“The Crown” star Khalid Abdalla wanted Dodi to be 'huggable'

Abdalla plays a businessman and the boyfriend of Princess Diana on season 6 of the Netflix drama.

While Princess Diana was a much-documented public figure, comparatively little is known about her boyfriend Dodi Fayed, who died as the result of the same 1997 car crash which killed Diana and the couple's driver. That presented a problem for actor Khalid Abdalla, who was tasked with portraying Dodi on The Crown, with the show's most recent season depicting the relationship that developed between the couple in the weeks before their passing.

"Dodi is a person who has lived in the public consciousness for 26 years, his image on supermarket shelves and so, but people haven’t known really anything about him," says Abdalla, whose previous credits include United 93 and the TV show Moon Knight. "Why is it there are still people who ask me if he's still alive? One of the things I’m proudest of is that finally, after 26 years, we get to know him a little, we hopefully get to love him a little, and maybe finally we can mourn him."

<p>Daniel Escale/Netflix</p> 'The Crown'

Daniel Escale/Netflix

'The Crown'

Abdalla's research included speaking with acquaintances of the late businessman, who agreed with his own assessment that Dodi was someone people wanted to wrap their arms around. As the actor recalls, "I was talking to one of his friends and I said, 'I’m beginning to feel like I really want to hug him,' and she said to me, 'That’s exactly what he did to people.'"

In addition to researching Dodi, Abdalla had to wrestle with the nature of the relationship between the couple. Was Diana merely enjoying a dalliance after her divorce from Prince Charles? Was Dodi just attempting to fulfill the dream of his father, Mohamed Al-Fayed, to become embraced by British high society? Or were the pair really in love? Abdalla tells EW that viewing CCTV security footage of Dodi and Diana shot shortly before their deaths led him to conclude that they had, at the very least, deep feelings for each other.

"One of the big questions I had to ask myself is, do I believe they had a falling in love, right?" he says. "There is this footage of them holding each other’s hands behind Diana’s back, and very gently caressing each other, and nuzzling with their heads, which tells you about a particular kind of tenderness. You know, the famous image is of them kissing. For me, more important was the image of his hand on her head or her hand in his."

Part 1 of The Crown season 6 is now streaming on Netflix. Part 2 debuts Dec. 14.

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