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September 19, 2019

In for a Penny

A job as a teacher just wasn’t in the cards for Emma Corrin.

Mara Reinstein
  • Steve Schofield/John Parkinson Agency

"You know what's so weird?" Emma Corrin asks rhetorically. "This time last year, I was literally finishing my last exam."

She passed, thank you very much, and soon graduated with a degree in education from England's St. John's College, Cambridge.

But no amount of schooling could have prepared Corrin for her remarkable post-university career. In Pennyworth, a stylish new Epix drama that swirls around Bruce Wayne's future butler, she gets to run around 1960s England as Esme, the title character's adventure-seeking, burlesque-dancer girlfriend. (Before he becomes one of Batman's key allies, Alfred is a dashing security specialist.)

"She's strong and gutsy and determined," Corrin says of her character. "I got her immediately." And that's not her only plum role: she'll be seen as Princess Diana in the fourth season of The Crown on Netflix. "I really can't believe my life some days," she admits.

Corrin grew up in the Tunbridge Wells section of Kent in England, the oldest child of a speech therapist mother and businessman father. Her parents are from South Africa, so she "grew up going back and forth between both places."

She developed her passion for acting while attending an all-girls boarding school in Surrey, then selected Cambridge because of its "amazing theater scene." A few summers ago, she toured Japan in a production of Romeo and Juliet.

She had steeled herself for an arduous journey of heartbreak and throwaway parts, but… that never happened. She landed the plum Pennyworth gig after her agent suggested she arrive at the audition in full 1960s wardrobe — complete with period makeup applied for free at a department store. ("She said, 'Tell them it's your birthday!'")

Securing The Crown was a more roundabout process. She originally tried out for Camilla, the future Duchess of Cornwall, and for a maid's role. "During the Camilla call-back auditions, I was asked to do a chemistry read off-camera as Diana," she explains. "I figured I might as well memorize my lines, because of the opportunity. They must have seen something."

This time next year, Corrin knows, she could well be a major star. She's ready... maybe. "You can't ever prepare yourself for that kind of thing," she says. "I guess I'll try to keep grounded and keep the right people around me."


This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 9, 2019

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