I have added over 2700 UltraHQ screen captures from Red, White & Royal Blue into the photo gallery. Head over and enjoy!
HOLA! – In an exclusive interview, Zakhar Perez talks about his lead role in ‘Red, White, and Royal Blue’
Taylor Zakhar Perez is magnetic. His presence is vibrant and inviting, leaping off of our Zoom chat as it does in the summer’s most awaited rom-com, “Red, White and Royal Blue,” where he bursts through the screen in one of his most engaging, sweetest, and romantic roles yet.
Based on Casey McQuiston’s incredibly successful best-seller, the film is a love story with a political backdrop, taking viewers globe-trotting from Washington to London to Paris to Texas. It follows Alex Claremont-Diaz (Zakhar-Perez), the First Son of the first female President in the United States, who unexpectedly falls in love with his sworn enemy, Prince Henry of Wales (Nicholas Galitzine). The book struck a chord with legions of followers, developing a cult-like following on BookTok, kickstarting queer romance novels in industry, and serving as a before and after of sorts in publishing.
To say that the film adaptation has big shoes to fill is an understatement, one that Zakhar Perez is aware of and that the filmmakers seemed keen on serving, never shying away from the queer and political elements that give the story its gravitas. My experience watching the film felt like a look at contemporary history with rose-colored lenses. It’s a wish-fulfillment story, yet one with its feet firmly rooted on the ground.
In an exclusive interview with HOLA! USA, Zakhar Perez discussed his decision to pursue a career that set him apart from his family, his approach to the role of Alex, and his future, all the while showing off some impressive movie knowledge.
Have you always wanted to be an actor?
No. I started off wanting to be a doctor, or a dermatologist, or an orthodontist. Something different than people in my family. Nobody in my family is an actor so I’m still different, I guess.
I applied to UCLA for biology, and I started going there, doing all my biology and science classes. And then I realized that I wasn’t doing it for me, I was doing it so I could meet my family’s expectations. That’s when the idea of becoming an actor started. I thought, ‘I’m in Los Angeles, I’m in the perfect place to learn.’ Even though I came to Los Angeles with the intention of studying biology, it just took a moment for me to just be with myself to understand that acting is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.
“Red White and Royal Blue” is a contemporary story but it also feels like a classic romantic comedy. Were there any inspirations in the way you approached the role?
That’s an interesting question, especially when talking about the classic side of romantic comedies, because Matthew (López, the director) and I talked about wanting the story to feel evergreen with the setting being in England and Texas and the White House. It feels like a movie that could transcend the decades.
For inspiration, we landed on classic romantic comedies and films from the Hugh Grant era. Even though you watch those older movies today and you’re like ‘Oh my Gosh, this is, you know, black and white,’ they still hit and are hilarious. And they’re quippy and intelligent and the physical comedy is incredible. So I definitely looked at movies like “Bringing up Baby” and “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington.” And also “The West Wing.” I feel like Alex wants to be on the West Wing. He’s very Sam Seaborn and I watched tons and tons of Aaron Sorkin for pace and specificity.
The film is based on an incredibly successful novel. Did that baggage impact your expectations of the movie or the way in which you approached the role?
Yeah. From the beginning, I felt like I had a lot of weight on my shoulders. Cause when I got the job, I had the chemistry read with Nick (Galitzine) and I was excited because I had read the book the previous week and was so moved because it’s such an incredible story. And then I start telling people about this project and their reaction is what got me a little bit worried (laughs).
And then I started reading a lot about it online and the fandom around it. So the answer definitely is yes. But I wouldn’t say I approached the role any differently than any of my previous projects. This movie just happened to be a known IP and I had the advantage to have the book and to be able to fill in the shades of Alex that I may not have had if I had just a script.
One of my favorite things about the film is that it’s fun and breezy, but also super political and not afraid to tackle topics like queer and Latino identity. Was there a conversation about trying to keep these elements in balance?
I feel like the film having these elements in balance was kind of inherent, because of the comedy side of the romantic comedy. I mean there are some really touching moments throughout the film and a handful of them were cut for time. Clifton Collins Jr., who plays my father in the film, was amazing. I knew of him. I’d seen his projects, but we’d never crossed paths before. And then we met and we just got along, thick as thieves. And he’s like an OG Mexican from Los Angeles which was so colorful. He made it feel like there was family on set. Same with Matthew being Puerto Rican. Their influences help you get into that vibe, and then you do the scene and it’s wonderful. You really bring that accuracy to it.
There’s a line in the film when Alex and Henry are in Paris, and Henry asks him a question about his mom’s campaign, and Alex starts telling him about his father and his abuela coming to the States. The line is something like “If you’re an immigrant in America and you have a ‘Z’ in your last name, there’s a lot of people in positions of power that don’t look and sound like you. I’ve been given the opportunity to be someone in the world that my father didn’t see when he was growing up.”
As someone with two ‘Zs’ in his last name (laughs), that was a tough scene for me because I had to be there as Alex and not as Taylor. It was very emotional to think of my family and what they went through to come to the United States. Even though they came here a long time ago, you still think about all of the people that are coming to America today and about all of their stories.
Alex realizes that his father didn’t have any role models growing up and now he’s a congressman. That fuels his fire to be the change. That was so exciting for me.
Lastly, I wanted to ask about the types of roles that you wanna do right now and in the future.
I mean, I love comedy. This was one of those projects that when I read the book I was cracking up. You’re cracking up and then sobbing and then cracking up (laughs). It had this great duality to it. I was so grateful to bring myself to this role and lean on the comedy side of things.
I would also love to do an A24 or Neon film, something the Safdie Brothers would make. I love Rob Pattinson in “Good Time.” I would also love to do an action film. I think that that would be intense and incredible. And I was a nationally ranked athlete for years, so that’s one of those things where I’m like, ‘I could do this.’
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity and was conducted before the SAG-AFTRA strike.
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.
I’ve added all newly released production stills and set photos that have been released this past week, even replacing MQ with HQ photos as well.