Photography by Nicholas Maggio | Styling by Wayman + Micah | Groomer: Ananda Tuyes
The glow of his skin, the golden sheen of his hair—these are telltale signs that William Moseley is an out-of-towner. It’s a blustery night in December, and the 28-year-old, Los Angeles–based British transplant is sipping a bottle of ale in midtown Manhattan’s Dream Hotel. “You know, walking around today in the snow was very hard—like, it was horrible,” he says, chuckling. “As soon as it hits your face, it’s just like, Oh my God, what is this?
Moseley has spent the past six years in snow-free California, and though he does sometimes miss the Sheepscombe, Gloucestershire, countryside where he grew up, the American West Coast has come to feel like home, particularly its beaches. “My family didn’t have a lot of money, so we would go on holiday in Cornwall and Devon, and I’d surf at Croyde Bay,” he says. “Now I go surfing a lot, and you can really breathe in the ocean. Out there in the waves, you really connect with nature.”
But America’s pull on Moseley runs deeper than its Pacific currents—it was the U.S. that first embraced him as an actor. His big break came in 2005, when he starred in the Hollywood blockbuster The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The movie, in which he played Peter, a young boy who eventually comes to rule the titular fantastical kingdom, was well-reviewed and a box office smash. It’s not that he didn’t try to make it in the U.K. afterwards—he just quickly lost patience.
“I lived in London for six months, but if you’re an actor and auditioning you’re not really working, and it’s very expensive, so I found it hard living there,” Moseley says. “My first experience was with an American audience. America’s much more open. Americans, in general, are a lot less cynical than English people.” He continues with a laugh, “I think that’s because we’re an old culture. I guess from being in, like, castles or villages you’re always taught to watch what you say, not speak too much, watch what that person’s doing. It’s probably because they used to stab each other, literally, in the backs.”
Hoodie by Diesel
A decade later, Moseley is assuming the crown again, this time for a much more mature—and much less clothed—role in the new E! series The Royals, a soapy, over-the-top drama about a fictional British monarchy that’s fully stocked with its own backstabbing. Developed by One Tree Hill creator Mark Schwahn and starring Elizabeth Hurley, the show marks the first attempt at scripted programming from a cable channel best known for Kim K. and tireless red-carpet coverage. With its rampant bed-hopping, dinner-table bitchery, and shots of tabloid headlines like “Royal Beaver,” it’s enough to send shivers down Queen Elizabeth’s spine. “Elizabeth Hurley put it best,” Moseley says. “ ‘This is drugs, sex, and rock ’n’ roll in Windsor Castle.’ ”
As Prince Liam, the son of Hurley’s icy matriarch Helena, Moseley plays a spendthrift lothario who is suddenly made heir to the throne after his older brother is killed. As his grieving father, King Simon (Vincent Regan), contemplates abolishing the monarchy altogether, Liam tries to step up and prove his worth to save it. While Liam’s caught in a love triangle between his socialite ex-girlfriend and a “commoner” (her father’s the Royal Head of Security), his story line seems tame compared to those of his pill-popping sister, Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park), and scheming, sexually ambiguous uncle, Prince Cyrus (Jake Maskall), who, Moseley says, “uses sex for power,” in one scene seducing a male member of Parliament with coke and come-ons.
T-shirt and jeans by Diesel | Photographed at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Los Angeles
For all of its ludicrous scandal, boundless extravagance, and Dynasty-inspired catfights (Joan Collins herself will appear in an upcoming episode as Helena’s mother, the Grand Duchess of Oxford), Moseley sympathizes with the shackles of his character’s destiny. “As a member of the royal family, especially a prince or princess, you’re born into one life, and one life only,” he says. “You can’t be an actor or open a pub. You can’t be an artist and taken seriously. In a way you’d want to act out, rebel against it. You have nothing to lose and nothing to gain.”
It’s a very earnest, open thing to say, hardly the type of interpretation one might expect from a “cynical Brit.” It seems Moseley’s becoming more American every day.
The Royals is now on E!. Watch a clip below: