For audiences of E!’s The Royals, Princess Eleanor and rebellion may seem synonymous. This sentiment, though, is not one the actress playing the well-heeled party girl shares. For Alexandra Park, her Eleanor is infinity more complex—and sensitive—than the sum of her tabloid exploits suggest.
“It’s extremely fun to play the wild side of Eleanor, but my favorite part of her is the opposite,” shares Park, during our interview. “Her vulnerability, her fears, her quiet self-discovery…those are the best bits, for sure.”
Unabashedly the wicked twin in the sovereign sibling duo shared with brother Liam (William Moseley), Eleanor’s rocker-esque disregard for authority makes for riveting storylines, while Park’s naked honesty in the role, injects the princess’ personal bout of growing pains with an engrossing and empathetic measure of stumbling grace, that has audiences hooked on The Royals, as much as Park herself.
Now in its second season, the series has catapulted the 26-year-old Park’s career status from up-and-coming local Australian talent to breakout Hollywood celebrity. It is as co-star Elizabeth Hurley predicted and Vanity Fair reported, before the series’ premiere last spring; Park is to the The Royals’ what Blake Lively was to Gossip Girl. Translation: Park’s star is on an upward trajectory. For the actress though, who counts The Royals as her stateside debut, just acting opposite the likes of Hurley still verges on fantasy—“working with Elizabeth is something I can safely say I never in my wildest dreams thought I would be lucky enough to be doing.” Add to this, high praises from the fashion and entertainment icon, and you find a giddy Park feeling, quite plainly, as she puts it, “insanely flattered.”
Before relocating to Los Angeles for The Royals, Park began her career in television on the other side of the globe, back in her native home of Australia. Like a number of other Australian transplants working in Hollywood—Chris Hemsworth being among one—the actress’ proverbial break came in the form of a reoccurring role on Home and Away, a long-running and beloved Aussie soap. In between her 2009 to 2013 run on the show, the actress was signed as a series regular on the popular youth series, The Elephant Princess; a show that also gave the younger Hemsworth brother, Liam, his start, just one season prior to Park joining the cast. And then, along came Princess Eleanor and E!’s first scripted drama, and in entered the story of a fictional British royal family, finding their footing between timeworn regal traditions and life in paparazzi-ridden modern day London, and out went Park’s blonde Bondi beach babe look.
A catalyst for action in the world of The Royals, Park wears the part of the monarch’s official wild child well, complete with smoky eyes, a mane of dark chocolate brown waves and a wardrobe predominantly comprised of either black or dresses that hug, peek-a-boo and/or sit well up the thigh.
“I love dressing up as Eleanor every day. She’s such a bad ass, man,” gushes the actress. Her affection for the princess’ wardrobe though, has not yet been reason enough for her to give up on the trusty T-shirt and jeans combo she opts for on days off. That, and gowns clash with the actress’ typical choice in footwear, which favours sneakers and boots. “[It’s] when I feel the best,” she says of days when she is able to slip into her unofficial uniform.
With Season 2 of The Royals currently going full throttle—and by this we mean a running narrative chock-a-block with sudden death, kidnappings, revelations, and trysts upon drama galore—E! has itself a Sunday night ratings grabber (Royals ranked second, after AMC’s Better Call Saul for new scripted series on basic cable last spring), while we have a new addition to our must-watch list.
Below, cover model Alexandra Park takes us inside the private world of Princess Eleanor, and divulges the secret to finding the heart in making a bad girl look enviously good.
It’s fair to say that audiences of The Royals are obsessed with your character, Princess Eleanor, and are highly invested in her story. What’s been the most interesting progression in the trajectory of Eleanor’s life from Season 1 to 2? A lot seems to be changing for her.
I think the most interesting progression for Eleanor is that she’s letting more people in; she’s asking for help. She’s possibly even trusting people outside of her walls…you’ll have to wait and see. I think she’s fairly amazing.
Right now on the show, there are two gents that would agree with you there. What do Jasper and Beck represent to Eleanor and her lifestyle? The two men seem fairly opposite.
Completely opposite. Beck has known Eleanor since she was a little girl, [when she] was blissfully ignorant…[she was a] child. He sees that version of Eleanor and wants her to be that version. Jasper comes into Eleanor’s life when she’s unsure of who she is. She’s trying to figure it out in her own way, and it is messy and painful at times. Jasper represents the here and now for Eleanor, and Beck represents the past and possibly the future.
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Forget that you play Eleanor for a minute, which of the men, Jasper or Beck, do you think is better for the princess and why?
Jasper…because he’s there right now, for this version of Eleanor.
There’s so much going on in the lives of everyone on The Royals, and the season has only just started. In terms of the story…and the drama, can audiences expect the show to keep going full speed ahead?
