Claire Foy has played many historical figures, but found her biggest challenge yet portraying Duchess Margaret Campbell.
The actress portrayed the controversial figure in Prime Video’s series “A Very British Scandal”.
The real life Margaret was the daughter of a successful businessman who married Duke Ian Douglas Campbell in 1951. The couple had a messy public divorce when a photo of Margaret seeming to give fellatio to an unknown man was leaked to the public. The duchess’ reputation was ruined further as she was condemned by the court for having multiple extramarital affairs, despite her husband’s equal lack of fidelity.
On her portrayal of Margaret, Foy said she didn’t want to “soften” any of her personality as she was a bold and controversial person.
“I didn’t want to try and soften her edges and I didn’t want to make her more understandable. What I loved about her was the fact that she could say things like, ‘I want to buy a baby,'” she explained in an interview with The Playlist. “And that’s the last thing you were expecting her to say. Not because she was a surprising person, but just because who thinks they can buy a baby? Regardless of what period of time they’re in. But it was so indicative of her character and there were no limits to what she could have.”
The preconceived notions viewers have of Margaret all comes to a head during the pivotal court scene at the end of her marriage.
“At the end when they’re in the divorce case in court, even though she’s the most privileged woman, she’s a massive snob. She hates other women. She is manipulative. She’s all those things,” Foy continued. “[But the audience sees] her as a human being [who has] done ridiculous things. She’s hurt lots of people. But ultimately that doesn’t mean she gets to be treated in the way that she is and that she’s basically rotten tomatoes are thrown at her. It’s just gross.”
The sexist attitude with which Margaret was treated in the 1960s is something Foy sees echoes of to this day.
“I think that what we would frown upon now is the moralizing about a woman’s sexuality, about her right to sex, about extramarital affairs, all those sorts of things. I think that we would go, ‘Oh, come on. We’re only human. Everyone’s human. And also a woman has as much right to have sex as men do,'” she added. “But I think that the judgment element of it, where it comes from, I don’t think has really changed, which I think is awful.”
“A Very British Scandal” is available for streaming on Prime Video.