GQ FRANCE – Meet the two stars of the adaptation of Red, White & Royal Blue, an LGBTQ romance novel that became a surprise bestseller.
We do not trifle with tea time , this English tradition of afternoon which obeys a very precise decorum. Except that in this hotel in South Kensington in London, so posh that only the most informed know the location, Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine completely free themselves from the label. Scandal! Nicholas dares to take out his phone. “I must find this video at all costs!”, he says, scrolling frantically. “This is my favorite TikTok.” The two actors star in Red, White & Royal Blue , an adaptation for Amazon Prime of Casey McQuiston’s resounding and unpredictable hit novel.
We follow the birth of a clandestine romance between Prince Henry of Wales, played on screen by Nicholas Galitzine, and Alex Claremont-Diaz, the son of the President of the United States, played by Taylor Zakhar Perez. Given the international dimension of the story, we immediately approach the subject of accents: did the Briton Nicholas Galitzine have to adopt a more aristocratic inflection to stick to his royal character? The latter prefers to return a question to me: “Are you Scottish?”. Yes it is. Stunned by this revelation, he opens TikTok and begins to scroll furiously.
He borders on a trance when he finally gets his hands on the famous video. Two young Scots freak out when they see one of their compatriots calmly say that “pie” is pronounced “peh” in their country. “Shut up, I hate you,” one of the guys yells, scarlet red. It’s completely stupid but hilarious. Taylor Zakhar Perez, 31, and Nicholas Galitzine, 28, laugh wildly, completely forgetting that the video is playing on the loudspeaker at maximum volume in a small room full of wealthy tourists. At the next table, a group of Italians in suits do not hide their annoyance, and Galitzine hastens to offer an embarrassed apology.
Seeking to escape the rules of high society, a professional deformation for the two actors of Red, White & Royal ? At first glance, the film could pass for a light romantic comedy, featuring two characters who live a clandestine romantic relationship, with its ups and downs, while they are both part of a hyper-mediatised elite. But it is also the story of two men who free themselves from the suffocating and heteronormative yoke of the old establishment.
According to social networks, this adaptation which will be released at the beginning of August has already found its audience. The original novel, Red, White & Royal Blue , has since 2019 become one of BookTokers’ greatest obsessions, named after the community that shares its literary favorites on TikTok (the hashtag #redwhiteandroyalblue counts). nearly 200 million views at the time of publication of this interview). Taylor Zakhar Perez says he has finished the book but his friend is still reading. “Our basis is really the script,” he explains.
During the auditions, Nicholas had given the reply to other potential Alex, without ever finding a match for him. Then he meets his future American partner on Zoom and love at first sight is instantaneous. This alchemy does not escape the director Matthew López who introduces the two actors, and leaves them alone for their first rehearsal. “I came back ten minutes later and they were already best friends,” he recalls. “It’s like they’ve known each other forever.”
Taylor Zakhar Perez (“the quintessential tall dark brunette”, according to Galitzine) wears jeans and a white shirt and sports a perfectly combed brown mane. For his part, his boyfriend bet on the same color palette, with a T-shirt and a baseball cap that hides his blond hair. On and off set, every detail takes on the air of a challenge: they gently bicker about who really is taller (“Alex is supposed to be shorter in the book, and this little shit shows up with his four-foot- twenty-ten!”, plagues the one who embodies the Prince of Wales) or who will complete his scene in fewer takes.
We discern the effervescent energy that emanates from the two teammates: “It’s simple, we get along like thieves at a fair,” says Taylor. They constantly tease each other. They push each other forward. They finish each other’s sentences and bicker like an old married couple. A nothing ignites the powder. “I don’t like Nick,” jokes Taylor Zakhar Perez. “But I respect him.” “For me, it’s the opposite!” adds the other. “I don’t necessarily respect your acting but I love you a lot.”
Nicholas is on crutches after injuring his foot on the set of Mary & George , a piquant period film about Mary Villiers, Countess of Buckingham (played by Julianne Moore). “The film I’m making at the moment,” he begins, “is set in Jacobean England at the start of the 17th century .century. We wear these sumptuous costumes with heels, not very high but substantial. In one of the scenes, the character that I play is humiliated in public and has to run to give a correction to a kid. And while he was in full swing, Nick slipped and his heel bent inward. “I broke my ankle,” he tells me. “You want to see something really gory?” He shows us, on his phone, a video of a colossal abscess emptying of its pus. “This is what you get when you do your own stunts.” “The risks of the trade, my cabbage”, launches Taylor Zakhar Perez.