I can safely say that the pace of Season 2 won’t be slowing down any time soon.
How do you understand Eleanor as a character; is she a person who is putting off growing up and indulging in a party life instead, or, is everything she is at this moment, part of her process of growing up and more just growing pains than anything else?
Possibly a bit of both. At the end of the day, she’s trying to navigate her path like any other young girl, but in an extra ordinary circumstance.
How did you initially prepare for this role? I imagine it’s actually more work creating the backstory for a character like Eleanor, than someone who is just simply…good. She’s complex.
I didn’t really prepare with any specific inspiration from previous characters or actors or celebrities. Eleanor is on an island of her own, and that’s exactly how Mark Schwahn wanted her to be, and how I wanted her to be, as well. She’s a creation of good writing, my heart and a combination of brilliantly complex woman, I’ve come across in my life.
How much of who Eleanor is, do you think, is directly related to growing up royal?
I think growing up royal would have had a lot to do with who she is. She’s never known any other life…she’s seen it from the outside, but feeling like you’re living in a glass fishbowl—with the whole world looking in—I Imagine, would contribute to her feeling pretty isolated.
Do you relate at all to Eleanor, or is her dominant wild streak something that is foreign to you?
I would be lying if I said I haven’t been referred to as “wild” once or twice in my day (laughing), [but] the thing I relate to the most is Eleanor’s search and desire to find her place in the world…to fit in, to be good at something, to make someone proud, to not give up, even if it gets messy along the way. I think most young woman can relate to this quality in Eleanor…I hope they can anyway, that was my intention.
I think you’re right, she’s very relatable in that way. What’s it like working with an icon like Elizabeth Hurley?
She’s the most incredible person. She’s taught me an enormous amount. She goes above and beyond for me and the cast. I adore her…completely.
From what we’ve heard, the feeling is mutual! When the show first came out last season, some of the reviews from the British press were not that kind. How did you feel about that, and do you feel a bit of a triumph with the show back for a successful and well-received Season 2?
I didn’t read any bad press…I don’t read anything unless it’s kind! The show won’t be for everyone. Press can pick it apart and say negative things about it, that’s their choice…good for them. Heaps of people love the show. I think it’s effing brilliant, and I’m insanely proud of it; we all are. Can’t please everyone [laughing], good riddance.
Let’s talk fashion. The clothing on The Royals is beautiful, and as the show’s most stylish character, you get the best of the lot. Are you a fan of Eleanor’s wardrobe, or do you have a different sense of style?
I would love to say we have the same wardrobe, but I’m not a princess with money!
Fair enough! Since you live in L.A. and the show has you immersed in London culture, what would you describe as being the difference between American fashion [trends] and British?
Hard to say! I think there’s amazing fashion in London and there’s amazing fashion in America—there’s also very shitty fashion in both places [laughing]. In Australia, sometimes we have some rather out-there fashion trends that have not been well-received in either America or England, [for example,] low-slung stonewash jeans failed in both countries [laughing].
I think I sort of remember those. Who are some of your favourite designers, and what about their style do you like?
Bassike…I used to work in the shop at home [laughing]. They have the most amazing organic cotton, Japanese denim, leather and ready-to-wear…the best shapes, and the quality is second to none. I also love James Perse, All Saints and Helmut Lang. [I] love brands [that] I feel are casual, but can be dressed up with heels and a leather jacket.
It’s a classic look. Do you have a style icon?
Don’t know that I have a style Icon; I think anyone who looks effortlessly chic and a touch edgy is gonna be my icon. Sienna Miller and Kate Hudson are a couple that come to mind; [they] always look badass.
The public like to see what stars are wearing, and the paparazzi cameras always seem to be there to capture it, particularly those moments when a celebrity is “caught” looking less than perfect. How does the pressure to look a certain way affect your body image?
I’m brand new to the world of red carpets and tabloids, but I think I’ve had some pretty spectacular advice from some spectacular people…that being, not to let it get to you. They’re always gonna pick at something. You just gotta flaunt it [laughing]. Do and wear what you feel amazing in, the rest is out of our control.
What are you reading, listening to and watching these days?
Currently watching Legend…Tom Hardy is boss. Reading? Scripts…for films…they keep me busy. Listening to? Gabrielle Aplin, James Blake, London Grammar, Thom Yorke, Florence [and the Machine]…on and on…all of it.
Last question…it’s a seasonal one. What is your New Year’s resolution for 2016?
Season 3 of The Royals; a KIND bar sponsorship; an apartment with furniture in it, that I’ll live in for more than 4 months; hug my mum, who is in Vietnam; [and] generally be a good person.