Nicholas Galitzine on 'Mary & George,' 'The Idea of You' & Being Hollywood's Latest Heartthrob

Nicholas Galitzine is still getting used to this whole “romantic lead” thing. Hollywood, it would seem, has already knighted him as one. In his most recognizable roles, the actor has been passionately penetrated as the bashful, closeted Prince of England in the surprise hit adaptation of BookTok sensation Red, White & Royal Blue and sang his heart out on a quest for true love as the literal Prince Charming in the Camila Cabello-led Cinderella remake. Even when playing the villain, he’s found a sweet spot in the beautiful, charismatic type: in last year’s rowdy lesbian fight club comedy Bottoms, Galitzine’s airheaded jock with a MILF fetish may have been a serial cheater and raging misogynist, but that didn’t stop him from being an on-campus celebrity, with the giant Creation of Adam mural (featuring him as both God and Adam) to prove it.

And yet, when he looked in the mirror, Galitzine never saw a matinee idol. “I grew up not being comfortable, not liking a lot of my aesthetics and the way that I looked,” the actor admits to W one recent Friday afternoon. Despite his angular face, perfectly coiffed hair, and much-talked-about plump pink lips, the 29-year-old, a frontrunner for Internet Boyfriend of the Year, still thinks “being on screen has been a difficult thing, because you have to confront that.”

Thankfully for the rest of us, the actor’s personal reservations have done little to suppress his success. After a breakout year in 2023, Galitzine is keeping up the momentum, starring in two of the buzziest projects of 2024. Right now, Starz is airing Mary & George, a Jacobean era-set historical miniseries starring Julianne Moore as Mary Villiers, the power-hungry Countess of Buckingham, and Galitzine as George Villiers, the queer son she grooms and pushes into a sexual relationship with King James VI. And in May, the 29-year-old will appear opposite Anne Hathaway in Prime Video’s charming May-December rom-com The Idea of You.

Galitzine in Mary & George

Courtesy of STARZ

Born and raised in London, Galitzine didn’t always want to act. His first real experience didn’t come until after high school, when, aimless and questioning, he took some friends’ advice and auditioned for a part in a Spring Awakening adaptation playing in Edinburgh. To support himself through those early career years, Galitzine worked a number of odd jobs, from waiting tables to serving frozen yogurt. He could have never guessed that, in a decade’s time, he’d be a movie star. “It might feel like I’m an overnight success because I’ve had a bunch of movies come out in this short-ish time, but it’s been ten years,” he says. “I’ve really paid my dues, and I feel very lucky that people are giving me these incredible opportunities right now.”

That he has stumbled into a career where he is regularly cast as some kind of prince—or in the case of Mary & George, some other high-ranking member of the gentry—is pure coincidence, at least from his perspective. “With Cinderella, I saw an opportunity to do a really fun musical project,” he says. For Henry, the pampered prince he plays in Royal Blue, “the circumstances that he’s born into, the paralysis he kind of felt to be himself, was really intriguing.” George, meanwhile, is “possibly the most interesting character” he’s ever played. “All of these characters feel quite different to me, really,” Galitzine says.

Moore and Galitzine in Mary & George

Courtesy of STARZ

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If there is a throughline, it’s one he may understandably be reluctant to acknowledge. The actor’s latest projects capitalize on the power of his enviably good looks. Hayes Campbell, the 24-year-old pop star he croons as in The Idea of You, is the lead singer of a One Direction-type boyband (Savan Kotecha, a writer for One Direction, produced the music for the film). As Hayes, Galitzine is a textbook heartthrob, the type whose posters you’ll find plastered onto the walls of hormonal teenage girls everywhere. (And yes, that is Galitzine singing—the actor, who also plays guitar, has proven his vocal chops more than once.) For Mary & George’s central conceit to work, the audience must buy into the idea that George’s lithe beauty is irresistible enough to upend the well-established social order of King James’ (admittedly very gay, very horny) court. “If I were a man and I looked like you, I’d rule the fucking planet,” Moore’s Mary tells her son in the series pilot. It’s a testament to Galitzine that, eventually, he kind of does.

