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Red, White & Royal Blue's Stars Talk 'Sweet' & 'Hungry' Gay Romance

Red, White & Royal Blue's Stars Talk 'Sweet' & 'Hungry' Gay Romance

Red, White & Royal Blue's Stars Talk 'Sweet' & 'Hungry' Gay Romance

Red, White & Royal Blue's Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine discuss bringing heart and heat to the Amazon Prime Video queer rom-com.

Yearning for a queer romantic comedy with transatlantic intrigue? Then Red, White & Royal Blue is the film event of the season.

Based on the beloved 2019 young adult novel of the same name by Casey McQuiston, Amazon Studios’ Red, White & Royal Blue tells the story of Alex Claremont-Diaz (played by Minx and The Kissing Booth alum Taylor Zakhar Perez), the first son of the United States, and his whirlwind romance with Henry, Britain’s young crown prince (played by Cinderella and Bottoms star Nicholas Galitzine).

While on its surface, the storyline may sound like a prime-time soap, this delicious, tension-filled, enemies-to-lovers tale is full of heart. And the new Prime Video film is grounded too, especially when it comes to the difficulties Alex and Henry face as two public figures hiding who they are — and who they love — from the world.

"After reading the book, it was like nothing else…I’ve ever read or seen before,” Zakhar Perez says when asked about bringing the nuances of McQuiston’s novel to life for the screen. “I took it as [McQuiston] challenging what was already out there. And I think they did a brilliant job of it. So when we were bringing these characters to life, we were like, If it’s convenient, if it’s cheesy, if it doesn’t serve the characters, if it doesn’t serve the storyline, if it skews public perception, we’re not gonna do it. And we were very diligent about [that rule].”

“Beyond the great love story, I think the thing that interests me as an actor in general is people completely trapped by circumstance and upbringing,” Galitzine says of playing a member of the British monarchy.

“I always like characters who have to kind of escape the bounds of their upbringing in some ways. It was a lot of fun,” he continues. “We had a royal correspondent on set, and getting to pick his brain in terms of how to imbue Henry with this sort of uptight stiffness that Alex is kind of like the antithesis of in some ways.… It was funny being able to shed those layers and, in a way, bring in that much-needed angst.”

The angst and the chemistry between Alex and Henry are real. Though they have an obvious disdain for each other in the film’s first act, an internationally embarrassing wedding cake incident forces the pair to spend more time together in public, pretending they are friends. The act, filled with forced smiles and staged photo ops, begins as a means to garner positive press — Alex’s presidential mother, played by screen icon Uma Thurman, is up for reelection. But the more Alex and Henry interact, the more they realize they actually like each other. And this chemistry was also curated behind the scenes.

“Taylor and I became mates immediately,” Galitzine recalls of working with Zakhar Perez. “We have the same sense of humor, and he’s just so funny. He’s so smart. He’s a very caring person, and we really saw eye to eye. When you’re friends with someone, it just makes the intimacy aspect of it all that much easier because you can trust in this person. I remember speaking to Matthew López, our director, and he really felt like gay sex often had been sort of misrepresented in film, and he wanted to make something that both lived within the ‘poppiness’ of the rom-com genre but also felt authentic and real.”

“We had an incredible intimacy coordinator, Robbie Taylor Hunt, who was very much integral in really giving me the language that I think I needed when it came to the intimacy and creating this really sweet, very hungry at times, bond,” Galitzine adds. “A really sweet and tender love between the two of them. It was a very caring set, and Taylor was also very, very helpful in that as well.”

“We both came into it with such a level of respect for the book and for the script and what we were there to create,” Zakhar Perez notes. “It wasn’t anybody’s show. It wasn’t Matthew saying, ‘This is my film, I’m doing it this way and you have to do it like this,’ and it wasn’t Nick coming in and going, ‘Well, I want to portray Henry this way.’ It wasn’t me coming in and going, ‘This is how Alex has to be.’ It was all of us collaboratively sitting together and talking it all out. This is where I like to come from, asking questions. I think that built our trust, that built our understanding and gave us the shorthand as soon as we got into filming.”

Red, White & Royal Blue’s queer magic can be attributed in large part to the film’s director and writer, López, the Tony-winning playwright behind The Inheritance. Having a gay creative at the helm was, as Galitzine puts it, “integral” to the narrative’s authenticity.

“Matthew is so communicative, and he’s so open as a person that there was really nothing off limits,” Galitzine says. “He was just really passionate and really hell-bent on telling Casey’s story, albeit in a slightly different way from the book. I think you always have to deviate in some capacity when you do a book-to-film adaptation. But we were talking before about people feeling seen, and that was always at the top of his agenda. I can’t really imagine anyone else directing it. His passion was so palpable every single day on set.”

And Zakhar Perez notes that he and López both come from the theater world, so there was already a shorthand between them in work style. “I love a vertically integrated writer-director,” he says. “I can go to them, ask the questions, get back to set, and I don’t have to do all this runaround. It’s like looking up something in the dictionary. He just created this togetherness and a safe space for all of us to play and be vulnerable and just set the tone for the entire summer. And I can’t say that about all directors I work with.”

With an already established fan base from the YA novel, Red, White & Royal Blue debuts at a unique time. There has never been so much LGBTQ+ representation in mainstream media. Yet the community remains under attack, especially when it comes to stigma from traditional society, something Alex and Henry know all too well. And while RWRB is indeed a lighthearted popcorn romance, it also has the power to change minds with its joyous portrayal of queer love.

“By the end of it, we’re gonna crack you open, and you’re going to love these two characters, love their journey together,” Zakhar Perez says. “Their character development throughout their arc is wonderful, individually and together.”“There is a lot of similarity between queer love and straight love,” Galitzine says.

“There’s something completely undeniable about the chemistry of Alex and Henry. The movie even recognizes it when the king of England, played by the amazing Stephen Fry…says, ‘It’s undeniable that the love is genuine.’ I think for people to see queer love portrayed as being the norm, I just really hope it can build bridges, and it can enlighten a lot of people who maybe haven’t grown up around a lot of queer people, who don’t have queer friends or don’t have access to the queer community. That’s the joy of working in the film industry in this day and age: the far reaches that these films can have and the people they can touch.”

Red, White & Royal Blue is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video. This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike.

This article is part of the Out September/October issue, available on newsstands August 29. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.

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Raffy Ermac

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.

Raffy is a Los Angeles-based writer, editor, video creator, critic, and the digital director of Out.