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Taylor Zakhar Perez Breaks Down ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’

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Red, White & Royal Blue was a smash hit on Prime Video last summer. The popular film has become one of the most successful mainstream entertainment projects spotlighting an LGBTQ+ couple. At last week’s Deadline Contenders Television 2024, star Taylor Zakhar Perez and producer Sarah Schechter shed some light on the movie’s production during a short panel. 

 [Editor’s note: quotes have been edited slightly for clarity.]

Getting Red, White & Royal Blue off the ground

Kicking off the panel, the moderator mentioned that there was a big bidding war for Red, White & Royal Blue a few years ago and asked why the producers thought it would make a great movie. Sarah Schechter responded: [Casey McQuiston’s] book was just such a delight. That orange guy was still president, and it was pretty dark, just a dark time in our nation’s history. This book delivered a real kind of sunshine and light and love and humor, and it just made you feel good. What they wrote was unbelievably charming, and I think the world needed more charm. Alex and Henry were just so well drawn and the book was so delightful.”

She continued, “It was before it’s published, so we met Casey, they were living in Colorado at the time. Amazon was incredible. Jen Salke and her whole team stepped up in such a massive way, and they always treated this book like a really big deal, a really big book that needed to be a really big movie. I just want Jen to get all the credit in the world for that because everyone doesn’t think that way. She really saw the potential in the book.”

“So we were just very lucky to get it. We were very passionate. Our executive Mike McGrath was the first to read it, and he was like, ‘I’m almost embarrassed to talk to you about it, because it’s pretty sexy. I don’t know how to tell you the plot exactly.’ Then I read it. We all looked out for it and so did Greg [Berlanti]. So we’re just very lucky.”

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

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Next, the moderator brought up the impeccable chemistry between Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine. She asked who was cast first, to which Sarah Schechter responded, “Nick was cast first. It was always about the chemistry. Finding Taylor was later in the process. We were so lucky and relieved, honestly, and it was so clear, but it was during COVID, so we had to do chem[istry] reads and auditions always on Zoom. So we didn’t know for sure until we got to rehearsals, and you guys both got to London. Honestly, they’re both individually so charming, especially Taylor. Because he’s here. [laughter] It wasn’t hard to imagine that these two actors would be great together. They’re both such kind human beings.”

Talking about those Zoom auditions, Taylor Zakhar Perez said, “It’s tough, you know, during COVID when we had to audition kind of in a vacuum and just send it off. And then every chem test we had was on Zoom. [You] just really have to find something about your acting partner that connects you because you’re staring at a screen. You’re really not connecting like we’re connected right now, eye-to-eye. He has a screen, I have a screen, and then there’s miles and miles between us. I came from [the] East Coast on a flight. Like, ‘Hey, we’d like to do a chem read with you on Monday,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’m at a wedding right now. I’ll be home Monday morning,’ like ‘Okay, 1 PM’. So I got off the flight, went to my sister’s apartment, set up on her kitchen counter and was like, ‘Alright, go time’. We just made it happen.”

The moderator asked Perez to elaborate on which scene was used during the chemistry test, with Schechter asking if it was the closet scene where Alex and Henry are caught by Zahra, which played in front of the audience during the event to introduce the film. Perez said, “No, it was ‘I flew across an effing ocean’. That one. That big scene, the big fight. And then there was one more that I can’t think of what it was.”

Taylor Zakhar Perez and Sarah Schechter
Taylor Zakhar Perez and Sarah Schechter at Deadline Contenders Television 2024 (Photo by Uday Kataria)

Preparing for filming Red, White & Royal Blue

The panel moderator had some excellent questions up her sleeve because next she asked about how Taylor Zakhar Perez prepared for the role of Alex Diaz. Since he does a lot of the “heavy lifting” in the relationship, she wanted to know if he used any romantic movies as references, specifically referencing Mr. Darcy. “Yes, it was very Mr. Darcy, felt a little Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, and definitely watched the old school – I mean, 10 Things I Hate About You, I think in that realm of those kind of things – what you watch growing up, and you’re like, ‘I want to make that feeling’ for this film.”

Similarly, the moderator asked about how he prepared to deliver the speech after Alex and Henry’s relationship was exposed: “It was a very strong speech. It felt like it could be given by a politician and I know you dabbled into political science. But did you model it after – did you watch a lot of speeches by real politicians?”

Taylor Zakhar Perez responded, “It was so tough because sometimes when you watch politicians, they get into their cadence, right? But I feel like Barack Obama was the best at giving speeches. So I watched a lot of President Obama because he was so versatile when he spoke and always kept my attention. So I was trying to channel that, but then sometimes it’d be like ‘You’re in a rhythm, get out of the rhythm’. It’s daunting sometimes when you’re addressing the nation, but then you also have a group like the crew just staring at you on their phone, scrolling and stuff, and then you’re like ‘World peace’.”

