Britain’s real-life monarchy has nothing on The Royals, the delightfully scandalous E! network series is coming back for its second season this month. The entertainment network’s first scripted show follows a fictional royal family—led by Vincent Regan’s King Simon Henstridge and Elizabeth Hurley’s deliciously devilish Queen Helena—as it navigates the trials and tribulations of modern life in a very public family.
There’s perhaps no one character who does more to make things difficult for the crown than Jasper Frost, a dashing palace bodyguard who turns out to have plans for the royal family that go beyond just protection. Here, Tom Austen, who plays Frost, explains what makes the character so compelling, and why the series has ruined his own interest in monarchal machinations.
There’s more than one role for a smoldering young man on this series. How did you end up playing Jasper?
I got a call from my agent back home asking me to come in and read for Prince Liam, William Moseley’s character, and I was like, ‘OK, cool. I’m not sure I’m entirely right for this part, but I will go along and see what they want.’ I was just about to jump on the train to go to the meeting, and my agent called to say they had just released another character, which they wanted me to see. I pulled it up on my phone and looked at it for about two minutes before I got there. Then the casting said, ‘So you’re going to read for Liam and then for Jasper.’ And I said, ‘I think I will probably just read for Jasper.’ And then it was kind of done deal. I was the first person they saw for the part, and maybe two or three weeks later we were on set!
What was it about what you read in those two minutes that made you want to ditch Liam completely for Jasper?
I thought it was such an awesome part. There were only two or three scenes from the pilot that we were shown for the character, and I had absolutely no idea who he was, what he was doing or why he was doing what he was doing—and to me that was just so exciting. I just thought there was something dark and seriously wrong with this guy and I wanted to do it.
It’s a little more fun to play someone who has that villainous streak.
I think so. I wouldn’t say he is the bad guy, but he’s definitely not the good guy—and to me that’s always way more fun.
Over the course of the first season, he makes a place for himself among the royal family, kind of by any means necessary. What does the second season have in store?
At the end of the first season, we kind of left Jasper on what could be a good path. He’s trying to right the wrongs that he’s done and he’s trying to make amends for all of the ways in which he’s massively screwed up. To a certain extent, he does that. And then to a huge extent, he doesn’t. What I love about this part is that just when you think you know, you realize that you have actually got no idea. That definitely happens a lot in season two. He’s still as mysterious and dangerous as he ever was.
For as long as there have been scripts, there have been scripts about royalty. What keeps us all so interested?
Nowadays, when all of our media is so saturated by these self-made celebrities, this is about people who are born into that life and who live it whether they want to or not. I think that’s something that is fascinating; they are kind of like the original celebrities. They have all of this wealth and glamour, but also at the same time, they’re as deeply fucked up as anyone else, if not more.
Does being on the series make you more interested in Britain’s real monarchy?
I’m not sure I had a massive amount of interest in that before, and I think I probably have maybe even less now.
What kind of responses do you get from people who watch the show? Does anyone hiss at you?
Do you know what? I expected that so much. I expected people to really not take to him, especially the younger, female members of the audience. I really expected for them to not like him and hate what he does to everybody else in the family. But they love it! They go absolutely mad for it and it’s a little bit scary at times. You find there are young girls out there who are so into this character, who love how dark he is. It’s almost like the more bad stuff he does, the more they like it! And it’s crazy! I don’t know why, but they are so into it.
Are you ever surprised by those dark twists when you get a script?
Sometimes it’s like, who thinks of this stuff? There are some really twisted people sitting up in the writer’s room on set. The funny thing is we get the scripts as they’re written, so we read the scripts with the cliffhangers that the audience will see while they are watching the season. And sometimes the scripts come very quickly and sometimes they really don’t. And sometimes we’ll read one and we’ll have to wait two or three weeks before we get the next one having absolutely no idea what’s going on. It’s horrible, because you want to know what’s coming and they make you wait. We hate them for it!