Whether or not you think that last Sunday’s premiere of The Royals lived up to its hype, there’s no question that one character in particular completely captured our attention. Princess Eleanor, played by Alexandra Park, was equal parts disastrous and beautiful in episode one, showcasing both a rough exterior and a vulnerability that left the viewer wondering if they loved her, hated her or felt sorry for her (or all three).
I spoke to Park about her first big stateside break a few days after the show premiered in E!. She’s an Aussie who loves Good Will Hunting, can’t get enough of The Walking Dead, and is taking orders from Elizabeth Hurley on her literary selections. “You need to start reading more thrillers. They keep your mind busy!” she told Park.
Though Park is under the crown, she isn’t much into the whole royalty thing.
“I don’t really follow the royals, to be honest,” Park told me when I asked if she was as fanatical as yours truly (an impossible feat, one knows). “It’s an interesting concept, royalty. That’s what makes show is interesting.
“I wouldn’t want to be an actual royal,” she added. “It’s limiting in terms of freedom to experience different careers and adventure, and these guys have a lot of stuff on their plate.
“Eleanor is a princess. She wants to do something with her life, but she’s a princess. That’s her destiny, that’s what she was born into; she has no say in it. There are a lot of obligations that come with that. I wanted to be an actor, and if I were a royal I don’t think I could be one.
What it took to play Princess Eleanor…
“I connected with [Eleanor] straight away because she’s written so well. [Creator] Mark Schwann dreamed up Eleanor, and he was very particular when we were going through the casting process about what he wanted. That was why they struggled to find this character for such a long time, because that part of her was so important.
“To play the wild party girl who dresses up, is rebellious and a bit of a nut job at times is fairly easy. But after awhile it becomes quite uninteresting to be that side of someone.
“I could relate to her struggles; I could relate to her being a vulnerable young woman who is trying to find where she stands in the world. The rest of is just a lot of fun.
“Eleanor is a good girl at the end of the day, she just is a bit lost. I feel incredibly privileged [to play her]. I don’t think there’s anyone like Eleanor on television at the moment. I adore her. I think she’s so brilliantly complicated and she’s a train wreck, but she’s got this heart of gold.”
On the kitchen scene with her father, King Simon (played by Vincent Regan)…
“I loved that scene, and I think – at the end of the day – that’s what the show is all about. Seeing not only the exterior (the royals all dressed up, standing around for photos in their expensive cars outside amazing places), but also to go in and see those moments between a daughter and her father, the relationship they have, and one most families can relate to. I think that’s the core of our show, and that’s the part I enjoyed filming the most.”
On Princess Eleanor’s Relationship with Ophelia (Merritt Patterson)…
“Ophelia’s almost like a distant family friend, if you will. They [Ophelia and Eleanor] knew one another when they were younger, but haven’t seen each other in awhile because Ophelia’s been away studying in the states. Eleanor doesn’t have many friends because she’s a little scared about who she can open up to and who to let those walls down in front of.
“Eleanor is very close to her brother, Liam and sees the effect Ophelia has on him, and she loves that. She loves seeing him find joy in something outside of royalty. She wants to take Ophelia under her wing and guide her through the craziness she might fall into if she continues to be with Liam.”
On preparing to play royalty…
“We didn’t have any lessons in royal protocol for the show. We had a royal etiquette person on set with us, who was there [to make corrections] in case we got something wrong.
“Our maid wears suspenders and a little dress and she looks…like Poppy [Corby-Tuech] looks. I don’t know that the staff in Buckingham Palace have maids like Poppy.
“We’re not doing the exact royal etiquette of how everything should go; it’s not bang-on. In terms of keeping it remotely on par, we’ve got Elizabeth [Hurley] because she’s basically royalty, and she would pick up on something if it weren’t correct. Otherwise, we didn’t have any sorts of lessons.”
On working with Elizabeth Hurley…
“I couldn’t ask for a more incredible person to work with. Hurley truly has taken me under her wing, mothering me [off-camera] in the complete opposite way from what you see on the show. Elizabeth Hurley is hilarious, funny, down-to-earth and kind. She goes out of her way to help me in terms of acting, my accent, clothing. She’ll check up on me because she knows that I’m new to this world. She’s a pro. She’s incredibly skilled and doesn’t need to do what she does for me and for other members of the cast, but she’s just wonderful. We’re very lucky to have her.”
The Royals airs Sunday nights at 10pm on E!