John Lithgow On Being Winston Churchill

Netflix's new series The Crown premieres on Friday and focuses on the life of current monarch Queen Elizabeth II (played by Claire Foy), as indicated by title of the TV show. But the drama series also centers on another prominent figure in British history: Prime Minister Winston Churchill (John Lithgow). But just how accurate is John Lithgow's portrayal as Winston Churchill in The Crown ? Although he is an American actor, Lithgow impresses both fans and critics alike with his performance and British accent. And it's a tough one to play, since the often-portrayed leader has been played by the likes of Albert Finney, Bob Hoskins, and Richard Burton in past films.

During a Netflix junket, Lithgow tells reporters he had done research — including going to the Churchill museum and the wartime bunkers — for the role, but confirms that The Crown isn't 100 percent verbatim to history. "It was nice to know all that history and to know what was really going on moment to moment, but ... it's a piece of speculative history, which means it's virtually fiction," he says. "These are not exactly the words they spoke behind closed doors in the palace or in parliament. But, they're so vivid and terrific and true, my work was done for me in so many ways."

Lithgow says his research to play Churchill, however, did not include watching past films that feature other actors as the politician. "Well, to a certain extent, you just have to ignore what everybody else did," he tells reporters. Lithgow admits that he did wind up watching Finney's performance as the PM in the 2002 movie The Gathering Storm, but the actor says watched the movie to see a friend of his and not necessarily for research. "I was going to avoid even that one, but I have a dear friend who was in that film," Lithgow says. "I loved it. I thought [Finney] was just wonderful. I also thought he was very different from what I would be, so it was almost liberating."

After watching The Crown on Friday, viewers can add Lithgow to the list of Churchill standout actors.

Images: Alex Bailey (2)/Netflix