The Royals is the first ever scripted series from E!, home to Keeping Up The Kardashians and Fashion Police, and it’s every bit as flashy and attention-grabbing as you’d expect. Created by One Tree Hill‘s Mark Schwahn, it follows the trials and tribulations of a fictional version of the British royal family led by Elizabeth Hurley’s formidable Queen Helena, who’s seen in the pilot episode strutting majestically out of the palace to The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’, but is actually struggling to keep control of her hard-partying daughter, a son who’s “sleeping with the help” and a husband dead set on abolishing the monarchy. Obviously intrigued, NME spoke to three of The Royals‘ younger cast members – William Moseley (Prince Liam), Alexandra Park (Princess Eleanor) and Hatty Grant (Princess Maribel) – to find out more.
NME: How would you describe the premise of The Royals?
Hatty: “It’s a look at a family who live in a fantastical world of enormous press and paparazzi attention, but who fundamentally have all the same problems that any other family have, just magnified a gazillion times because they’re the most important family in England. That’s the show in my nutshell!”
NME: To what extent would you say it’s tongue-in-cheek?
William: “It’s tongue-in-cheek in places, but there are also a lot of emotional, heartfelt moments and this is really what glues the show together. The comedy moments are a bonus, but the heart of the show is the relationships between a group of very different and quite complicated characters.”
Alexandra: “That’s what’s going to keep audiences hooked. Sex and drugs and loud parties is exciting for a while, but it’s the relationships between the characters that will hopefully get people emotionally involved.”
NME: Some of the lines in the pilot episode made me gasp – for example, when Queen Helena moaned that her footman “nearly saw my snatch”. Do you think some viewers could find the show shocking?
Alexandra: “Well, I’m certainly not too worried and I play one of the most raunchy characters. You know, I think if someone wants to be offended by the concept of the show or its dialogue, then that’s fine – this show’s just not for them. But I think that would be a shame, actually, because there’s so much more to this show than those racy moments.”
Hatty: “There are definitely some lines that are, like, ‘Oh my God, Christ!’ Marc [Schwahn, creator] has a real gift for one-liners. But I think you only have to watch the show for a few minutes to realise how far removed from the real-life royal family we all are.”
Sign up for the newsletter
NME: Has anything in the script made you gasp?
Hatty: “Do you know what, the only time that happened to me was when [co-star] Tom Austen text me saying, ‘Hatty, have you seen the script for the new episode?’ And I hadn’t, because I was always the last one to find out anything on this show, it became a running joke. So Tom just sent me a photo of this stage direction, which was: ‘Princess Penelope and Princess Maribel enter. Penelope is wearing a leopard-print catsuit and Maribel is wearing a sequinned American flag swimsuit with thigh-high boots.’ I was like, ‘OH. MY. GOD.’ Luckily my boyfriend works at [gruelling fitness class] Barry’s Bootcamp so I literally ran to Barry’s Bootcamp and said, ‘Lads, we’ve got a problem here…'”
Alex: “You look amazing in that outfit.”
Hatty: “Yeah, if anyone has ever nailed a sequinned American flag swimsuit and thigh-high boots, it’s me.”
NME: What was Elizabeth Hurley like to work with?
Hatty: “Horrible! She’s the devil, exactly like her character. No, she’s a total class act – kind, generous and very funny and naughty. Just great value. She captained our ship very, very well and she was just a pleasure to be around.”
Alex: “William and I often get asked about Elizabeth and we always say she actually kind of is like British royalty, to a degree. She feels that way to me, anyway, because she’s so sophisticated and elegant and holds herself with such grace.”
NME: Alex, in the scenes where your character, Princess Eleanor, is at loggerheads with Elizabeth’s character, Queen Helena, did you ever get genuinely riled up? Queen Helena can be pretty scathing.
Alex: “Um… sometimes there would be times when Helena would be having a stern word with Eleanor and I would sort of tear up quite naturally! And sometimes after a certain intense take, Elizabeth would say to me, ‘Sorry darling, love you really’. Helena and Eleanor have this head-butting kind of relationship but the Queen is always one step ahead. Eleanor will try and come across as this naughty rebel who doesn’t care and enjoys winding up her mother, but the Queen always, always wins. I think it’s a really interesting relationship to watch.”
NME: Eleanor’s kind of a punk princess. Do you relate to her?
Alex: “I’m definitely not as cool as Eleanor.”
Hatty: “Yes, you are.”
Alex: “Yeah, I am. I’m actually cooler than her – the character’s totally based on me. Seriously though, I can relate to her in some ways, but I can’t always relate to the extremities she goes to and the wildness of her life, which is probably a good thing. But in terms of her vulnerability and her difficulties and knock-backs growing up as a young woman, I can definitely relate to her.”
NME: Who is The Royals aimed at? Who do you think will enjoy it?
William: “We thought it was aimed at women between the age of 18 and 49, but it turns out we were actually wrong. Because in the States, that group turned out to be only 40% of our total audience. So it’s really hard to determine who’s actually watching our show – that means it’s either men, or women of 18 and under or 50 and onwards.”
NME: It certainly has an innate camp appeal, I think.
Hatty: “There’s a definite theatricality to it. The latter part of the series takes a darker route, with a few emotional tangents, but absolutely, this show is flamboyant, it’s colourful and bloody hell, we even have Joan Collins turn up later in the series.”
William: “We were very fortunate to have Joan Collins because she brings that kind of old school diva thing to our show. She and Elizabeth had never actually worked together so it was genius casting to have them as mother and daughter. On set, she was very cool – she knows how to deliver those one-liners with a lot of punch, it was great to watch.”
NME: Finally, have you read any reviews of the show?
William: “I’ve read some of them, and I was quite taken aback. I think some of the reviewers missed what we were aiming for. Some say the show is too scandalous, but some say it’s not scandalous enough. I think our show is really unique. It walks a fine line between this fantastical world of “the royals” and the emotional trials of a family who happen to be in a very high pressure situation. It’s really important to come to this show with an open mind, because it’s very much its own animal.”
The Royals began last night (March 25) at 9pm on E!