Tony Winner Matthew López on Bringing RED, WHITE AND ROYAL BLUE To The Screen

On Screen

Taylor Zakhar Perez, Nicholas Galitzine, and Matthew López | Photo: Amazon Studios

Kobi Kassal
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August 11, 2023 11:40 AM

The pressure is certainly on when you sign up to direct and co-adapt one of the most beloved novels in recent years, and that is exactly what Matthew López set out to accomplish. Casey McQuiston’s Red, White and Royal Blue was first published in 2019 and follows the charming romance of The First Son of the United States and a British prince who just so happen to fall for each other. When word first dropped that Amazon was adapting the beloved story for the screen, the internet went wild and just a few years later, here we are. 

López is no stranger to theatre fans — his works have been seen all over the world including the regional favorite The Legend of Georgia McBride, the Tony-winning Broadway powerhouse The Inheritance, and as of last season, Some Like It Hot. He now steps into the world of cinema with Red, White and Royal Blue, which is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

I recently caught up with López on Zoom to chat about the new movie, his views on adaptations, and if we might ever see this story on stage. Our interview has been edited for length and clarity.  

Theatrely: What was your first interaction with the book?

López: I first read it in early 2020. I had just opened The Inheritance [on Broadway] a few months before that, and I was just sort of looking for what to do next. I knew I wanted to make a movie and my agent sent the book over. They actually asked if I wanted to turn it into a musical and I thought perhaps we start with a film. I really just sort of fell hardcore in love with this book. I read it in a day and a half and I fell in love with Alex and Henry. Especially Alex — to encounter a book with a queer biracial Latine character as the lead — it's not my life, but there is a lot of me in that character. So bascially I just persued this job until they let me have it!

Did you know you always wanted to step into the director's seat as well?

I did; I was specifically looking for a movie and a few different projects were in the works but when this came along, it all happened very quickly. I didn't think at all this would be the first film I make, especially that it's a rom-com, and that it's as big as it is. But when a movie is ready to go, you go.

Matthew López | Photo: Amazon Studios

What is one thing you learned about yourself as an artist now that you have wrapped your first film?

Besides the fact I learned I can get by on a lot less sleep than I ever imagined (chuckles) I think it was that I proved a theory I had been taught by my mentors in this business, Stephen Daltry and Tom Fontana, that you always lead with kindness. You will get the best work out of people, and I learned that being the boss is best achieved with kindness.

I wonder when you started this process, was there a certain goal you wanted to accomplish at the end?

Yeah, and it was very simple. My major goal was that I wanted people to feel the same way at the end of this film as they do when they get to the end of the book. If you can recreate the feelings that folks had while reading the story, then you have made a successful adaptation of something in my mind. I was betting that people would ultimately go along with the changes we made because the journey was the same, and the destination was always the same. And I feel good about what I pulled off when it comes to that goal!

We have many stage faviorites in the film including Sharon D. Clarke and Juan Castano (who can currently be seen in Toros at Second Stage)! Can you tell a difference when you are working with stage actors versus those who typically stay on film?

I approached every actor in this film as if we were doing a play, while understanding that their jobs are different on camera — but their apprach to character and scene work is the same. It's why I decided to spend two weeks prior to the beginning of production rehearsing the film and doing tablework. The only way I know how to talk to actors is through my theatre training, and so I just applied that knowledge to their work on camera, and it seemed to work for me.

I want to hop over to Some Like It Hot. Now that we are on the other side of Award Season, when you look back and think of this production, what comes to mind?

I'm incredibly proud of the show. It is one of those rare instances where it is both exactly what you wanted to accomplish and better than you ever could have dreamed. I think that is a result of, for the first time in my career, being one of five creatives rather than simply the playwright working with the director. I look back at that show and I'm very fortunate that it is by and large the articulation of what we wanted to make. It exists for the reasons we wanted it to exist, and it does what we asked of it. And you can't do better than that as a creator.

Matthew López, Taylor Zakhar Perez, and Uma Thurman | Photo: Amazon Studios

It is still one of those shows I keep returning to because it is such an enjoyable night out.

You understand that it wasn't always fun to go back to The Inheritance on any given night. It was necessary and it was rewarding, but it wasn't what I'd call fun. Whenever I go back to Some Like It Hot and check on the show, I just have fun. It's such a blast.

I have to ask, what would Toby Darling think of Red, White and Royal Blue?

He would fucking love it and never admit it. And really bad mouth me to his friends for being the person who got to adapt and direct it when he wanted that job himself.

I know you mentioned earlier, but do you think we may ever see this on the stage?

I think right now I need a bit of a break from it. I love Alex and Henry, but I've spent quite a lot of time in that marriage, and I'd like to leave them alone for a while. But when there is something up in my cabeza that is dying to get out and it can only be on stage, that's what I will do. 

Red, White and Royal Blue is now streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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Kobi Kassal

Hailing from sunny South Florida, Kobi Kassal founded Theatrely (formerly Theatre Talk Boston) while attending Boston University. He is an avid theatre attender and can be found seeing a performance most nights of the week (in normal times!) He is interested in the cross section of theatre, popular culture, hospitality, and politics. He also loves a good bagel!