Category: Press

It’s Hard to Take Your Eyes Off Taylor Zakhar Perez

It’s Hard to Take Your Eyes Off Taylor Zakhar Perez

MEN’S HEALTHThe ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ star talks proper queer on-screen representation, the sequel, and showing a little skin.
Taylor Zakhar Perez is glowing. Yes, partially from beads of sweat still left on his skin from wrapping a Men’s Health “Train Like” video, but more so because of some particularly electric professional news. Just hours before busting out a couple of hip thrusts, Prime Video announced that Red, White & Royal Blue, a romantic comedy based on the 2019 novel of the same name by Casey McQuiston, will be getting a well-deserved sequel. In the first film, Perez plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, the incredibly suave and slightly arrogant first son of the United States whose extreme disdain for Prince Henry (Nicholas Galitzine), heir to the British throne, gradually morphs into a disaster-filled love affair between the two men.

The follow-up movie comes with no source literature, but original author Casey McQuiston and screenwriter Matthew Lopez will write the new script together. The unknown of it all is something the 32-year-old star finds more exciting than nerve-wracking.

“Casey even asked me, ‘I would love to hear where you see Alex going, because. you’ve lived with him for so long,” he recalls the author saying. “‘Though I created him, where do you think he would go next?'”

More to Alex’s story has yet to be written, and the same could be said of Perez himself—but things are looking promising. He’s made his rounds through awards season in the finest of suits, signed with an extremely notable talent agency, and continues to grow his already stacked, wildly loyal following (can everyone say 5.1 million?). It’s clear the 32-year-old is earning his place in Hollywood, slowly but surely, with his talent, yes, but also a charming smile and surprisingly quaffed hair—even post-workout.

Lounging back in gym clothes and high socks, Perez sat down with Men’s Health to talk about accurate LGBTQ+ on-screen representation, showing a little skin, and the power of fan-casting.

MEN’S HEALTH: What’s your ideal journey for Alex in Red, White & Royal Blue 2?
TAYLOR ZAKHAR PEREZ: I think Alex being a blue-collar kid in an extraordinary situation is the American dream, in a way. His father was brought to the United States when he was five, and then raised in Texas, and then wound up in the White House. Following Alex on this journey into his political career would be such an aspirational story, and inspirational to people that maybe don’t see themselves represented on TV.

MH: What in particular stands out about Red, White & Royal Blue’s message to you?
TZP: I’ve seen a lot of poorly focused and not well executed queer films. And I watched more and more after I got cast in this and there was a clear distinction of what kind of movie I didn’t want to make.

The cool thing was that yes, these are two queer men, but the landscape is politics in the United States [and] politics in the United Kingdom. It’s less about self-acceptance, because these two guys are like, ‘Oh wow, okay, this is love, this is happening.’ And they’re into it and they’re open to it. But the issues come when you have the political landscape of what are the ramifications of The Crown, what are the ramifications of his mom’s second election if this comes out? I liked how it was less focused on them coming to terms with who they were, and more about the world and the repercussions of going public.

MH: Is there anything about playing Alex that you can take with you to future roles?
TZP: It’s more about the reactions I’ve gotten from fans and audience members when they come up and tell me what Alex means to them. The weight of this character is a shadow in a way, but in a good way. And you know you’re making a difference in these people’s lives. You have to be a steward of that story when people stop and ask you about the role, and how much it means to them, and how they contemplated suicide before they read this book or before they saw this film, and there was no hope in their life until they saw this film. That’s been the most impactful thing for me.

MH: Nicholas referred to you as “Adonis” in a recent GQ UK interview, saying it was “difficult in some aspects” being compared to you. But I’m curious about you. It’s not an easy industry to be in, so what’s your approach to overcoming insecurities in both your personal and professional life?
TZP: I’ve been in L.A. for 14 years, and before that I was doing theater and going to castings and commercial auditions. And so there’s always that insecurity sitting in the room across from somebody you grew up watching on TV, and now you’re going up against them on a project. I think the more you understand that everybody brings their own special something to a scene, the more you can throw away that comparison. Because comparison kills everything.

I take my own advice that I give people, which is, ‘You’re here for a reason.’ They wouldn’t have cast you if they didn’t believe in you. It just takes one person; I’m the product of that. From those projects on Netflix that I did, it just took Joey King to have a camera read and be like, ‘I want him to be Marco.’ And Vince [Marcello] to say, ‘This is my Marco,’ as a director.

I saw this saying the other day: ‘Don’t listen to people who tell you no who don’t have the power to say yes.’ And I was like, ‘That is incredible.’

MH: That’s tattoo-worthy.
TZP: For real.