Red, White & Royal Blue 3
Alex (Taylor Zakhar Perez) and Henry (Nicholas Galitzine). Red, White & Royal Blue (Prime Video).

Taylor Zakhar Perez on recreating the magic in Casey McQuiston’s book

Moving onto wider LGBT+ entertainment, the moderator asked about why Red, White & Royal Blue connected in a way some other films didn’t. Sarah Schechter said, “I don’t know. One of my first bosses was a man named Alan Horn, and he would always talk about how at a certain point, you just have to turn the movie over to the movie gods. And sometimes the movie gods smile, and sometimes they don’t. So I don’t know, I wish everyone success and I wish everyone well. But for us, I think there was just – and I’m not subtweeting any other movie, you know, I think I have friends involved in some of the movies we’re referencing. But there’s such joy in what Casey wrote. I think that was what was most important for us to capture.”

“I know how deeply Nick and Taylor felt a responsibility to the fans of the book. And to Casey. I think that really informed everything that we did, really trying to make it for an audience we knew wanted to love it. So that’s a different kind of pressure than telling an audience they should love something. But we were just so grateful. That was always the guiding principle, was the fans.” 

Keeping on the theme of pressure, Taylor Zakhar Perez was asked if he felt pressure on nailing the onscreen relationship between Henry and Alex. “Through the years, I received a lot of queer scripts that I was never like, ‘Wow, this is such a universal love story that everybody will enjoy’. After reading the book and the script, I said, ‘Oh, wow, like this is a change maker’. I think this is something that anyone, younger to older, can truly just enjoy. My favorite scene? I mean, the cake scene is incredible. But I really like ‘I flew across the effing ocean for you’. That was something that we were working up to. It just felt like a big responsibility for us to get it right, and I hope we did. I mean, it seems like the reactions are showing that we did. I think Nick and I from the beginning were in lock step. This means so much to more than just us and more than Casey. It represents where we can be one day.”

Taylor Zakhar Perez
Taylor Zakhar Perez at Deadline Contenders Television 2024 (Photo by Uday Kataria)

Sarah Schechter continued, “What’s great about it as a romantic comedy is we all want to feel good and feel like love wins. But a lot of romantic comedies have been made. So there starts to be a little bit of familiarity in the beats. The stakes for this, the obstacles felt so real, and so universal in terms of anyone could understand why it’d be hard for these two people to be together. I think that was part of the joy and fun of the movie and why it’s universal.”

With the moderator asking how long it took to get all the cake off, Perez replied: “We smelled like sweet cream for probably three days. Both of us. I think he found some in his ear like two days later. I was like, ‘Nick, you gotta clean your ears better’. It’s sticky stuff. But it was a great time. We had two days and we were in the city of London at this incredible… It was called Goldsmiths. It was a great scene.”

Sarah Schechter on the future of Red, White & Royal Blue

The panel moderator also asked what’s on everyone’s mind: will we be getting a sequel? 

Sarah Schechter tackled the question. “I think everyone wants another party when a party is good. So I don’t know, we’ll see. I know Casey and I think Casey, they would appreciate me mentioning this, Casey has a new book coming up that is not a sequel that they’re very proud of. Everyone’s busy, but the fans obviously are really important to everyone. Certainly, Casey has such a deep connection with their fans. But their latest book is not a sequel.” (Casey McQuiston’s next book is The Pairing, releasing August 6, 2024!)

Finally, things wrapped up with a question about the real-world political systems depicted in the film. The moderator said, “In the movie, we have a Democratic president played by Uma Thurman as the first female President of the United States. Alex helped flip Texas, and that was the key to winning reelection. So what do you think we’ll see first in our lifetime: an openly gay British Prince or Texas going blue?

Schechter said, “That’s an excellent, excellent question. I really hope for both.” Perez simply responded, “I think Joe [Biden] needs to read Alex’s memo.”

Red, White & Royal Blue made a big splash at Deadline Contenders! The audience was clearly excited for more, so I do hope Prime Video gets a sequel off the ground somehow. The film was an amazing watch and felt like an important moment for LGBTQ+ entertainment. Hopefully, we see similar films even if no sequel comes around anytime soon! 

You can watch Red, White & Royal Blue now on Prime Video while we wait for news about a sequel. Have you seen the film or read the book? Let us know what you think on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Uday Kataria

Hi! I'm a huge Marvel, DC, and LEGO fan. I run my own YouTube channel (GoldenNinja3000) and write/host podcasts for The Cosmic Circus. I also created and produced the LEGO Ninjago short film "Golden Hour".

Uday Kataria has 77 posts and counting. See all posts by Uday Kataria