award and a British Academy Television Award for Best Actress. Not that your standard TV viewer would know this of course. In an Insta age, Foy is immensely private, and without any social media handles of her own. She is also extremely humble both about her own talent and appearance. ‘I’m too conscious of looking like a dick,’ she has said. ‘That’s the difference between a star and a normal person. I’ve never been someone who walks into a room and people gasp.’
Foy met her husband, actor Stephen Campbell Moore on the set of Season of The Witch. But again she prefers to keep their relationship private and also work their work lives separate. ‘I don’t think I could ever do a play with him, however, because it’s too much,’ she has said. ‘You’re in a room and you’re constantly being taken apart, and told to do this again and again. You don’t really want the person you’re with see you being told ‘You’re shit’ all day and every day.’
The couple have a daughter and it was shortly after giving birth that Foy landed the role of Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. On a recent appearance on The Graham Norton Show, she spoke of how difficult it was to juggle both roles. ‘I was an idiot – such a huge idiot! I was a lunatic trying to breast feed and be The Queen. It was an odd thing to do.’
In interviews Foy has mentioned how she is not interested in being a Hollywood star saying: ‘I’m never going to be a film star and I’m not chasing it. I’m very happy playing interesting parts.’ However, as she stood on the Golden Globes stage, wearing a customised Erdem gown and paying tribute to the Queen and her daughter, you realised that Foy may no longer have a say in the matter. Clutching that gong you realised she’s already made the leap from unknown to bona fide Hollywood star with the post-party paparazzi shots and fan made memes to prove it.