Taylor Zakhar Perez has opened up about the pressure of playing an LGBTQ+ character in Red, White & Royal Blue.
Perez plays Alex Claremont-Diaz, the bisexual son of Ellen Claremont, the first female president of the US (played by Uma Thurman), in the film adaptation of Casey McQuiston’s hit queer romantic novel.
The story goes a little something like this: Alex has major beef with Britain’s Prince Henry (Cinderella star Nicholas Galitzine), and, after being forced to reunite at a royal wedding, the pair drunkenly scuffle before ending up sending the wedding cake flying.
To prevent an international incident, they have to undergo a PR stunt that frames them as the best of friends. That faux friendship soon blossoms into a full-blown love affair, with Alex, who is bisexual, and Henry, who is gay and in the closet publicly, enjoying a fairytale romance – and lots of great sex.
“From the beginning, there was an enormous weight on my shoulders, making sure that we were accurate with representation and accurate with character portrayal,” said The Kissing Booth star.
“I think it’s so easy for an actor to phone it in, I’ve seen it. That’s why I took it upon myself, knowing how important this film is for many communities.”
The original Red, White & Royal Blue book won a cult queer following when it was published in 2019, becoming a New York Times bestseller and winning a Goodreads award.
The film version has also scored a win for trans visibility with the casting of Jessica Jones star Aneesh Sheth as secret service agent Amy.
Fans have followed López’s adaptation closely, monitoring any changes between the book and the film. For his part, the director recently told PinkNews that he was particularly keen to remind viewers that Alex is a bisexual – not gay – character.
Taylor Zakhar Perez as Alex in Red, White & Royal Blue. (Prime Video)
This is why Perez says he was thinking about the LGBTQ+ community “the entire time filming” while trying to accurately reflect his character’s sexuality.
“Alex’s arc as a character who has only dated women in the past – maybe a couple of guy hook-ups – to not liking Henry, to getting kissed by Henry then having a relationship, the different degrees of comfort that [he] starts to have, this needs to be represented in a proper way,” the actor said.
“It’s up to me, because I feel like it really is Alex’s film, his journey. I felt it was up to me to make it happen.”
Alex (R) and Henry have a very healthy sex life in Red, White and Royal Blue. (Prime Video)
Fans of the novel will know that this isn’t just a love story. As López puts it, Alex and Henry have a “very healthy sex life”.
To ensure the sex scenes were conducted realistically, the team hired an intimacy co-ordinator.
“We were hypersensitive to making sure everything was properly represented and properly accurate, even down to the sex scenes,” Perez said about capturing Alex and Henry’s relationship.
“With our intimacy co-ordinator, those conversations were borderline funny because we were talking so seriously about a kiss.”
Who is Taylor Zakhar Perez and is he LGBTQ+?
Taylor Zakhar Perez may be playing an LGBTQ+ character in Red, White & Royal Blue, but in real life the actor has never publicly discussed his sexuality.
However, Perez is a fierce advocate for LGBTQ+ rights, telling Sharp magazine in 2021: “Going from trans rights to gay rights to people of colour’s rights to all of it, I’m here for all of it, however they need it.
“As I’m meeting more and more people, my only intention is to bring love, kindness and support.”
Perez has spoken very little about his personal life. Like his Red, White & Royal Blue character Alex, he is of Mexican descent. He was born in Chicago in December 1991, and while he wasn’t much of a fan of high school, he was a successful swimmer.
He attended The University of Los Angeles, California, where he completed a degree in Spanish, culture and community. He’s been performing almost his entire life, first treading the boards at opera house musicals when he was just a child.
What has he been in before?
Taylor Zakhar Perez first appeared on screen in 2012 at the age 20, as a guest star in an episode of Nickelodeon’s teen sitcom iCarly.
Since then, he’s featured in several TV series and movies, including sex comedy Minx and the drama Scandal. He got his biggest break in 2020 and 2021 in Netflix films The Kissing Booth 2 and The Kissing Booth 3, in which he played Marco Peña, alongside Euphoria’s Jacob Elordi.
Red, White & Royal Blue drops on Prime Video tomorrow (11 August).