The CROWN RULES
Channel Ten takes on Australia’s royal fairytale
RYAN O’Kane is trying to convince me of his princely charms.
The New Zealand actor, who plays Australia’s royal son-in-law Crown Prince Frederik of Denmark, has already showcased his attempt at his screen ego’s European accent but concedes “it can very easily slip into a little bit of Arnold Schwarzenegger. You know, ‘I belong to her … now get to the chopper!’.
With his co-star Emma Hamilton shaking her head beside him, the 32-year-old then offers something from his “very wide repertoire of bad, bad jokes”.
“I like this one,” he tells TV Guide. “You have to work it into conversation … you say, ‘Hey, you’ll never guess who I bumped into in the optometrist the other day,” pausing, “everyone!”
Hamilton is the picture of poise as he falls about laughing, before she mock-protests. “This is what I’ve had to put up with the whole time.”
Turning to me, O’Kane appeals, with a wink. “Hard to resist, aren’t I?”
It’s the kind of cheeky banter you could imagine took place between Tasmanian Mary Donaldson and the handsome man she would later discover to be the future heir to the world’s oldest royal kingdom after their chance meeting in a Sydney pub. Whether you bought into that royal fairy tale back in 2000, when they married five years later, or will approach Channel Ten’s telemovie, Mary, The Making of a Princess with similar scepticism, there’s no doubting the on-screen chemistry between the actors charged to retell this most unlikely romance.
While both know the eyes of the world’s royal watchers will be upon them, they share a genuine respect for the sacrifice the real couple had to make for their story to come true.
Hamilton, who makes her Australian TV debut in this lead role, is inspired by the popular young royal she plays, who has had to craft a place for herself in the spotlight, and on the other side of the world.
“From my research and the script, I could see that she was a very intelligent, strong, compassionate woman, who was determined to make her mark on the world and be the best person she could be, privately. But I also think she’s someone who was, initially, perhaps sceptical about romance and fairy tale endings, so it was enjoyable to watch her grow and realise the love in front of her was real and could stand the test of time.”
Hamilton knows the challenge of having to shape a life for yourself away from family and familiar surroundings, working largely from her base in London (where she recently finished starring as one of the famed Dolly sisters, in the upcoming season of Seven’s UK drama series Mr Selfridge). But it was her character’s regal wardrobe which helped her feel the part, especially the red dress Donaldson wore to a pre-wedding gala at Copenhagen’s National Theatre in 2005.
With the scene to be filmed one Monday during the production, using Sydney’s Government House as a backdrop, Hamilton went to the wardrobe department on the Friday before a little worried what she was to wear.
“Everyone on set was already talking about their gorgeous gowns and suits and I thought to myself, ‘I don’t remember trying anything on?’ When I asked they say, ‘Oh yes, we’ve decided to make you a gorgeous Duchess satin red couture gown’ and they knocked it up in two days. It was absolutely incredible and on the Monday morning, there it was and it fitted me like a glove.”
Giving his royal seal of approval, O’Kane says: “She looked stunning, very regal Mary.”
MARY, THE MAKING OF A PRINCESS SUNDAY, 8.30PM, TEN
A royal affair: Ryan O’Kane and Emma Hamilton as Denmark’s Crown Prince Frederik and Crown Princess Mary (above) and (inset right) the real royal couple.