Best Performances is TV Guide's Emmys video series highlighting the best acting performances of the year. Actors take viewers behind the scenes of their Emmy-nominated performances and explain the secrets of their craft.
The sophomore season of the Netflix drama saw Margaret attempt to move on after her sister Elizabeth (Claire Foy) denied her marriage to Peter Townsend at the end of Season 1. Though heartbroken, Margaret continues on her search for love that will also appease the monarchy, until Season 2 Episode 4, "Beryl," when a rejection from an approved bachelor brings her to her breaking point.
Kirby garnered an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama for her performance. She also took TV Guide behind-the-scenes on what it was like to play Margaret in one of the most vulnerable moments of her life.
"[The episode] was really exciting for me to play because what I noticed in the episode, and what I thought we could do with it, was really chart the descent of Margaret into her pain and her darkness," Kirby explained to TV Guide as part of our Best Performances video series. "The Billy Wallace scene, I always felt, was the catalyst for all of her lowest moments, but also her ultimate rejection. She had gone for somebody that she thought she should. It was her last attempt to make her sort of move that was pro-establishment. I think his rejection, his ultimate betrayal, was almost like the last stab wound in a way."
No one gets away with dumping Margaret and when Billy failed to be the man that she needed, it was Kirby that got to demonstrate the princess' inner strength by reading him for filth.
"I think it was my idea to just get right up close to him and just tell him how it was. I felt so betrayed on her behalf. I needed him to hear me and I thought that would be the best way for Billy really hearing her," Kirby said. "In a sense, I always felt like she was talking on behalf of all women, which I loved because I think she's really that type of woman anyway."
Margaret is a woman of multitudes, though. While she was able to have a brave face in front of Billy, Kirby was tasked with showing her character's true devastation in a later scene. Alone in her room, Margaret proceeds to drunkenly dance about, trashing the room as she releases the rage that had built up inside of her.
"Originally Peter [Morgan, show creator] wrote the scene where she's breaking down in her room as 'Margaret does a melancholy dance.' I was like, 'Hmm, I can't really imagine her doing a melancholy dance.'" Kirby said. Her interpretation gave Kirby more room to really explore the drastic difference between the public mask Margaret wears, and what she's like when no one is watching. "I got whiplash as well from it because I was just throwing myself around so much," Kirby teased.
The moment was an important low for Margaret, who was on the verge of meeting photographer Antony "Tony" Armstrong-Jones (Matthew Goode) with whom she had an intense romance in real life that resulted in two children, and 18 years of marriage. "It was really important for me to chart in the episode the disintegration to then have the exact opposite with Tony in the sort of changing and emerging with this new sexuality, passion and fire."
Fresh off of heartbreak and disappointment, Kirby had to balance Margaret's hesitance with her desire for the mysterious new man in her life who seemed dead set throwing her off guard during an infamous photoshoot that sparked their relationship. "All that I felt I had to do was just really imagine what it would have been like for Margaret to be completely out of her comfort zone and in front of a camera that was incredibly exposing with this man she really fancies," said Kirby. "[He's] just so dangerous and unlike any man she's come across in her life before."
Kirby's masterful ability to play Margaret in all of her shades has the actress in very serious conversation for a Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Emmy nomination. While her co-star Claire Foy grabbed a nomination last year and John Lithgow won for his turn as Best Supporting Actor, a nod for Kirby would be her first. However, she isn't focused on the trophy, but rather honoring the young, spirited princess she was appointed to play.
"Episode 4 was a really great opportunity to explore the inner workings of somebody's mind like that," she said. "I don't think we get to see enough women like that on screen that have all those opposing things going on at the same time. I feel unbelievably honored to have taken on somebody who sort of embodies that."
The Crown Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix. The nominations for the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will be announced July 12 with the ceremony airing Monday, Sept. 17 on NBC.