Life has always seemed to trail fairy tales for actress Karen David; after all, it’s not everyone that can boast being born in the foothills of the Himalayas and being cast as a Disney princess. From India to Canada to the UK, David has grown up around the world. And while timezones may have been ever-changing, the actress’s passion for music was a constant that traveled with her.
A scholarship to the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, brought David to America, where she developed her taste for acting. And so, after Berklee, came the Guildford School of Acting in London, followed shortly (as the fairy tale would have it) by a stint in London’s West End, where David clocked her first hours as a professional actress on stage, shoulder to shoulder with the original cast of Mamma Mia!
“Live theatre really trains you to get it right in the first take, or at least give it your all from start to finish continuously,” says David of the stage. “I am so grateful to have had that experience very early in my career.”
Having since stacked up her screen credits, including a role on BBC’s BAFTA-nominated Waterloo Road, in which she plays the adult in a controversial teacher-student romance, while also managing to squeeze in the release of a chart-topping single, “It’s Me (You’re Talking To),” during her time off set, the busy David is excited to have the opportunity to combine her two passions—acting and singing—into one single project: ABC’s Galavant.
Premiering January 4th, the show—which sees the actress in the role of as Princess Isabelle—has the wit of Monty Python, the cheek of The Princess Bride and the lyrical stylings of…well, no one—and that’s the point. “I love the fact that you can be singing a ballad, which sounds like a love song, but really the lyrics are saying something else,” gushes David. “The contrast between music and lyrics is what makes these songs not only hilarious, but also so darn catchy!” And David knows what she’s talking about; after all, she has worked on developing a Bollywood-themed musical, Bombay Dreams, with the genre’s renowned Andrew Lloyd Webber.
Cast alongside Joshua Sasse—whom audiences will recognize from DirecTV’s Rogue, starring Thandie Newton—the actress’s character is charged with the difficult task of inspiring Galavant (Sasee) to reclaim his princely zeal and battle an evil king (Timothy Omundson) overtaking the land, while singing all the way, of course
Preparing to head over to Australia for the holidays, where she plans to spend New Year’s Eve watching fireworks from the Sydney Opera House, before returning for Galavant’s premiere, David takes a moment to chat to us about the fun in turning fairy tales on their head, and the secret to looking the part of a princess on and off set. Spoiler: beauty secrets ahead!
To start, please tell us a bit about your character Isabella. She doesn’t seem like your typical trophy princess; she seems a little more cunning and brave.
Trophy Princess, she is not, that’s for sure! Isabella is more like the “People’s Princess.” She has the biggest heart, and is fiercely protective of her family and her kingdom. There is nothing she wouldn’t do for the love of her people. She’s feisty, but also very relatable and approachable. There’s a lot going on inside that head of hers!
That’s just how we like our princesses! Do you think that’s a bit what the show is about, turning fairy tale cliché’s on their heads?
Absolutely. That’s what I love so much about our show. It’s a twist on the usual fairy tale stories. It pokes fun at the genre, but in a charming, endearing and comical way, which I think will attract people of all ages and walks of life. The storylines are so imaginative, and the songs are highly addictive! Be warned, you’ll find yourself humming the songs all the time!
What’s your favourite un-fairy tale-like thing about Galavant’s plot?
I love our plots; you can never assume it’s all coming up roses and happy endings. There are a lot of twists and surprises, both good and maybe….well, you’ll just have to tune in and find out.
We will! Does playing fairy tale royalty fulfill any childhood dreams?
The little girl and the big kid in me, is sooooo excited about playing a Disney Princess! Every girl dreams of that! If someone had told the pimply faced, 12-year-old me, that one day I would be playing a Princess on a network television show, I never would have believed it. Growing up, I always wanted to be Pocahontas, Esmeralda in The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Jasmine in Aladdin. Now I get to play a Spanish Princess…I am in royal heaven!
The show has a great energy about it; it really feels like everyone is having fun working together. Did you make fast friends with the cast?
The cast and crew are like one big, happy family. I think because all of us were filming on location, we naturally spent a lot of time together. I know I have made some lifelong friends from this show. Everyone is so supportive, not to mention incredibly funny! We are constantly laughing in between takes and having the time of our lives. We all know we are part of a very special show. Roles like this don’t happen every day, and we are just enjoying every minute of it.
Is it quite different performing in an environment where you have the opportunity for retakes, as opposed to say when you performed “Mamma Mia!” in London’s West End, and had only one chance each night to get it right on stage?
With Galavant, there is so much to achieve in the time frame we have to film each episode: singing, dancing, sword fighting, horseback riding, challenges if the weather is acting up when we film outdoors etc. Therefore, whilst we do have the luxury of doing a few takes to get what is needed out of us, I don’t take it for granted. Right from the first take, I just throw myself into it, as I would in a live show. That way, I know I have given as many different options to the director as I can.
