You’ll be hearing a lot about Claire Foy in the fall of 2018, if you haven’t already. (And really, if you haven’t, start by catching up on her stunning turn as Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix’s The Crown.) Foy stars opposite Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong’s wife Janet in Damien Chazelle’s First Man, as well as takes the reins from Rooney Mara as the ferocious survivor Lisbeth Salander in The Girl in the Spider’s Web—two roles that could not be more different from each other, or from the beloved ruler that made her famous in America.
There’s clearly more to the actor than meets the eye. So why not get better acquainted? Without further ado, here are five things you didn’t know about Claire Foy.
- Foy is half Irish, and can do the footwork to prove it. Foy’s mother, Caroline, was Irish, and Foy spent time in the country as a little girl. She told website Irish Central that she still uses traditional Irish dancing as a party trick, and shared fond memories of her mother’s family. “We’re a massive Irish family on my mum’s side and I’ve been thinking about this a lot recently, the things we used to do,” she said. “There would be 30 of us. Everyone would stay at my nan’s house in Edgware and we would have breakfast the next morning.”
- Foy hasn’t just played the Queen—she’s met her, too. She told Vogue in December 2017 that she met Queen Elizabeth at a Buckingham Palace celebration of Charles Dickens’s birth: “My overwhelming feeling was, God, it’s 10:30. She’s in her 80s, and she’s still up,” she said. “How incredibly hard she works! What really breaks my heart is her relationship with her sister. Margaret’s so effervescent and alive. . . . I think the queen would love her freedom. But she wouldn’t do what Margaret does, which is the point.”
- Talk about multitasking: Foy was breastfeeding on the set of The Crown during the first season. She started filming the show just four months after giving birth to her daughter, Ivy Rose, and struggled with going back to work so quickly. She opened up to British Vogue: “On the first day of filming, I found myself halfway up a Scottish mountain with engorged boobs and no way of getting down to feed my baby. I had to ring my husband and tell him to give her formula…. As I sat in a Land Rover trying to get my broken breast pump to work, I felt I’d made the worst mistake of my life.” But she powered through the show, which, of course, became a huge hit for Netflix, and for Foy.
- Foy has a great friendship with her Crown costar Matt Smith (her 3-year-old daughter, Ivy Rose, even named one of their trees after him). Foy tells Vogue: “He’s a fig tree, which I’m sure he doesn’t really appreciate. But he’s very abundant.” Their relationship was tested by the revelation that Smith was paid more than her for his role; a discrepancy that has since been rectified. Foy has said she was happy to be part of a larger conversation, even if it was a little embarrassing for her. “I am incredibly proud of what I’ve been part of, and I don’t want my work in that program to be overshadowed by my pay,” she said. “Something good has got to come out of all the shame and the embarrassment of talking about my worth in comparison to one of my best friends.”
- Early brushes with more than one medical ailment ended up influencing the rest of Foy’s life. For the November 2018 issue of Vogue, Foy tells Nathan Heller that she was an awkward and insecure high-school student who had arthritis, and who kept to herself. “I looked shit, I was shit at everything, and my life was going to be a disaster—that’s definitely what I felt,” she says. During Foy’s final year of high school, a tumor (ultimately benign) was found behind one of her eyes. She underwent surgery and steroid therapy, though “with steroids come all sorts of things an 18-year-old girl shouldn’t have to think about, like putting on loads of weight and this thing called ‘moon face,’ where you gain water in your face and become almost unrecognizable. And acne, and having a massive eye with black stitches in it,” she says to Heller. “I didn’t care, because I was alive.” After recuperating, Foy saved up some funds, deferred from university in Liverpool for a year, and traveled to New York, where she stayed with a friend in a youth hostel in Harlem and toured the city by foot. When she returned, she enrolled in an acting class. The rest, as they say, is history.