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Emma Corrin answers London’s burning questions

It’s the day of ES Magazine’s cover shoot and a corner of the set has been transformed into a double-take-prompting, surrealist haven. A giant, unblinking eyeball watches over every move we make; there’s a pair of pinking shears the size of a dinner table; glass fruit; and a bow and arrow — should anyone cause any trouble. ‘What size shoe is the puppet?’ stylist Harry Lambert shouts across the studio. Don’t worry, he’s not referring to our cover star, Emma Corrin, but to an actual headless puppet that the actor is cradling in their arms. Twenty-seven-year-old Corrin, who shot to fame in 2020 when they landed the role of Princess Diana in The Crown, is quiet but not shy. They have a glow about them that goes beyond the bleach-blonde mullet that illuminates their features.

A coffin-shaped FedEx package arrives on set containing a gown by London-based designer Dilara FındıkoÄŸlu. It takes five people to lift the dress out of its casket, likely due to the hundred-odd butter knives it’s adorned with. A design inspired by Joan of Arc’s armour, Corrin wears it as though it weighs nothing. For this week’s cover feature, we decided to let the star’s fans and friends (some of whom you may recognise) do the work for us…

WHAT WAS THE LAST THING YOU BOUGHT FROM A CORNER SHOP? Laura, journalist, Hampstead

A packet of Rowntree’s Randoms. I don’t know if my local one has had a glow-up or changed hands, but it’s now got a proper soft serve machine and really good wine. But it still has all the usuals, you know: light bulbs, chewing gum, a random sewing kit that you’re like, ‘Yeah, I’m going to use that.’

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE PART OF LONDON AND WHY? Mark, restaurateur, Elephant and Castle Hampstead Heath

I love the wildness of it and you sort of forget you’re in London. You can walk and walk and no matter how well you know it, you always feel like you could get lost. And I go to the ponds all year round.

WHAT DO YOU MISS MOST ABOUT LONDON WHEN YOU ARE AWAY? Sadiq Khan, Mayor, City Hall

Nothing too profound, but I think familiarity. Being away can be exciting but also you can feel lonely and adrift. I suppose I can get homesick, but I combat it with keeping in touch with people. I’ve started writing letters… I love receiving post, I think that’s a real lost form of communication. I struggled in the beginning because I was like, ‘What do I put in a letter? Do I just tell them about my day?’ I remember I wrote one to my mum about this book I was reading on gardening, and the author had included five facts about wildlife and gardening. It’s one of her favourite facts — I think it’s swallows or swifts, after they fly the nest, don’t touch the ground for a year. She loved it.

ONE THING YOU’VE NEVER DONE IN LONDON? Lily, project manager, Harrow

Do you know what? I’ve never been to the British Library. I’ve got friends who are doing PhDs and they go and work in the British Library most days and I’ve never been. I should do that.

WHAT ARE YOU CURRENTLY READING? Aisling, actor, Meath

A memoir called Wish I Was Here by M John Harrison. He’s an author and a critic reflecting on his life, but it’s in a very non-memoir-type way. It kind of bounces around because his whole thing is trying to break the traditional forms of the narrative that memoirs tend to take. And I love Olivia Laing — we have a lot of mutual friends, but I’ve never met her. It’s another one where I’d feel like I was meeting a hero who I adore. She’s incredible.

WHAT DO YOU LISTEN TO WHEN YOU ARE ON A RUN? Francesca, Barry’s instructor, Stratford

I can’t stop listening to Fred Again. I’m obsessed with him. I think he’s so talented and I never get bored of listening to his stuff. I saw him at Glastonbury and I was like, ‘I want to see this every year of my life.’ It was so good. It’s not lyric-heavy, but the lyrics there are really hit you. They’re really real. There’s one song called ‘Bleu (Better With Time)’. Whenever I listen to it, I pretend I’m Harris Dickinson running at the end of Triangle of Sadness.

NAME FOUR DREAM DINNER PARTY GUESTS… Harris Dickinson, actor, London

Derek Jarman, who I would love to have met. Mike Nichols, who I would also love to have met. My best friend Sarah, who I live with. And Dan Levy, because I love any dinner we have together. I think those four would be quite a table. People always worry about the mix but I think throw it together, you know? Put some names in a hat and see what happens.

WHAT’S YOUR SECRET PARTY TRICK? Fabio, lighting designer, Elephant and Castle

Oh, throwing things and catching them in my mouth. Just a classic Skittle or nut situation.

WHO WOULD YOU MOST WANT TO TRADE PLACES WITH FOR THE DAY AND WHY? Poppy, painter, Bethnal Green

Somebody who does something quite extreme. I’m quite an adrenaline junkie and I like doing scary stuff. Someone who does something, like an amazing skier. They spend their time training in the mountains and it’s a completely different environment, not using your mind — it’s physical, it’s all-encompassing and you’re doing what you love. Something like that would take me out of myself.

EVER HAD A RED-CARPET MISHAP? Alex, musician, Haringey

I wore a custom black unitard thing, which was very high cut, for the My Policeman premiere. I remember having to have an emergency shave in the bath before I left the hotel. I was just like, ‘I did not plan for this shit. What am I doing?’ When I went straight out on to the carpet all I could think about was how everything was out. I’m not used to wearing stuff like that either. It was major.

