Jake Maskall as King Cyrus in The Royals. Photos: E!
The Royals, the over-the-top TV series about a fictional, out-of-control English royal family, made its third season US premiere on the American cable network E! Sunday, Dec. 4.
Jake Maskall, who co-stars as the show's flamboyant King Cyrus, tells the Walford Gazette that two months before the election the production shot a scene where "I have a line and mention Hillary and Trump, while addressing an audience. I say to them, 'Look what happens with Hillary vs. Trump? It was lose-lose'."
The Royals' series' American show runner Mark Schwahn (known for the American series One Tree Hill) didn't shoot another take, according to Maskall, with the possibility that Clinton might win.
"Either Mark foresaw it," says Maskall, who probably is best known for playing EastEnders' troubled soul Danny Moon (second cousin of Alfie) more than 10 years ago. "I don't think anyone predicted [Trump winning], did they?"
Maskall and Elizabeth Hurley as Queen Helena in The Royals
In the first season of The Royals, Cyrus conspires with his sister-in-law Queen Helena, played by Elizabeth Hurley, to get rid of her husband, the saintly King Simon, who's considering to abolish the monarchy, much to the chagrin of everybody in the immediate family, except his living son Liam, who's a bit tired of the 24/7 tabloid scrutiny.
Season 3 continues the series' snappy dialogue, celebrating utter hedonism: sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll. In Season 2, bisexual Cyrus learns he has testicular cancer (shaves his head into a mohawk so his thinning scalp isn't obvious), gets his maid pregnant, and takes the throne. Season 3 promises more of extremely vain King Cyrus relishing his power trip and the trappings of royalty. Meanwhile, Helena embarks on a mission to prove that Prince Liam and Princess Eleanor are the legitimate heirs to the throne.
As the President-Elect in real life is making the rounds introducing himself to foreign dignitaries, it begs the question: How would King Cyrus view Donald Trump?
"King Cyrus probably would look at Trump as a commoner," says Maskall. "But I think he might like the idea of mockery that this imbecile, and he's now president of the United States." But couldn't the same be said about Cyrus being king?
"Absolutely," admits Maskall, "but Cyrus would think he's got blue blood. He wouldn't consider Trump on the same echelon. He looks down his nose at everyone. He's a huge snob. That's part of his charm."
The Royals writers adore writing for Cyrus "because there's no holds barred. They can absolutely lash out," says Maskall, citing a favourite line when he went to the opera with his former maid and fiancée Violet. "Lady Holloway confronts me, 'You promised James (her husband) Prime Minister'. I say to her, 'Where is James tonight?' And she says, "He's working late after you shafted him'. I turn and say, 'More like working someone's hard shaft'. It was really cheeky."
Maskall believes it's no accident that it appears The Royals is more focused on the US audience, in the same way that Downton Abbey and The Tudors were Americanized. The UK Season 3 dates have not yet been announced.
"It's American money. It's E!'s first scripted drama. The majority of Americans are fascinated by the monarchy. I think it's a pretty international show. It's No. 1 in Turkey, Greece, Germany loves it, South America loves it. France loves it too; they hate the Brits. What's not to love about it. It's such a fun show. It's got a bit of everything: heart, comedy, outrageousness, sex and drugs. It's a guilty pleasure."
He also sees The Royals as being Shakespearean, based on Hamlet. "I think the levels of what we go to is kind of heightened. It's theatre at the end of the day. Like Shakespeare, you have moments of comedy, the Machiavellian murders. It's full of love, and full of loathing."
Maskall agrees with my "spot on" suggestion that his Cyrus is reminiscent of Jeremy Irons's Scar in The Lion King. "The situation, the set-up, he sets out to kill his brother. Jeremy Irons's voice in it is beautiful and so rich, so many layers. I wanted to borrow some of that."
Of his 76-episode stint on EastEnders as Danny, Maskall was amazed to learn that his character was killed off on New York screens about six months ago.
Accidentally killed by his brother Jake, Danny met his demise, as he was on his way to kill Phil and Grant Mitchell on orders from his boss Johnny Allen. It was EastEndersat its best, a cat and mouse game between the Mitchells and Allen ensued first in the latter's luxury suburban house, then in the woods.
"Danny was unhinged," Maskall reflects. "He was bipolar basically. Jake (his brother) was always the top boy. There was huge tension and jealousy from Danny, and especially with his state of mind. His father had beaten him up, and used to leave them for days. It was quite a complicated relationship. It was complete love at one end of the spectrum, and at the other end underlying hate."
How did Joel Beckett end up playing Jake a lot longer? "After the first year, we left together. Then they wanted us back. I said to them, 'I'll only come back if you kill me off.' I wanted to move on and do other characters, and here I am King of England."
Maskall is still in touch with Beckett, who "lives down the road from me in North London. We're going out for a drink this week."
All of his acting has been in Europe, but Maskall just signed with an American manager, who's lining up film auditions. "I fancy doing a bit of theatre actually. I haven't treaded boards for quite a while. It's a completely different experience." He signed up for seven years to do The Royals. "We're all hoping for Season 4."