MH: You’ve got quite the following, and probably receive plenty of praise and positivity on a lot of your posts. But when did you realize it’s not always a good idea to dig through the comments section?
TZP: When I’m not doing press or when I don’t have something to share, I really stay off of it. It’s not downloaded on my phone. No TikTok, no Instagram. Comments are a scary place. But I will say the Red, White community is very supportive. If you can make fun of yourself, there’s not much someone can say that you haven’t already thought of yourself. And I lived like that growing up with seven siblings. Good luck getting out unscathed from a family function.

MH: The conversation around queer men being the ones deserving to play queer characters is ongoing. But that conversation seems to get muted when the actors do it right. What do you think was right about Red, White & Royal Blue?
TZP: Cate Blanchett said something, ‘We must fight to the death to suspend disbelief.’ And that just always stuck with me, because if you’re watching a film and there’s nothing outside the room that matters, the actors are doing their jobs.

Nicholas was just asked the other day about his sexuality, and I just find it so rude. It’s unprofessional and no one’s business. That’s someone’s personal life.

And so I’m grateful to be part of a project where, yes, it is a love story, but again, it’s not the sole focus. These people have robust, full lives. They’re educated. Alex is in law school. Henry is crazy smart and he’s a prince, and his sense of duty is unparalleled. The less people focus on sexuality and see what these people are capable of, that’s when we’ve created real change.

MH: I would be doing a disservice if I didn’t bring up that you’re no stranger to on-screen nudity: prosthetic work in Minx, a little butt action in Red, White & Royal Blue. When you know those scenes are coming, what’s the key to shaking those nerves? Or were you always comfortable in your skin?
TZP: Oh, no. I was not comfortable in my skin growing up. I always had these long eyelashes, and everyone always like, ‘Oh, he’s so pretty.’ And as a young man, that’s not what you want to hear.

When I got to Los Angeles, I can’t do anything half-assed, so I was like, ‘Okay, I just want to be in shape.’ Consistency is key with anything you do, but especially with working out, so I try to work out five days a week. Maybe do some kind of pilates on a weekend or mountain bike riding, surfing, so I know my body is always ready.

When I see a character breakdown, like with Shane from Minx, where it’s a prosthetic and partial nudity, I thought the role was just hysterical. And he was such a dumb-dumb. If it’s not gratuitous nudity, I’m down for it. If it makes sense, and it’s authentic, and true to the character and the scene given circumstances, then I’m 100% in.

MH: The internet loves some good fan-casting, and people seem desperate to see you saving the world as a superhero. Is there a specific role in the genre you think you could thrive in?
TZP: Wolverine has always been one of those characters for me, because Logan is such a dynamic guy, and he has such a deep, tortured past that I love. He was my favorite character growing up.

I would love to be in the X-Men world, 100%. Something with an edge, a darker edge—I’m definitely leaning into that. Something that kind of subverts everything I’ve been doing.

MH: Fans also seem to really want you in the adaptation of A Court of Thorns and Roses.
TZP: I’ve heard. I actually just read a couple of the books. My niece is on TikTok, and she’s like, ‘Uncle Taylor, they want you to play..’ Rhysand?

MH: Yep, that guy.
TZP: I think it was supposed to be in development with Hulu. But I would love to see where that character goes, because in the first book he’s not that big of a role, and then in the second book he becomes more involved. And I’ve never been in a fantasy project.

Never say never. I think fan-casting is cool. Me and Nick are the kings of adaptations.

MH: We’ve talked a bunch about potential roles in the future. What’s a role that got away?
TZP: I auditioned for Babylon. And that was sick, because I have so much respect for Damien Chazelle. I was really excited about that one.

At that time in my life, everything was so exciting, because I hadn’t been exposed to the projects I got to do at the level I got to do them. And at the time, losing a guest star on a TV show was a lot. That was just tough, formative years of sweat equity to get into the business.

MH: From where you are right now, how do you want to see your career play out from here?
TZP: I really love Matt Damon and his career, and I want to do stuff like he has. I love him in all of his Bourne films, and then he does projects like Air, or others based on true stories. They’re uplifting, and you see a bit of yourself in that character.

I want people to see a bit of themselves in the characters I play. And I do like playing a normal kid in an extraordinary circumstance, because that’s what we all want to be. I want to inspire people to get out of their living room, away from that TV that they’re watching me on, and go explore the world and make a difference.

‘Red, White & Royal Blue,’ ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Heartstopper’ Win Top Prizes at New York GLAAD Media Awards

‘Red, White & Royal Blue,’ ‘The Last of Us’ and ‘Heartstopper’ Win Top Prizes at New York GLAAD Media Awards

VARIETY – “The Jennifer Hudson Show,” “Rustin” and “Red White & Royal Blue” earned top prizes at the New York GLAAD Media Awards, which this year celebrates the 35th year of the annual awards show.

