Discover Emma Corrin's award-winning performances on TV, in films, and on stage

Marianka Swain
Marianka Swain

Emma Corrin, who rose to worldwide fame with their uncanny portrayal of Princess Diana in Netflix’s The Crown, now takes on another iconic figure. The talented performer stars in a new adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando at the Garrick Theatre in the West End – and the production is one of the hottest tickets in the London theatre calendar.

Adding to the list of exciting names involved, Michael Grandage is directing the show and Neil Bartlett provides the new adaptation. The company also features the likes of Deborah Findlay, Millicent Wong, Lucy Briers and Richard Cant. They will bring us a fresh version of Woolf’s pioneering novel about the time-travelling and gender-swapping Orlando – one that chimes with our current exploration of love, identity, class and much more, and is led by the nonbinary star Corrin.

Read on to learn more about Corrin’s incredible work on stage and screen, and what we can expect from this revolutionary production of Orlando.

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Emma Corrin’s screen work

Born in Tunbridge Wells, in Kent, Corrin developed a passion for performing while at boarding school, and furthered that with a Shakespeare course at LAMDA during their gap year. They began a drama degree at the University of Bristol, but switched to studying education, English, drama and the arts at St John’s College, Cambridge, graduating in 2018.

Corrin began their screen career with the long-running TV detective series Grantchester, about a crime-solving priest. They guest-starred in an episode in series four, playing Esther Carter. Corrin then appeared in the American series Pennyworth, a Batman prequel tale that focuses on the superhero’s butler Alfred. Corrin played the nightclub dancer and aspiring actress Esme Winikus, a beguiling love interest for the lead character.

But it was Netflix’s hugely popular royal drama The Crown that made Corrin a household name. She played Diana Spencer, who became Diana, Princess of Wales, in the fourth season of the show, alongside Josh O’Connor as Prince Charles, Olivia Colman as the new iteration of Queen Elizabeth II, Tobias Menzies as Prince Philip, Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret, Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles, and Gillian Anderson as Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Corrin absolutely held their own in that company. They won universal praise (and a Golden Globe Award) for their extraordinary performance as Diana, capturing the young woman’s voice, mannerisms, and fraught emotional journey as she gets swept up in a fairy tale romance with Prince Charles, then learns the hard reality of being part of the Royal Family – plus sharing her husband with his long-time lover, Camilla. And all in front of the watchful eyes of the press and the public.

Over the course of an eventful season, Corrin powerfully tracked Diana’s mental health struggles and battle with bulimia. By the finale, she had completely let go of the fairy tale and was ready to fight back against the Royal Family – we’ll see how that plays out in the upcoming fifth season, with Elizabeth Debicki as the new Diana. But Corrin will definitely be remembered for establishing that key character in the drama with such skill.

On the big screen, Corrin played Jillian Jessup, aka Miss South Africa, in Misbehaviour, a 2020 film about feminist protests at the 1970 Miss World competition. The excellent ensemble also featured Keira Knightley, Jessie Buckley, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Keeley Hawes, Lesley Manville, Rhys Ifans and Greg Kinnear.

This year, Corrin is at the forefront of several high-profile projects. She is playing Lady Chatterley in a new Netflix adaptation of DH Lawrence’s famous novel Lady Chatterley’s Lover, with Jack O’Connell as her paramour Mellors, and a cast that features Matthew Duckett, Joely Richardson, Ella Hunt and Faye Marsay.

Corrin also stars in the buzzy Amazon film My Policeman, set in 1950s Brighton, as school teacher Marion Taylor. Marion’s husband, played by Harry Styles, is secretly gay and in a relationship with another man. Gina McKee, Rupert Everett and Linus Roache play the older versions of this complex triangle, and Michael Grandage directs.

Finally, Corrin plays amateur sleuth Darby Heart in the FX thriller series Retreat, alongside Clive Owen and Brit Marling. The whodunit sees Darby invited to a mysterious retreat by a reclusive billionaire, alongside 11 other guests – but when one of them is found dead, Darby is in a race against time to prevent another murder.

Emma Corrin’s stage work

With all of those screen projects since they graduated just a few years ago, Corrin hasn’t done that much theatre as yet. But they made an incredible impact with the play Anna X in 2021, at the West End’s Harold Pinter Theatre. Corrin starred as Anna, loosely inspired by the real-life scam artist Anna Sorokin, in this electrifying two-hander with Nabhaan Rizwan. Read our Anna X review on London Theatre.

Corrin’s Anna created a new identity on arrival in New York, pretending to be an art collector and to come from a monied Russian family. The sleek production was part of producer Sonia Friedman’s Re:Emerge season, tackling urgent issues as theatre came back full force after the pandemic, and Corrin superbly anchored Joseph Charlton’s knotty play about modern identity issues and the role of technology. They were nominated for an Olivier Award for their performance.

Emma Corrin in Orlando

Now, Corrin leads another major West End production. Orlando is an adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s 1928 novel Orlando: A Biography. It begins with a handsome nobleman during the reign of Elizabeth I, who escapes a series of romantic quandaries by becoming an ambassador to Constantinople. Aged 30, Orlando awakes to find he now has the body of a woman – although his core personality is the same.

This female Orlando returns to England, and is once again hounded by a persistent suitor – who has changed from an archduchess to an archduke. Over the next couple of centuries, Orlando moves between genders while forming relationships with fellow writers. She eventually marries another gender non-conforming person, a sea captain, and finally publishes her great poem, The Oak Tree.

Woolf’s work was actually a tribute to her friend and lover Vita Sackville-West – creating a character who could encompass all of her complicated facets. But its approach to gender was, and still is, astonishingly radical. Woolf essentially created a character who upended the gender binary almost 100 years ago, and her book has been the source of fascination for numerous scholars: for its experimental form, its fantastical elements, its bold approach to history, and, of course, for its depiction of gender and sexuality.

Orlando was previously adapted for theatre in America, translated into opera, and made into a 1992 movie with Tilda Swinton as the central character and Sally Potter directing. But we haven’t had a modern interpretation, so it will be intriguing to see how Neil Bartlett’s new version presents the tale for a London theatre audience in 2022, in the midst of our debates about how you define gender, identity, sexual preference, and queer and transgender rights.

Corrin came out as queer in July 2021, and, this summer, confirmed that they identified as nonbinary and preferred the pronouns they/them. That means Corrin will definitely have their own views on how the material might connect with people today, and how they would like to present the fascinating figure that is Orlando.

Photo credit: Emma Corrin in Orlando (Photo by Marc Brenner)

Originally published on

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