Why It Took ‘Red, White & Royal Blue’ Director Matthew López 5 Months to Cast His Main Characters

“That, for me, was the most important thing,” he tells TheWrap. “I knew that I couldn’t get this wrong.”

Actors Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine and "Red, White & Royal Blue" director Matthew López on set (Prime Video)

“Red, White & Royal Blue” director Matthew López, who became the first Latino playwright to win the Tony for best play, carefully searched for his starring dynamic duo to play Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Wales.

Adapted from Casey McQuiston’s best-selling novel “Red, White & Royal Blue,” the rom-com film follows an enemies-to-lovers romance between Taylor Zakhar Perez’s Alex, son of the first woman president of the United States, and Nicholas Galitzine’s Prince Henry George Edward James Hanover-Stuart-Fox, spare (heir) to the throne. The two young men follow their sparks to pursue a secret relationship, safe from the public eyes of both the crown and the presidency.

López took TheWrap behind the scenes of the casting process, the show’s post-credit scene and how the chemistry between the two main men developed to rule the rom-com, now out on Prime Video.

Read the full conversation below:

What makes this story undeniably American?

López: It’s undeniably American because it’s about Alex Claremont Diaz, who is very very undeniably American. He’s the son of a Mexican immigrant. He is the son of a working-class woman from the hill country of Texas. He is a dreamer. He is idealistic. He’s smart and he’s resourceful. Most importantly, he leads with love and he leads with his heart. He is, in my mind, the quintessential American.

What were the conversations like around casting these two queer, charismatic, beloved characters — Alex Claremont-Diaz and Prince Henry of Wales? How did you search for the chemistry between the guys that is so king to rom-coms?

I was casting this film, and Alex and Henry specifically, for about five months. It took that long. We saw literally hundreds and hundreds of actors, especially for Alex. And when I first encountered Taylor and when I first encountered Nick, they instantly popped for me. They captured my attention and they really made a very strong case for themselves as these roles. 

They both understood these characters implicitly. I put both of them through their paces in subsequent auditions and reads, and then we got them on a Zoom together. We were all in different cities, and their chemistry was undeniable from the beginning. It took less than five minutes to realize that they had it.

That, for me, was the most important thing. The reason I wanted to make this movie was those two characters. I knew that I couldn’t get this wrong. I knew that I wasn’t going to find them overnight. I knew that we needed to be patient, and if they were out there, we would find them.

There was something really beautiful about the way these two very different types of actors came together to create this partnership. There was a real sense of trust and respect for one another.

Could you describe how they’re different in their acting styles and how that came together?

I remember giving Nick a lot of conceptual direction. We talked a lot about the space around the scene. We talked about where Henry is holistically in any given part of the journey.

With Taylor, and I think it’s very appropriate for his character, I talked about the immediate — what is the scene about? It was a lot about action. Taylor and I were engaged with each other on the action of the scene. What is the business of the scene? What is he doing? What does he want? What is the space that he’s moving through? What is he going from, getting to? 

I read in Vanity Fair that you kept things very serious during the cake scene, but there’s a post-credit cut of that scene — why did you place it where it is?

[That] was an extra beat to the scene that we filmed, but I knew the rhythm of the scene — it didn’t belong, and so I took it out. In the edit, we all just missed that moment. It felt like a phantom limb. I told my editor, ‘Let’s put that cut little moment in at the very end of the film as a little post-credits scene.’ I just like to think of it as the little piece of chocolate that you have at the end of the meal. We leave it for people to discover if they want to.

What stake do you think authors have in the double Hollywood strike going on right now?

[“Red, White & Royal Blue” author Casey McQuiston] in particular has been incredibly vocal about strikes, and careful about their public appearances. Casey’s found a really sensitive way to support the writers and to support the actors, and also support the film.

I think this is more than just the writers’ and the actors’ fight. This affects a lot of people and the outcome of these strikes affects a lot of parts of the industry. Authors of books, creators of material that becomes film/television — the outcome of the strikes will inevitably affect them too, even though they aren’t members of the guilds.

How does Red, White & Royal Blue” fit into the conversation of rom-coms going straight to streaming vs. theaters?

I am a romantic, I am old-fashioned. I love the actual distribution of movies. I love going to the movies. I love seeing movies on the big screen. Nothing gives me greater pleasure than that. I also acknowledge that on a film like this, more people will very likely see it the first weekend at home, than might have otherwise gone to see it in the theater.

I’m of two minds. I love the romantic quality of seeing a movie in the theater. I loved, you know, these fan screenings we do with packed houses. It was a great thrill for me to see this movie in front of a full audience of people who are really loving the movie and responding vocally to it.

I come from theater. It’s what I love, but I also have to acknowledge that it’s probably likely that we will attract a bigger audience putting this on the streamer than in the cinema. I wish that wasn’t true, but we just need to do everything that we can to maximize the film’s success.

Even though the film already has a huge built-in audience, for those coming to this film who haven’t read the book, what do you hope they take away or get out of it?

I hope people have a wonderful time watching the movie. I hope that audiences fall in love, as madly in love with Alex and Henry as I did reading the book. I hope you fall in love with Taylor and Nick as Alex and Henry, and Uma and the rest of this amazing cast. 

I also hope that it leads people to the book who may have not read it yet. It’s such a delightful experience, and it’s just a wonderful story. A two-hour movie and a 500-page book are never the same thing exactly. I think the treat is in store for the people who’ve never read the book, because they get even more of the story there. 

“Red, White & Royal Blue” is now streaming on Prime Video.