To get where they are today, the two actors have taken side roads. Taylor Zakhar Perez grew up with five sisters and two brothers in south Chicago. A family where there is always something going on: “We had Christmas at my house two years ago,” he recalls. “Everyone had COVID, one of us had head lice and another got strep throat. A third stepped on a rusty nail on the beach and needed an emergency tetanus shot. It was epic.”
The father had great aspirations for his children: one was to be a doctor, the other a lawyer, recalls the actor. He, at one point, embodied the sportsman of the family: he practiced swimming in competition for ten years and spent his weekends changing tires in the family body shop. (“I’ve cleaned enough cars in my life to know I don’t like it”) A university offered him a sports scholarship in swimming, but he enrolled at UCLA, where he studied biology. After the benches of the university, he is destined to be a dermatologist. But that’s not what he wants.
“My father was disappointed and took a long time to recover,” he recalls. “As with many of my picks.” As a child, he spends his month of December filled with the theater of his district to attend about thirty performances of Annie (his sister is part of the troupe). It is this episode that gives the very young Taylor Zakhar Perez the desire to become an actor. “If I continued to live in the past to please others, I could never grow and move on,” he adds.
The story of Nicholas Galitzine, on the other side of the Atlantic, is not so different. His mother emigrated from Greece and the family settled in Hammersmith, West London. He is destined for a career as a rugby player, but does not believe in it any more than that. “I grew up in a very masculine world,” he explains, “but I was a very sensitive young man.”
Nicholas Galitzine took to the stage for the first time aged 18, during the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. “The play was called Rites: A Childhood Tragedy ,” he says. “The title had created a misunderstanding, since many children had come to attend the performance so it was not a show intended for this audience”. The young Englishman wants to continue on this path, but the acting profession puts a strain on his relationship with his pragmatic parents, who are “terrified by this environment”.
The worry is short-lived. From the beginning of his twenties, Nicholas Galitzine landed roles in the cinema; Last year, he joined the cast of the successful military series Neà Our bruised hearts ( Purple Hearts in English) on Netflix. Taylor Zakhar Perez also starts under the thumb of the streaming giant, in the cheesy but ultra popular romantic comedies The Kissing Booth , franchise in which he embodies the third element of a love triangle.
As Taylor Zakhar Perez says, without taking the tweezers, they are both asked to play “love affairs with Netflix sauce”. “Damn, but what does that mean?”, protests his friend. “Do you really want me to say heartbreaker?”, replies the other. “We are both heartbreakers.” “You say it, not me. I will never present myself as a heartbreaker.” And yet, both have a chiseled jaw and piercing eyes, and embody in flesh and blood archetypes of Disney princes.
Henry, a fictional crowned head played by Nicholas Galitzine, could sit somewhere at the crossroads between the real Princes William and Harry, a stoic and beloved character who finds himself struggling against the system into which he was born. “One of my biggest fears is to be misunderstood”, explains the comedian. “It’s Henry’s everyday life… For me, it’s a great story: he’s been pretending to be someone else all his life when suddenly someone shows up and completely blasts his view of the world. ”
That someone is Alex Claremont-Diaz, the rambunctious and ambitious son of America’s first female president (played by Uma Thurman). For this role, Taylor Zakhar Perez was inspired by the series At the White House , and more precisely by the character of the adviser Sam Seaborn camped by Rob Lowe. “I think that’s the kind of person Alex would like to be, an idealist, but who has cracks,” continues the actor.
As the interview draws to a close, we touch on Red, White & Royal Blue ‘s intimate scenes . To combat the embarrassing presence of the entire film crew around them, the two whispered jokes to each other and tried to crack each other. “It was always a good child, it never went very far. It was a very appreciable dynamic”, affirms Robbie Taylor Hunt, the coordinator of intimacy on the set. “They also knew how to treat each other as colleagues and co-actors, always remaining pleasant and collaborative.”
“The sex scenes were real choreography ,” smiles Taylor Zakhar Perez, remembering the time and energy that had to be invested in rehearsals (sometimes involving an inflatable mattress). “It’s crazy to have this intimacy with a friend,” says Nicholas Galitzine. “We want viewers to fall in love with the characters, and for that, their love has to be real.” “We let our guard down during rehearsals,” adds Taylor Zakhar Perez. But as soon as someone shouted “Cut!” ? “One of us was throwing a stupid thing like, ‘Get off!'”