GQ MEXICO – Meet the starring couple of the screen adaptation of Red, White & Royal Blue , the LGBTQ+ novel that became an overnight bestseller.
English afternoon tea requires a certain level of decorum. But at this South Kensington hotel, Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine decide to blithely ignore the unspoken rules of etiquette, especially when the latter pulls out his phone. “I have to find that video!” he says, insistently swiping his finger across the screen. “Sorry, but it’s just my favorite on TikTok.”
Both are the stars of the new feature film Red, White & Royal Blue , an Amazon Prime adaptation of Casey McQuiston ‘s ridiculously popular novel of the same name , which tells the story of a clandestine romance between Prince Henry of Wales—played by Nicholas Galitzine— and the son of the President of the United States, Alex Claremont-Díaz —taken to the screen by Zakhar Perez. The fact that the story has an international cast led us to talk about the accents, specifically that Galitzine, who is British, had to adopt more aristocratic inflections. That was how the actor ended up asking me: “Are you Scottish?” I am and this revelation reminded him of something he had seen on TikTok and had to show it to me. Almost trembling with emotion, Nicholas finally found the famous video in which two angry young Scotsmen lose control over a peasant, precisely because of the accents. It’s very, very silly. And also very funny.
So Taylor Zakhar, 31, and Nicholas Galitzine, 28, double over with laughter, not even remotely noticing that the sound coming from the phone is echoing through the living room packed with wealthy tourists. At the next table, a group of well-suited Italians mutter, not very covertly, their dissatisfaction with the boys; to which Nicholas ends up apologizing in embarrassment.
two friends on screen
Breaking social norms is perfectly consistent with the reason for our meeting. Red, White & Royal Blue is a light romantic comedy on the surface, in which two characters navigate the ups and downs of keeping a relationship a secret.in the eye of the hurricane of the political scene. But it’s also about two men breaking free from the stifling molds of old-school imposed heteronormativity. And if we go by what social networks say, there is an audience that is more than ready for this type of adaptation. Since the book came out, in 2019, it has remained one of the greatest literary obsessions. Even the #redwhiteandroyalblue hashtag had over 200 million views at press time. Taylor confesses to having read the entire novel, Galitzine reveals that she didn’t finish it. “In the end, the script is what counts,” she justifies herself.
When it came time to audition for their roles, Nicholas Galitzine read with other potential Alexes, never finding the right rhythm. But when he met Zakhar Perez over Zoom for a chemistry read, sparks flew instantly. The director, Matthew Lopez , took notice right away. They finally met in person to rehearse, and Lopez remembers leaving them alone. “I came back about ten minutes later and they were already the best of friends,” says the director. “It seemed like they had known each other their whole lives.”
Zakhar Perez— who Galitzine says is the quintessential tall, handsome, and mysterious guy — wears jeans, a long-sleeved white shirt, and brown curls perfectly coiffed. Nicholas wears a similar color palette, but with a t-shirt and baseball cap covering his blonde hair. Both onstage and offstage, both actors spend their time taking it all to a kind of silly contest: competing over trivial things, like which of the two is really the tallest or who finished their scene in the fewest takes. Up close and personal the waves of chaotic energy bounce off each other incessantly. (“When we are together everything flows like water,” Taylor says.) They spend all their time making jokes, pushing each other, finishing each other’s sentences and quarreling like an old married couple. You wind them up and off they go…
“I don’t like Nick,” jokes Zakhar Perez . “But I respect it.”
“It happens to me the other way around!” Galitzine replies. “I don’t respect you, but I like you very much.”
Nicholas brought to tea the pair of crutches he is using while he heals from a sprained foot on the London set of his next project, Mary & George , a period film about Mary Villiers, Countess of Buckingham ( played by Julianne Moore).). “This new work is set in Jacobean England, we wear some incredible suits and small but important heels. I have to do a scene where my character is publicly humiliated and runs off to beat up a guy.” And it was as he ran in heels across the slippery floor that his foot gave way. “I broke my ankle,” he reveals. “Do you want to watch a disgusting video?” He reaches for his smartphone again to show me how they extract pus from an abscess the size of a strawberry. “This happens when you do your own action scenes.”