WHAT SCARES YOU THE MOST? Alex, entrepreneur, Canonbury

Having nothing to do. I’m bad at not being busy, but I need to be better at it.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE STARTER, MAIN AND DESSERT? Harry Lambert, stylist, London

I’m going to answer these non-cohesively because I don’t think what I’m going to put together is going to be a meal you’d want to eat at the same time. But for a starter, I really like mussels. For the main it has to be parmigiana, but Italian parmigiana. I guess if I were going to do ‘dessert’ dessert, it would be crème brûlée. But honestly, I’m terrible at cooking. I just don’t have the right attention span or patience.

WHO IS YOUR STYLE ICON? Victoria, student, Surbiton

Tilda Swinton — I think she dresses so beautifully. I don’t know if she’d describe it as that, but I just think she has a real elegance about her.

MOST EMPOWERING WORDS OF ADVICE YOU HAVE BEEN GIVEN? Honey Dijon, DJ, north London

‘It’s all water off a duck’s back.’ Any time I’d get upset or anxious that I’d done some - thing wrong, that something wasn’t going to work out, worrying about what could be… mum would always say, ‘It’s just water off a duck’s back.’ When I was a kid I must have really visualised it because I always imagine how water rolls off a duck’s back and how it doesn’t stay. It’s not advice I guess, it’s more about the way it calms me.

WHEN WERE YOU LAST STARSTRUCK? Kiki, PR, Peckham

Meeting Richard E Grant at Hay Festival. Withnail and I is one of my favourite films in the entire world. Every line is great and I think ‘A Whiter Shade of Pale’ is one of the best songs ever. I wasn’t going to go and say anything, because he was just on the sofa eating a sandwich, but he was really sweet and has an incredible aura to him.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN STAR SIGNS? Isabel, journalist, Clapton

Yes. Unfortunately. I love reading my horoscope and find it very comforting. I think I have a Sagittarius rising and a Sagittarius moon. I’m double, so I’m very down the line Sagittarius, which basically means I’m quite restless and impulsive, but also quite determined. I think it can also mean that I struggle to stay present.

WHERE DO YOU GO TO FIND INSPIRATION OR BE CREATIVE? Clara, jewellery designer, Haringey

The Barbican is quite inspiring, because of the architecture and the vibe and the fact that it’s contained. It would be the DREAM to have a flat there, and I’ve seen some amazing stuff there, too, like My Neighbour Totoro. I’m a die-hard Studio Ghibli fan, obsessed with it, so when I heard about it being adapted for the stage, I was like, ‘This is everything!’ I think the soundtracks to those films are some of the most moving things — I just thought it translated really well and the production was amazing.

WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST MENTOR OR CHAMPION? Deji, talent manager, Essex

My mum. Big time. I think she’s very good at understanding what I do, but not understanding it completely. I think your mother will always be your greatest champion because of her deep knowledge of you.

WHAT WOULD WE BE MOST SURPRISED TO LEARN ABOUT YOU? Ben Cobb, ES Magazine editor, Maida Vale

I love making a plan. I get quite nervous if I don’t know what I’m doing. I need routine and I need a plan.

WHAT WERE YOU LIKE AT SCHOOL? Paulina, student, Finchley

Weird. I was so weird. I would write bits and scripts and little things I thought were funny and persuade people to let me show them in school assembly, which is deranged and social suicide. I enjoyed school, though. I had a good group of friends, there were five of us, and we were very under the radar and quite low-key. I wasn’t a rebel — I was actually really scared of getting into trouble — so I toed the line and only occasionally did weird shit like try and army-crawl through staff meetings without them noticing.

WHAT WAS THE LAST LIFE LESSON YOU LEARNT? Chris, gallery assistant, Croydon

To really advocate for myself in situations where I wouldn’t normally draw a line or draw a boundary that is healthy. Just be really clear in communicating what you’re comfortable with and what you’re not comfortable with doing. I’m quite a people-pleaser and I think that has its benefits. But with all these things there is a line where it becomes unhealthy for you, because you get walked all over and people can ask a lot of you because you are willing to do whatever to make someone happy.

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO IN SEPTEMBER? Jago, cook, Shoreditch

September is always a weird month, because I only associate it with the start of term. I was that kid who’d turn up with a new pencil case and new pens and feel really proud of myself. In that way I always think of September as a bit of a new beginning. I think that people always go through a bit of growth and change in summer and in September it’s like you can start afresh. I always feel like that’s where the year begins because of school calendars.

WHERE’S THE BEST PLACE FOR A FIRST DATE? Fabienne, marketing manager, Clapham

Pick a park, any park, and go for a walk. I want to talk on a first date. Or do it so that you walk and you incorporate a pub into the walk, so you walk your park to get to the pub. One I go back to a lot is the Hemingford Arms in Islington, it’s a little street and it’s covered in flowers and they do really good Thai food. And what to wear? Nothing too fancy — you want to be low-key and casual.

This photo shoot was completed before the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike.

Photography: Estelle Hanania

Stylist: Harry Lambert

Set Designer: Alice Kirkpatrick

Makeup by Gina Kane at Caren using Westman Atelier

Hair: Daniel Martin using GHD

Nails: Simone Cummings at CLM using YSL Beauty

Photographer’s assistants: Guillame Mercier and Oliver Francis

Stylist’s assistants: Ryan Wohlgemut and Naomi Phillips