Awards were presented Saturday night at the Hilton Midtown in New York City. The show was hosted by television personality Ross Mathews.

Notable winners included Jennifer Hudson, who received the excellence in media award, and Orville Peck, who was honored with the Vito Russo award presented by Jennifer Lawerence.

The night also featured live musical performances from Loren Allred and Scott Hoying.

Since 1990, the GLAAD Media Awards has honored fair, accurate and inclusive representations of LGBTQ people and issues across all forms of media, including film, television, journalism, comic books and video games.

Queer Fan Favorite: “Red, White & Royal Blue”

Nicholas Galitzine & Taylor Zakhar Perez Returning For ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Sequel

Nicholas Galitzine & Taylor Zakhar Perez Returning For ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Sequel

DEADLINE – Following its huge success with Red, White & Royal Blue, the adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s bestseller, which last year came in as one of its top three most-watched romantic comedies of all time, Amazon MGM Studios has greenlighted development on a sequel, with stars Nicholas Galitzine and Taylor Zakhar Perez set to return.

After making his feature debut with the first film, Matthew López has returned to write the script for the sequel — this time, alongside McQuiston. Berlanti Schechter Films’ Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schechter will return to produce the film, joined by the banner’s Michael McGrath, as well as López. McQuiston will executive produce.

Released last August, Red, White & Royal Blue follows Alex Claremont-Diaz (Perez), who upon his mother’s (Uma Thurman) election as President, is promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, brilliant — his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a long-running feud with his royal counterpart across the pond, Prince Henry (Galitzine). And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an altercation between the two, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.

Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instagramable friendship grows into something more meaningful than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could complicate his mother’s re-election campaign and upend two nations, and begs the question: Can love save the world after all?

Details as to the sequel’s plot are under wraps. News of its development was announced during a Q&A tonight following a screening of the film at the Culver Theater, which came ahead of Amazon’s inaugural upfront presentation, scheduled for May 14.

The top-watched film worldwide for Amazon in its first three weeks of release, Red, White & Royal Blue was also said to have generated “a huge surge” in subscribers for the streaming platform, per a spokesperson.

A star on the rise, Galitzine can currently be seen starring opposite Anne Hathaway in Prime Video’s rom-com The Idea of You. He also stars opposite Julianne Moore and Tony Curran in Starz’s historical drama Mary & George.

Also a closely watched up-and-comer, Perez has also been seen in The Kissing Booth films, Starz’s Minx and other projects.

Paradigm Signs ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Breakout Taylor Zakhar Perez

Paradigm Signs ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Breakout Taylor Zakhar Perez

DEADLINEEXCLUSIVE: Taylor Zakhar Perez, the breakout star of Amazon’s hit rom-com Red, White & Royal Blue, has signed with Paradigm for representation.

In the film from director Matthew Lopez, which adapts the New York Times bestselling novel from Casey McQuiston, Perez plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, son of the American President (Uma Thurman), whose feud with a British prince (Nicholas Galitzine) threatens to drive a wedge in U.S./British relations. Subsequently, the pair are forced into a staged truce that sparks something deeper.

Produced by Greg Berlanti and Sarah Schecter, the film premiered in August 2023 and became the No. 1 movie globally on Prime Video in its premiere weekend, remaining the platform’s most-watched film worldwide for the first three weeks after its release. Touted by Amazon as spurring “a huge surge in new Prime membership signups,” the film is also now among Prime Video’s top three most-watched romantic comedies of all time.

Previously, Perez caught attention when he joined Netflix’s hugely popular YA film series The Kissing Booth, based on the novels by Beth Reekles, for its second and third installments. Additionally, he was featured in the first season of Max’s critically acclaimed series Minx, opposite Ophelia Lovibond, as well as Buzzfeed Studios’ 1UP, available on Prime Video.

Recently named a SAG Awards Ambassador for the 30th annual SAG Awards, an appointment given to actors exemplifying the utmost values of the profession, Perez continues to be represented by Principal Entertainment LA and Felker Toczek Suddleson.

Taylor Zakhar Perez: Diamond Cowboy

Taylor Zakhar Perez: Diamond Cowboy

ONLY NATURAL DIAMONDSTaylor Zakhar Perez shines a light on the sustainable side of natural diamonds.
“Failure wasn’t an option,” says actor Taylor Zakhar Perez of his decade-plus-long journey through Hollywood. The actor, 31, moved away from his seven siblings in the Midwest to attend UCLA—in part so he could moonlight as an assistant at creative agency Art Department, where his uncle worked at the time. That was in addition to a few other gigs and, of course, attending class. “I was working three or four jobs at one time: school, Art Department, production assisting, acting classes, and I was also a cater waiter,” says Perez. “I didn’t move here to not do what I wanted to do.”

