Elizabeth Debicki  as Princess Diana in "The Crown"
Elizabeth Debicki plays Princess Diana in seasons 5 and 6 of the Netflix show "The Crown". Photo: The Crown/Netflix The Crown/Netflix

Elizabeth Debicki shared how the death of Queen Elizabeth II last year affected her and how "The Crown" dealt with her passing ahead of the release of the sixth and final season of the show on Netflix.

"I'll say personally, the loss of the Queen was an enormous sadness. She was a pinnacle, and I think she's much missed and much loved in my adopted country and around the world as well," the Australian actress, who portrays Princess Diana in the series, told People.

She added: "So everybody's intention has always been to sort of tell the stories as authentically as we can and make these people as human as possible, make the characters as human as possible."

Debicki also shared her experience playing Princess Diana in the series, from season 5 through season 6. She admitted that she came into the "experience of playing the role very naive" and that she "didn't know a lot".

She was only seven years old when the former Princess of Wales died so she "kind of had a kind of imprint in terms of who this person was". She said she "always imagined her as just this kind of extraordinarily beautiful princess and humanitarian figure".

The 33-year-old explained how she prepared herself for the role: "I did a lot of research for this role. I probably spent about a year doing research and that just filled in all these pieces and made me have such deep, deep respect and love for this person who I didn't know so much about."

She added: "The battle that she went through in terms of media, public perception. I didn't know things about the divorce and how difficult all of that was for everybody in the family."

However, one thing she was glad to discover was Princess Diana's sense of fun. She said it surprised her that the late royal had "this kind of really wonderful, very cheeky sense of humor, that she was just so warm and human with people. That's what she was so loved for, and it was so needed, too".

Debicki described the princess as "prolific" and "a real groundbreaker in terms of her ability to move through perceptions or stigmas and really just use herself as the vessel to enact huge humanitarian change." She admitted that she was constantly surprised at how far Princess Diana moved the needle, "whether it was talking about mental health issues, AIDS or landmines". She said losing the royal also meant the "world lost a woman who could create amazing change on a humanitarian level".

Showrunner Peter Morgan had mostly finished writing the final season when Queen Elizabeth II died at the age of 96 on Sept. 8, 2022 at Balmoral Castle. Her death meant that he had to change the show's ending.

"We'd all been through the experience of the funeral. So because of how deeply everybody will have felt that, I had to try and find a way in which the final episode dealt with the character's death, even though she hadn't died yet," he told Variety.

Netflix co-chief executive officer Ted Sarandos had initially suggested during the early stages of the show's development that it should end with the monarch's death. But then she outlived the series and Morgan thought it was best to end the storyline at the year 2005.

"It was the cutoff to keep it historical, not journalistic. I think by stopping almost 20 years before the present day, it's dignified," he explained.

"The Crown" Season 6 premiers with Part 1, which is now streaming on Netflix. Part 2 arrives on December 14. Debicki said the show has been able to "open up in this imaginary way, the very private lives" of the royal family and "create this huge empathy" for the "audience to experience in regards to characters that you may not have known so much about before".