[This story contains spoilers from episode eight, season six of The Crown, “Ritz.”]

Throughout her lifetime, Princess Margaret, Countess of Snowdon, was known for being a glamorous socialite — a persona that actress Lesley Manville brings to life in the final two seasons of Netflix’s The Crown.

Yet in episode eight of the sixth and final season of the series, audiences got a glimpse of “Not the dazzling, but the dutiful” younger sister of Queen Elizabeth II (Imelda Staunton) who, in a speech, describes her as, “My lifelong companion and support without whom it would be unimaginable.”

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The declaration, which comes at Margaret’s 70th birthday party, as depicted in the fictionalized Netflix drama, reinforces the tight-knit relationship between Lilibet and Margaret that’s been thread throughout the series’ six seasons. It also foreshadows the imminent separation of the two, as Margaret’s health begins to decline after suffering a series of strokes.

“That relationship and the complexities of it were always rumbling away underneath every scene, even small scenes, whether they were having a little spike at each other or just giving each other a loving, supporting glance,” Manville tells The Hollywood Reporter, alongside Staunton, in the conversation below. “In episode eight, of course, [creator Peter Morgan] really indulged the two, because he wanted to explore that and put a kind of bookend to it.”

In doing so, The Crown also unveils a more vulnerable side of Princess Margaret than the public perhaps knew before she died on Feb. 9, 2002, after suffering her fourth and final stroke at the age of 71.

“The most interesting thing for me is what it did to her sense of herself and how it disrupted her sense of herself,” Manville says of portraying the princess in her final years. “She’s very defined by her glamour and how she can present herself. It was very important to her. So to not be able to be that person was difficult.”

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Prior to joining The Crown, did you realize how close Queen Elizabeth and Margaret were and how central their relationship would be to your storylines in the series?

LESLEY MANVILLE Well, it’s easy to discover that from reading the books. They were clearly close; they had their childhoods together before they knew that their paths were going to be going in the direction that they went in. So yes, I knew that they had this bond. But you don’t know what Peter Morgan is going to decide to do with that; whether he’s going to pursue that relationship. Fortunately, he was interested in it. That relationship and the complexities of it were always rumbling away underneath every scene, even small scenes, whether they were having a little spike at each other or just giving each other a loving, supporting glance. In episode eight, of course, he really indulged the two because he wanted to explore that and put a kind of bookend to it, having seen that relationship so much in the first few seasons.

“The Ritz” is a beautifully moving look at the sisters’ last years together. How taxing was episode eight for each of you?

IMELDA STAUNTON Well, taxing is sort of meat and vegetables to actors. You want it to be taxing. It’s emotional and it’s truthful and it’s difficult. And those things that are difficult are really satisfying to try and find. So I think we found it both hard and very satisfying to do.

The Crown Season 6

Lesley Manville as Princess Margaret in season six. Netflix

Lesley, you had to show the physical changes Margaret went through as her health began to fail. How challenging was that for you?

MANVILLE I don’t want to demystify it completely, but, yes, you want to present that as accurately as you can. Although a stroke for one person is very different from a stroke for another person, but you want to do that properly because so many people are suffering from that. There are a lot of images of Margaret in that time. But in a way, the most interesting thing for me is what it did to her sense of herself and how it disrupted her sense of herself. She’s very defined by her glamour and how she can present herself. It was very important to her. So, to not be able to be that person was difficult.

Imelda, you’ve said you were frightened coming into the series in season five. What scared you most about playing the Queen?

STAUNTON Well, you want to do it right and you’re trying not to do a caricature or just a voice or a walk, you’re trying to do it all together. You’re following in some wonderful footsteps. The first person you follow is the Queen, and then the actors who’ve played her, whether it’s Helen Mirren or Claire Foy. Then you have to get rid of that and just try and step into your size three shoes, which are quite similar, and walk forwards. For a split second, you’re aware of the carriage that you’re pulling along, and then you have to let go of that and just try and do the script that Peter Morgan has presented. But that’s part of the process — being frightened — for all of us.

With season six, I think we’re slightly settled into it a little bit more. And I think that’s happened each time. When Olivia Colman took over, it was difficult because we’d already had one queen. And because this is the first time that has ever happened on television, where you’ve had three ages and three actresses; it’s uncharted territory. So we’ve all had to tread carefully.

The Crown Season 6

Imelda Staunton as Queen Elizabeth in season six. Netflix

What did you set out to accomplish in each of your depictions and do you feel you’ve achieved it?

MANVILLE Well, always, with every job, you have the inevitable insecurities, you know. “Can I do this?” And Margaret’s a world-famous character, and you’ve got to find a way into that. But you trust that you’ve been employed because they know what you can do as an actress, and that, therefore, you can bring what you do as an actress in all the other things they might have seen you in to this gig. And that is as much as you can do, and never be complacent, never be lazy, which I would never do on any job. So in a way, playing Margaret, of course, has its inherent challenges. But I didn’t come to it in any special way, because I want to do every single job that I do well and be, at the end of it, pleased with myself and know that I’ve done my best possible work.

STAUNTON I think that’s true. In a way, it’s not, “Well, what do I want to accomplish?” You want to take up the baton and carry on. And that’s really what you have to do.

From start to finish, this series has generated a great deal of interest from the media. What has been most bizarre or surprising to you about the response to The Crown?

MANVILLE Oh, it’s their opinions. I don’t really want to comment on it, because I’ve got nothing to say about that really. It’s a popular show and people want to talk about it, and if we want them to talk about it, we have to listen to all their opinions. I don’t really think it affects whether people watch it or not. So, that’s fine.

The Crown season six is now streaming on Netflix.

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