Perez has all the makings of a Hollywood heartthrob: a solid work ethic, an undeniably magnetic charm and a passing resemblance to a young Cary Grant (so says his grandmother). And if that isn’t enough to get you swooning, he’s also a man of character who cares deeply about social and environmental issues. Don’t expect this bright star to gravitate towards fame for fame’s sake (he’s worked too hard for that). Perez knows full well the power of the platform onto which he’s about to step. The only question is: what will he do next?

Only Natural Diamonds: You recently visited a diamond mine in Botswana. What did you learn there?

Taylor Zakhar Perez: I visited the Karowe Diamond Mine in Botswana. It’s female-led and 99% of its employees are from Botswana. But the really cool thing is the mine works to provide lasting and sustainable benefits in the communities. Not only does the mine support the people who are working in the mine, but it supports the communities around the mine in terms of education, roads and infrastructure. Using the minerals they own to develop their country is incredible—and they’re taking a large amount of these profits and investing them into the country and the people. Revenue from diamond mining contributes to a school system providing free primary education to every child in Botswana.

OND: That must have been such a great lesson in sustainability.
TZP: Yes, sustainability—but real sustainability. Not a company using the color green to make it seem like they’re sustainable. There is so much greenwashing out there. Sustainability starts with social sustainability. With the people.

OND: What did you learn from that trip?
TZP: Do your own research, and don’t believe everything you see on TikTok. Start asking “why,” again. We’re in a position where a lot of information has become democratized and open-sourced; it’s for everyone. It’s up to us to want to know more.

OND: Tell us about where you grew up.
TZP: It’s the duality of growing up in Chicago but also growing up in Northwest Indiana. We grew up on the Southside of Chicago, a very urban, multicultural, dangerous place, but that’s where my mom and dad’s families grew up. Then we moved to Northwest Indiana which had horses, cows and cornfields. So, I had this duality of city life grounded in country life.

OND: Did you come from a creative family?
TZP: I have seven siblings, but oddly enough, I didn’t. The only creative in my family was my grandmother on my dad’s side. She loved Hollywood, old films and she always said I reminded her of Cary Grant. As a kid I was like, “I don’t know who that is,” and now as an adult, I’m like, “Oh, a great actor, thank you!” My dad was enamored by Hollywood but never had the luxury of exploring the arts because he had his first kid at 17 and took over my grandfather’s auto body shop. My parents always brought the arts and theater around us because they didn’t have it as kids. My dad always had a sparkle in his eye when it came to shows. He would become the consummate coach in anything. I chose sports that he didn’t play because I didn’t want his notes. That’s why I chose swimming in school—my dad doesn’t know how to swim to this day. I did musical theater, and he has no idea about musical theater. That’s my relationship with my dad. You kind of want to do stuff yourself.

OND: Do you accept your dad’s notes now?
TZP: When it comes to business things, nobody knows business better than my dad. He’s a self-made entrepreneur. When he stops making deals, that’s when he’ll die because that’s what keeps him going. He lit my fire when it came to being your own business person and advocating for yourself… Nobody is going to fight harder for you than you.

OND: Has your family dynamic shifted now that you’re in the public eye?
TZP: It hasn’t changed. I have a really big family. We recently lost my oldest sister, so I’m at a place in my life where the importance of everything has shifted. Family is most important to me. Yesterday, I was on the phone with my sister, and then my little brother called, so I brought him in, and my [other] sister was also at my place, so all four of us were on the phone strategizing for family trips: Thanksgiving, birthdays. My sister said, “You kind of went MIA for ten years and now you’re talking to everybody!”

OND: What do you think was the most valuable thing you did during that period?
TZP: For me, when people ask me how I “did it,” or what the journey was like, I say: get a group of friends you trust, get into class and work your butt off and be crazy honest with each other. There are no other options. Failure is not an option. You have to make your own opportunities.

OND: What about acting fulfills you?
TZP: Being able to tell stories that move people and change people’s perceptions. I travel around the world for work, and wherever I am, people come up to me and tell me how my characters have influenced them and made them feel. I go to Mexico and kids are like, “I see myself in you and you’re my favorite character.” I think that’s the most fulfilling thing. I love projects that are emotionally connected and that will maybe change the way people look at something for the rest of their life.

OND: What is your most treasured possession?
TZP: Anything sentimental. Anything that when I glance down it reminds me of my family. I have this diamond bracelet that I got for my 30th birthday, and I have this stainless-steel ring that used to be my mom’s that I wear on my middle finger.

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