“It’s like that, baby,” Taylor says, assuming a protective stance, her body turned toward Galitzine and her arm dangling over the back of her chair. Both had to travel a winding road to get to where they are today. Zakhar PerezHe had a troubled childhood with five sisters and two brothers on the South Side of Chicago. “Two years ago, we celebrated Christmas at my house. We all got Covid, some came out with lice, someone got strep, another stepped on a rusty nail on the beach and they had to give him a tetanus shot. It was a biblical experience.” His father had great aspirations for his children: one had to be a doctor; another, a lawyer, recalls Zakhar, who at one point became the hope of her parents. He competed in swimming competitions for 10 years and spent weekends changing tires at his family’s garage. “I’ve looked at enough cars to know that it’s not something I enjoy,” he says. A school offered him a swimming scholarship, but he ended up going to UCLA, where he studied biology.
All good, but that was not what he wanted. “It took my dad a long time to accept it,” he confesses. “I think it must have happened to him with many of my decisions.” For example, he once spent an entire December at a community theater watching his sister perform Annie like 30 times. That inspired him to try acting.
On the other side of the Atlantic, the origins of Nicholas Galitzine, they weren’t that different. His mother had emigrated from Greece and the family settled in Hammersmith, one of the most populous districts in west London. His flourishing rugby career also left him unsatisfied. “I grew up in a very masculine world,” he says, “but I was a very sentimental young man.” He then gave acting a try, at 18, when he appeared at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe starring in a poorly promoted version of Spring Awakening. “It was called Rites: A Childhood Tragedy,” he recalls. “Which was a problematic title, because children came to the performances and we said: ‘This is NOT for children'”. Galitzine wanted to do more, but acting was causing problems in his relationship with his pragmatic parents, who “were terrified of the industry.” They didn’t have to worry for long.Purple Hearts , which went viral on the Netflix platform.
Zakhar Perez also honed his talents in a maudlin but very famous romantic series on the same streaming platform : The Kissing Booth , in which he played the third party in a love triangle. The actor sums it up by saying that the two are your typical “Netflix summer boys.” “What the hell does that mean?” Galitzine asks. “Would you rather I say ‘the heartbreakers’?” asks Perez. “We were the heartbreakers.” To which Nicholas replies: “Hey, that’s what you’re saying. I would never call myself a ‘heartbreaker’”.
But the label suits them. Both are pure chiseled jaws and penetrating eyes: flesh and blood Disney princes. Galitzine’s Prince Henry is a dark fictional cross between William and real-life Harry: a stoic monarch of his people who ends up fighting the system he was born into. “One of my biggest fears is being misunderstood,” says Nicholas. “Henry has to live with that day by day… I think it is a very beautiful story: someone who has had to pretend to be someone who he is not all his life and, then, he meets another person who makes him completely erase that vision of the world ”.
To play that other person, Alex Claremont-Diaz , the ambitious and tempestuous son of the first President of the United States (played by Uma Thurman), Zakhar Perez was inspired by Rob Lowe’s character Sam Seaborn in The West Wing , who is an idealistic but flawed White House Deputy Director of Communications. “I think he’s probably the model of what Alex wants to be,” the actor says of his role.
As our tea cools and time runs out, we talk about what it was like doing the bed scenes for Red, White & Royal Blue . To get over how weird it felt to be surrounded by the film crew, Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine whispered jokes to each other and tried to make each other laugh. “There was always this constant joking dynamic that never veered into anything ugly and was really nice to be a part of,” says Robbie Taylor Hunt, the film’s intimate coordinator. “But they also treated each other as colleagues and as co-creatives, in a very nice and cooperative way.”
“There’s a lot of choreography in the sex scenes,” Zakhar says with a laugh, recalling the enormous amount of time and energy (and the occasional ruined mattress) spent during rehearsals. “It’s very rare to have that level of intimacy with your friend,” says Galitzine. “And we really want people to fall in love with these characters, because the love between them is real.” Adds Perez: “We always had our guard down during rehearsals. But as soon as someone yelled ‘Cut,’ one of them would say something silly like, ‘Get off me!’”
**SAG-AFTRA members are currently on strike; as part of the strike, union actors are not promoting their film and television projects. This interview was conducted before the strike.