I love the songs in the show. I imagine it must be hard not to let out a laugh sometimes; the lyrics are pretty hilarious!
Haha, yes! It was very difficult not to laugh during takes! Alan Menken and Glenn Slater have created classic Disney songs, which people of all ages will be singing for a long time. They really know how to capture that Disney magic, which we all know and love.
What’s your favourite song from the first few episodes?
Oh, that’s a tough one! There are too many great songs. My favourite one is “Love is Strange,” it’s the Disney ballad that every female singer dreams about. Two other songs I also adore are “Togetherness” and “Maybe You’re Not The Worst Thing Ever,” and I’ll leave it to your imagination on that one!
It’s clear from the song titles along, that the show’s got the whole tongue and cheek thing down, was the comedic writing something that initially drew you to the show?
Being part British, it appeals to my dry sense of humour. The style of the show is very cheeky, but endearing at the same time. I love the fact that it is all tongue and cheek—it’s very playful, and hopefully will leave everyone laughing and smiling.
While studying at Berklee College of Music, did you ever think you would end up on a television musical for a major network?
Not in my wildest dreams! Especially a medieval, comedy, musical?! When does that ever happen? I really applaud ABC for taking a chance on something so different. Our creator, Dan Fogelman, is a genius. He has come up with a show that’s never really been done before.
We can’t help but love all your clothes on the show, princess dresses are hard to resist! Are you one for looking as “done” as Isabelle off set too? Or are you more relaxed when it comes to your fashion and beauty look?
I only wish I could have my hair done like Isabella. It’s so intricate and pretty…not to mention really long!! I like the natural, fresh glam look, so nothing too much or too heavy. My hair has to be blow dried nicely. If your hair looks good, then everything else looks good. You can’t hide from a bad hair day!
In terms of beauty, what’s your daily routine include, especially when busy on set, but still in need of looking camera ready?
As a teenager, I had problematic skin. Acne was my best friend right into my twenties, so I have always had no choice but to be really disciplined with my skincare routine. I start with my oil cleanser, then my creamy soap, followed by my eye cream, toner and then hydration serum and end with my moisturizer. I use the Sensai skincare line. My skin loves it and is in good condition as a result.
What’s one beauty item you won’t leave the house without applying to your face?
Concealer. It can freshen up, highlight and cover anything!
Have you stolen any beauty secrets from the hair and makeup artists you’ve worked with in the past?
I am smiling from ear to ear with this question. Everything in my makeup bag is something that a makeup artist I’ve worked with has used on me. So, instead of calling them by their brand names, I call them by the makeup artist’s name! My HD pressed powder is from Makeup Forever, but I call it, ‘Kate,’ instead. I have a lot of names and a lot of makeup tricks in my bag as a result of working with some amazing makeup and hair artists.
Lucky girl! In your opinion, what’s the single beauty product every woman should invest in, especially come winter? Right time of year for skin!
Hands down, it has to be a good face moisturizer, especially with the winter season upon us as skin can become dry and dehydrated. I use Sensai’s Emulsion Moist II. It’s perfect for my combination skin.
What have you learned to be an easy way to transition from your daytime beauty look to the perfect evening look?
The quickest way is all in the eyes. I use Urban Decay’s NAKED palette and create a slightly heavier, smokey eye look with the neutral tones. Top it off with a good liner and mascara, and I’m all set to go!
Describe your go-to red carpet beauty look?
I love a fresh faced, glowing, dewy look—golden and neutral tones with a smokey eye.
What beauty items can we find in your purse on an average day?
Where do I start? In my makeup bag are: Origins Pinch My Cheeks in Raspberry, Kevyn Aucoin Curling Mascara in black, M.A.C. lip liner in Half Red, Makeup Forever lipstick in N9 Rouge Artist Natural, Lipstick Queen in Saint Rouge, Givenchy Le Prisme powder blush, Urban Decay Eyeshadow Primer Potion, Urban Decay Eyeshadow palette in NAKED, Illamasqua White Pressed Powder, and M.A.C. Brow Finisher.
That’s quite the makeup bag! What’s one thing we will never see you do beauty-wise?
Botox. I would much rather do other non-evasive beauty treatments which do not freeze the facial muscles.
What new beauty trend are you planning to test out this winter season? A glammed up holiday party look perhaps?
I am quite keen to try the whole stem cell facial or red carpet hydration facial. They sound amazing and nurturing for the skin, and perfect to look glowing and radiant for holiday parties and events.
Who is your beauty idol and what about her beauty looks inspires your own look?
I absolutely admire the timeless beauty of Grace Kelly and Audrey Hepburn; classic sophistication and a powerful feminine look without being too done up. They look well groomed and have a natural glam look, which I love so much, both with their hairstyles and makeup.
Any New Year’s beauty resolutions?
To keep drinking loads of water, to continue working on getting enough sleep and eating right and continuing to work from the inside out.