Nicholas Galitzine on Mary & George: It’s dangerous, it’s sexy”

The actor tells us all about getting his kit off for new TV show Mary & George, playing a hot jock in Bottoms and his upcoming film with Anne Hathaway.

Buttoning up for his lead part in the steamy, scheming period drama Mary & George, Nicholas Galitzine knew what he was letting himself in for: sword-fighting, horse-riding, dog-shooting, sprawling in mud, speaking in tongues (OK, French), playing a viola da gamba (us neither), dancing like a show pony, and getting called peacock Pete”, a pretty piece of meat” and a sodomite son with gallows eyes”. Some of that courtesy of Julianne Moore, who plays his sharp-tongued mum. Plus, lots of nudity.

Yeah!” the star of Bottoms, Purple Hearts and Red, White & Royal Blue says cheerfully of his title role, his first major TV gig. It was something that was brought up by [director] Oliver Hermanus when we first met: This is a kit-off role, are you comfortable?’”

In the show, the 29-year-old Londoner plays 17th century historical figure George Villers, a soulful but ambitious hunk groomed by his Machiavellian mother Mary. His mission: to seduce King James VI of Scotland and I of England, a roving regent with an eye for a comely lad – or, as the razor-sharp script has it, a king so cock-struck it’s like a curse”. It won’t be long before George is knighted as a Gentleman of the Bedchamber and the Villiers become the most influential family in the land.

But all of the intimate scenes that appear in the show serve to illustrate how powerful George became [and] the way he was able to dominate people,” continues Nicholas. There was no one off-limits to him. Or so he thought. I’m incredibly proud of the intimate work that we did on the show.”

This Friday afternoon in a central London hotel, Nicholas and I are doing our own intimate work. Two days after the TV series’ glitzy premiere at Banqueting House in Westminster, we have an entire hotel floor to ourselves – the actor rocked up to what feels like a ghost media junket for the sum total of one interview. After the packed promotional week he’s had (he and Moore have just been busy fondling puppies on ITV’s This Morning), Nicholas’s 4.9 million Instagram followers would have surely been right behind the Los Angeles-based actor if he’d sacked us off in favour of the pub. But no.

I was like, fuck this, I want to speak to THE FACE – really, I do. I’m not just saying this. I really love the publication.”

Feeling’s mutual, mate. Pints down the boozer were probably never on the cards anyway. The currently hench Nicholas admits that he’s on a skinny diet” for a mystery role. Or, as he puts it, I’m getting to a certain place with my body that might be helpful.”

Thanks for your time, Nicholas. Nudity aside, why should people your age watch this period drama about royal plotting 400 years ago?

It’s unlike any period drama they will have seen before. It’s challenging, it’s dangerous, it’s sexy. It shines a light on history in a very modern way. A lot of the time you watch these period pieces and they feel extremely chaste. That is not the case with our show.

Here’s a comment under your Instagram post about the premiere: “ George Villiers, the handsomest-bodied man in all of England’ they called him”. True?

It is how he was referred to by many historians and in Benjamin Woolley’s [series source book] The King’s Assassin. It’s daunting stepping into the shoes of someone who’s so adored like that.

How did you get this role?

It was a conversation with Oliver, the amazing director of the first three episodes. Immediately we got each other and each other’s sense of humour. I’m very lucky that he’s become a close friend of mine. I’m such a fan of the work that he will do as well – he’s doing this incredible project with Paul Mescal and Josh O’Connor, The History of Sound.

Oli has a dangerous sensibility to his work. [He wanted] to make something truly edgy. On a period piece, that [combination] is not something we’re used to seeing. So, it was a no-brainer.

Was there a squad of intimacy coordinators on set?

There was one intimacy coordinator who I’d actually worked with before, Robbie Taylor Hunt, on Red, White & Royal Blue. Now, I’m so well-versed in those scenes that it didn’t feel super-daunting. And, actually, performing them was quite exciting. Because that’s how George operates in the world. That’s how he dominates people. It’s how he pulls his family from the verge of oblivion. So getting to know who he is in those moments is getting to know who George is.

No one has made more interesting choices as an actor than Nicolas Cage”

Quickfire round: George Michael, George Clooney or George from Peppa Pig?

I have to say George Clooney. He’s just the guy, isn’t he? He’s charisma incarnate.

Mary Berry, Mary-Kate Olsen or Mary Poppins?

Mary Berry! Come on, it’s gotta be! She’s a British icon!

Nicolas Ghesquière, Nicolas Cage or Saint Nicolas?

Oh, Cage! Every day of the week! No one has made more interesting choices as an actor than Nicolas Cage.

In 2022 you released a single, Comfort. How important is it to have feet in all these different worlds?

It’s just a reflection of my interests. I was very unsure of what I wanted to be when I was younger. But I knew that the idea of doing one thing for the rest of my life terrified me. So it’s very fitting that I would become an actor and you get to play these different people.

And now the fashion industry is so tethered to the film industry. And musicians become actors and actors become musicians. The great thing about the acting career taking off in the last couple of years is I don’t have to put pressure of success” on being a musician or working within the fashion world. They just feel like really natural additions to what I’m already doing.

