The Royals creator on Robert's reign of terror and that unexpected team-up
Warning: This story contains major spoilers from Sunday’s season 3 finale of The Royals. Read at your own risk.
So it’s official: Robert is king. He may not be the king we wanted or the king we deserved. Heck, he’s not even the king his own father wanted (R.I.P. Simon), but he’s the one we fans of The Royals got and we’ll have to live with it. For now, anyway.
We checked in with the show’s creator, Mark Schwahn, for a little more on Robert’s evil plans at the end of the season 3 finale (and the Willow of them all), Eleanor’s epic fairytale princess moment, and the Liam-Cyrus team-up we never could have predicted and really cannot wait to see.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Was the plan always to make Robert (Max Brown) such a freaking jerk?
MARK SCHWAHN: What I knew was that we had heard a lot of great things about Robert and we had heard how he rarely made a misstep and how Liam was struggling to fill Robert’s shoes. We already knew of Robert’s greatness, so I didn’t want to diminish that a great deal, but when you hear about a character that you’ve not met and you’ve formed an opinion in advance, it’s kind of fun to toy with that a little bit when you finally meet that character.
And thus make him and Liam (William Moseley) at odds?
I knew that Robert would be coming back — he may not be changed as a person but the world he’s coming back to has changed, and Liam has changed as well. That’s what I was chasing… And then Kathryn became part and parcel to the story because now you’ve got affairs of the heart at the center of it, too. It’s not just who’s going to run the country.
The flashback that revealed Simon’s desire to abolish the monarchy was because of Robert — and not the antics of Liam, Eleanor (Alexandra Park), and Helena (Elizabeth Hurley) — was quite a twist. Was that always in the plan?
It was nice to see Simon with his first-born son, and, as I said, when you’ve hinted or maybe more than hinted at the architecture of Robert’s greatness, it’s such a surprise, and a very human one, to then reveal maybe that wasn’t always the case. Maybe it was the case to others on the outside but not to the one that he wanted the approval from most. That can force you down a lot of paths — it can make you be great and drive you to be better, or it can darken you a little bit.
The first time we hear about the king saying he’s considering [abolishing the monarchy] is after Robert’s death, but… I thought there was probability that [he and Robert] would’ve had these conversations — I’ll buy that. He didn’t act on it. He said, “My concern is that you’re not going to be the man that I need you to be and that the world wants you to be and expects you to be, and so this is what I’m thinking and this is what’s in my heart. And I’m sorry and I love you, but I’m not going to cut corners with you.” It becomes very powerful. It’s also a really nice surprise considering what we thought we knew.
Are you really going to make Willow (Genevieve Gaunt) marry Robert?
I’m very protective of Willow and I know the audience is too, and so I did plant that seed in episode 7. I wanted to see them in close quarters for a second and it’s interesting — they had a bit of a spark. I think that’s one of my favorite things in the finale. It’s something that gets you excited about a season 4, and it may get you excited in a very cautiously protective way. What you want is an audience to say, “Hold on a second: Don’t be messing with Willow.” But we don’t know how they’ll be together. Robert may be incredibly good to her.
I want to see her say, “On no planet, buddy.”
Exactly! The audience is very protective of Willow. I talked to Genevieve about it and I told her there’s a long play here. This is a slow burn, this character.
It looks like you were setting the stage for a Liam-Cyrus (Jake Maskall) team-up in season 4. Does this mean we’re going to get the softer side of Cyrus?
It could go either way, couldn’t it? Liam could go dark, which would be very Hamlet-y. And Cyrus could be training him in the way that Darth Vader was trained to be the way he was or the way a master villain would train an apprentice. Or, maybe a bit of Liam’s goodness rubs off on Cyrus. … I do see, like you do, the potential in that pairing, which is a surprise, and the fact that it could be good for both of them or really bad for both of them, depending on how they are with and to each other.
That’s a scene that I planted in the finale because I see the potential in it, and I see that we can get really great story out of it, and maybe some surprises along the way. When you get to season 4, sometimes you want to see more of what you really love, and sometimes you want to see different colors and different shades. You want to see the palette broaden a little bit.
Just promise me that Liam’s color palette is not going to change and we’re not going to suddenly see him in peacock suits.
C’mon! How great would that be?
Speaking of suits, seeing Eleanor go full-princess in her coronation gown felt like something three seasons in the making.
I really wanted that moment to be special. Because, as you said, it’s the first time you see her as that traditional princess that Sara Alice believes in. When we met Sara Alice, she kept asking her, “Shouldn’t you have a crown? And shouldn’t you have glass slippers? And your hair’s supposed to be blonde.” All this stuff that she learned in the storybooks and I thought, won’t it be nice when Sara Alice walks in and sees that for the first time?
I have to ask about the choice to introduce a child to the palace with Sara Alice (Miley Locke). She really annoyed me early in the season, but I confess she grew on me by the end.
Sara Alice gave us a good opportunity not so much to find out more about James Hill, but to put her around Eleanor and Jasper, two characters who aren’t really paternal, but yet that’s sort of the fun of it. That’s the comedy. When we first meet her, Eleanor has no time for her and Jasper has I think less. But ultimately, it’s a glimpse into their hearts a little bit. … Jasper’s that kind of buttoned up, quiet, very independent character, and my instincts were that around a child, especially a little girl, he would be really interesting to watch, and I think he was.