“The Crown”'s Khalid Abdalla on Whether Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed Were 'Falling in Love' Before Deadly Crash

The actor talks to PEOPLE about portraying the couple's relationship in the Netflix series' final season

Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty; Getty Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed
Tim Graham Photo Library/Getty; Getty Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed

The Crown is back with season 6 as the first four episodes depict the flourishing romance between Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed during the summer leading up to their fatal car crash in Paris on Aug. 31, 1997. 

Returning for a second installment of creator Peter Morgan's historical drama is Khalid Abdalla, who portrays Dodi opposite Elizabeth Debicki as the Princess of Wales, who at this point is divorced from Prince Charles (Dominic West) and navigating a new life outside the royal fold.

The 42-year-old actor exclusively tells PEOPLE it was "an extraordinary honor" to be part of the final season of the decorated Netflix series, saying, "It has been one of the great honors of my life."

For Abdalla, getting to portray Princess Diana and Dodi's story, "especially as this is a moment that is so dear and important to people," is special. "To have finally got there and feel like we've honored it, feels immense," he says, hoping that as "people see it, they feel like we have approached and handled it with the dignity and respect that it deserves."

Abdalla also shares his own thoughts about the couple's whirlwind relationship — and whether the princess was falling in love with the Egyptian film producer, something the show touches on when Dodi proposes to Diana.

<p>Netflix</p> Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana and Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Fayed


Elizabeth Debicki as Princess Diana and Khalid Abdalla as Dodi Fayed

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In real life, their courtship was very short before the two became forever entangled in each other's lives.

Although they first met at a polo match in 1986, it wasn't until Dodi's father, Mohammad Al Fayed (portrayed in the series by Salim Daw), invited Diana and her teenage sons — Prince William and Prince Harry (played by Rufus Kampa and Fflyn Edwards, respectively) — to vacation in Saint-Tropez in the summer of 1997 that she became romantically linked with the producer. 

After being spotted several times on the $32 million yacht, the Jonikal, and a brief visit to Dodi's Park Lane apartment in London, the two flew to Paris with a stop at the Ritz hotel

Hounded by photographers during that trip, things took a disastrous turn when the couple decided to leave the hotel for his Paris apartment. Seated in the back of a black Mercedes driven by Henri Paul, the Ritz’s assistant director of security, and accompanied by bodyguard Trevor Rees-Jones, the couple attempted to evade the paparazzi before their vehicle crashed in the tunnel beside the Place de l’Alma. (PEOPLE previously confirmed the fatal accident will not be shown in the series.)

<p>Antony Jones/UK Press/Getty ; Aaron Rapoport/CORBIS OUTLINE/Corbis/Getty</p> Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed

Antony Jones/UK Press/Getty ; Aaron Rapoport/CORBIS OUTLINE/Corbis/Getty

Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed

Related: A Timeline of Princess Diana and Dodi Fayed's Relationship

"Right from the beginning, in season 5, I had to ask myself a question about whether I thought Diana and Dodi were falling in love or not. The first answer to that question came in the CCTV footage," Abdalla says, referring to a seven-minute long video of the couple seen at the Ritz hotel in Paris on their final night together.

"They are very tenderly holding each other's hands behind their backs and nuzzled in with each other. That tenderness of how they caress each other has in it something of the nature of their falling in love," the actor adds.

Giving Abdalla an added appreciation of Princess Diana was "her way of seeing people, where she saw the light inside them. She didn't see them through the color of their skin or whatever it was. There was something about the light inside them," he says, explaining, "That, I think, is part of what she saw in Dodi for that moment, the six weeks that they were together, which has shined through all the way now."  

Abdalla, however, notes that he's "not interested in the question of whether they would've been together or not, forever," something so many admirers of Diana still wonder today. Instead, "I'm interested in the question of the complexity of how we all fall in love," he says, adding that "exploring that [was] very important to me." 

Venturelli/WireImage; Aaron Rapoport/CORBIS OUTLINE/Corbis via Getty Images Khalid Abdalla and Dodi Fayed
Venturelli/WireImage; Aaron Rapoport/CORBIS OUTLINE/Corbis via Getty Images Khalid Abdalla and Dodi Fayed

Related: The Crown Season 6: Everything to Know About the Final Season

For the actor, Diana and Dodi's relationships with their families, particularly Dodi's complex dynamic with his father, was also something he factored into his portrayal. Understanding "the complexity of his relationship with his father" was key for Abdalla, with him explaining that "this will resonate for many people if they have complicated relationships with their parents, where it's hard but there's a lot of love." 

He adds, "So to have that trio of dynamics play out and sing harmoniously was a big part of the challenge."

With his portrayal of Dodi on The Crown, Abdalla also hopes that people will finally learn more about his life and his story.

"This is the big one — Dodi is a figure who, for 26 years despite the fact that he died in that crash, people have known almost nothing about," the actor says. "People still ask, 'What did he sound like?' They don't know. What do they know about his life? Very little. Why?" 

"So, finally after 26 years, he can be known a little, felt a little as well, which is important. Then maybe loved a little," Abdalla says, noting that it's not often that Arab characters are mourned on-screen if they die. "I can hardly think of any. That tells you a lot about our cultural and political imagery. So, I'm incredibly proud of that in relation to my heritage in relation to Dodi."

The Crown season 6, part 1 is now streaming on Netflix. 

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