Any more music coming?

Yeah. I got to play a musician in my next film. That opened a lot of incredible doors. I don’t want to speak on it too much… but I’m definitely working with some really exciting people.

Is that reference to The Idea of You, which premieres at SXSW this month and comes to Prime Video in May? Anne Hathaway plays a 40-year-old divorced mum having an affair with your character, Hayes Campbell, the 24-year-old lead singer of the hottest boy band on the planet”.

Yes, embodying that, no biggie! The band’s called August Moon, which is very fittingly boy band-ish. He’s one of these musicians who starts off in this music industry-created amalgam of young men from different backgrounds. They make a certain type of music, which hits the populace. But whether it’s what he’s passionate about and what his artistry is, that’s called into question.

So… they’re N Sync and you’re Justin Timberlake?

That’s not a bad comparison. It’s such a common theme. We see one member of the band feel like they’re not being represented in the work that’s being made anymore. So they fly the nest.

What’s Hayes’ look?

He’s very grungy. I had a lot of fun building him out and choosing his tattoos. I don’t have any and I’ve always wanted some. So we had this cut-off vest, which shows his Icarus tattoo. [We were] building a pop star that didn’t feel too [obvious]. Some things are very trope‑y, but other things are specific to him.

Now for the most popular Google questions about you. Does Nicholas Galitzine actually sing in Cinderella?”

I do! That was a lot of fun, actually. We all had such a great time on that movie. And singing Queen is an impossible task. No one can match what Freddie [Mercury] did. I can do a falsetto, but what I’ve been trying to solve is: I have a small gap between my chest voice and my head voice. I’m friends with a lot of great singers now and the amount of training you really have to have, it’s so impressive.

Does Nicolas Galitzine speak Greek?”

I do but not very well. My heritage is Greek and the first school I ever went to was a Greek school. But my mum is very disappointed in me – I’ve lost a lot of my Greek over the years. My Spanish has improved, though, because my ex-girlfriend was Spanish. I learned because her parents didn’t speak any English. So the Spanish has risen and the Greek has faded, sadly. Sorry, mum!

Does Nicholas like [Cinderella co-star] Camilla Cabello?”

I do like her, because she’s my friend. She’s a wonderful person. A really talented person. Really sweet. Yeah, I adore her.

Does Purple Hearts have a sad ending?”

I think it has an uplifting ending? Are these from people who can’t be bothered to watch it all the way through? Short attention spans these days.

Are we getting Purple Hearts 2?”

Don’t know, is the short answer. It all depends on scripts. You never want to do a sequel just for the sake of it. It has to be the right thing.

Are Nicholas and [Red, White & Royal Blue co-star] Taylor Zakhar Perez friends?”

I’ve maintained a great friendship with Taylor – and actually [with] a lot of co-stars of mine over the years. That’s one of the joys of the job: the friendships you make.

Who’s your favourite king or queen?

It might just be Queen the band. I’m gonna go with that. They were one of the few bands growing up that I was really influenced by. Them and The Rolling Stones. Freddie was such a talented writer. It was such poetry and he was such a boundary-pusher.

How useful has TikTok been in terms of putting your music out there?

Honestly, I suck at using TikTok! And social media in general I like to stay off. I tried to do the TikTok thing, especially over the pandemic, when we were all going a little insane. But it doesn’t match my sensibilities. I love singing. I love playing music. Sometimes I’ll just post something and leave it there and see how it does. But I don’t really see it so much as a tool as just a form of expressing myself.

Bottoms: playing dim quarterback hero Jeff (“the most good-looking, all-American, red-blooded, muscular man this town has ever seen”) looked like a right laugh.

So fun! I felt so out of my depth for the first few weeks on that job. Ayo Edebiri and Rachel Sennott are legitimate comedians. They’ve done stand-up comedy for years. A bunch of us [in the cast] had never done comedy [acting] before.

Emma Seligman, the amazing director, would come up to me and go: Maybe this time play it like you’re an infant, throwing his toys out the pram.” The next day it would be: You’re a sociopathic gaslighter…” You’re doing these wildly different takes and you’re not really sure what’s going to end up on screen in the end.

I was such a small part of that movie – it’s very much the girls’ movie. But I had such a blast. I feel like I learned an incredible amount on that job.

We’ll end on a couple more Instagram comments from under your premiere post: Can you smell that? It’s the Emmy coming baby.”

Ha ha! That’s really kind, whoever wrote that. Look, man, I’ve never won an award in my life. The joy for me is the making of the thing and the friendships I make. And I had so much fun on Mary & George. This job, perhaps more than any other job, gave me the most challenging character arc and the most to do. That’s been the benefit of doing TV versus movies a lot of the time.

Why are you just so pleasing to look at?”

That is a rhetorical question! I have no comment to that comment. But thank you very much for the compliment.

All episodes of Mary & George are on NOW and Sky Atlantic

UP next

More like this

00:00 / 00:00