England can breathe a sigh of relief that the newest royals don’t inhabit a palace in real life.
E! puts a sassy, racy spin on the concept of Great Britain’s first family by getting into the original-scripted-drama business as “The Royals” premieres Sunday (March 15). Elizabeth Hurley heads the ensemble cast as the very modern Queen Helena, who has her own designs on using the power she has acquired as the wife of the upstanding King Simon (Vincent Regan).
Her aims aren’t necessarily helped by her children, who include headline-making rebel Princess Eleanor (Alexandra Park) and independent-minded Prince Liam (William Moseley), who falls for the American daughter (Merritt Patterson) of the family’s security chief. Iconic “Dynasty” diva Joan Collins also appears as Helena’s mother in the show, created by “One Tree Hill” mentor Mark Schwahn.
“There’s a book that I read that’s called ‘Falling for Hamlet,’ which is a modern-day retelling of ‘Hamlet,’ ” Schwahn tells Zap2it, “but it is through the eyes of the kids. I said, ‘Well, I’m interested in telling that story.’ I’d spent 10 years telling stories about younger characters, but if I could tell a story about a royal family — especially [in] a modern-day London, which is so vibrant and sexy and fashionable — I said, ‘That would compel me.’ “
For any and all time spent on the younger “Royals,” Hurley enjoys getting to depict a queen her way. She reflects, “I thought to myself when I got offered this part, ‘What would it have been like if Princess Diana had become Queen of England?’ I felt she was someone we could identify with more, because she [was of] a more similar age group, and then her kids would be about the age of these kids now. And so, I sort of took some inspiration from her.”
As the Grand Duchess of Oxford, Collins gets to add familiar tastes of “Dynasty’s” ever-scheming Alexis in her on-screen showdowns with Hurley. She’s particularly comfortable with her new role since she’s had fans within the actual royal family over the course of her long career.
“I’ve met them all several times,” reports Collins, “but the Queen Mother said to me at a premiere, when we were introduced in the lineup, ‘What are you doing here, my dear?’ And I said, ‘I’m on a hiatus from “Dynasty.” ‘ She said, ‘Oh, yes.’ And I said, ‘Do you watch it?’ She said, ‘Oh, yes. We all watch it.’ I said, ‘Do you hate me?’ And she said, ‘Oh, no, my dear. We all love you,’ which I thought was wonderful.”
The Illinois-born Schwahn isn’t overly concerned about reactions from England to “The Royals,” since he feels confident the series will be taken in the spirit intended. “We hope everybody likes the show, obviously,” he says. “I did hear that William and Kate were big fans of ‘One Tree Hill.’ This show has a lot of heart and soul to it.”