Unlike The Idea of You, though, the kind of open-hearted, star-powered rom-com that used to dominate the box office, Mary & George isn’t your classic romantic tale—and Galitzine’s George is far from a classic romantic interest. The story, which focuses on George’s short but undeniably impactful adult life in the early 1600s, is far too twisted and debaucherous to foreground “romance” in any traditional sense. This is a show about how power breeds corruption and the many ways that sex and lust can be weaponized to secure it. But at times, it also plays out like a Shakespearean tragedy; as they say, every rise comes with an inevitable fall. Or, as Galitzine describes it, “George is a naive young man who ends up in this point of complete megalomania. It’s like this power-crazed Picture of Dorian Gray.”

Galitzine relished the opportunity to create a character who felt “fragile and vulnerable” in his desperate search for his mother’s approval and love, and was fascinated by George’s “continually growing appetite for power and sexual desire.” But beyond the story, the actor was just excited to be in the company of people like Oliver Hermanus, the BAFTA-nominated director he describes as “such an auteur,” and Moore, who he says has “such a high IQ when it comes to film and TV.” “I’ve been a fan of hers for a really long time,” he adds. “She was on my bucket list of people I wanted to work with, so it was a no-brainer.”

When I ask Galitzine how he approached playing a character who wields his handsomeness like ammunition, he pauses before answering. “It was very interesting because George is widely regarded as ‘the most able-bodied man in England,’ and that’s a very specific yet ambiguous term,” he finally responds. “But paradoxically, I think [his power] comes from a sense of charisma.” Instead of dwelling on George’s exterior, then, Galitzine focused on who his character was at the core, relying on the makeup and costume departments to take care of the rest. “People may perceive George as being surface-level, but that’s kind of on the other characters. George doesn’t perceive himself that way. He has aspirations of much higher things. That’s just easier to play, and as an actor, it’s more fun to play as well.”

Galitzine and Hathaway in The Idea of You

Courtesy of Prime

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This same line of thinking informed his performance in The Idea of You—though he brings a charming self-deprecation to the role. In Michael Showalter’s steamy rom-com, Galitzine’s Hayes meets Hathaway’s Soléne, a 40-year-old divorced mother and art gallery owner at Coachella, where his boyband is headlining. After a chance run-in, Hayes falls for Soléne precisely because she doesn’t fawn over his celebrity. While he’s the de facto leader of his group (the film is based on a 2017 novel widely believed to be Harry Styles fan-fic), he’s also the odd-man-out. While his bandmates revel in the fast-paced life of superstardom, Hayes, craving normalcy, prefers deep introspection and cozy nights in.

Galitzine enjoyed working with the Oscar-winning Hathaway, the latest in an extensive list of Hollywood heavyweights, particularly women, that he’s held his own with. (The roster includes Uma Thurman in Red, White & Royal Blue and in the short-lived Netflix series Chambers, Idina Menzel in Cinderella, and of course, Moore.) Of working with these legends, Galiztine says, “This is famously such a fragile profession to work in, but they all handle themselves with such grace. I hope to emulate even a fraction of their success.”

His ability to do so feels more like a question of when than if. Mary & George and The Idea of You seem destined to launch the actor further into public consciousness; before long, his name could easily be mentioned in the same conversations as peers like Austin Butler, Jeremy Allen White, or Robert Pattinson, whose hometown neighborhood he grew up near, and looks to as a major inspiration. To get there, Galitzine wouldn’t mind exploring new territory. After working with studios like Netflix and Amazon, he’d love to return to the world of indie film, and as much as swoon-worthy romances have become his bread-and-butter, he’s eager to show his range beyond them. Westerns interest him, for one. “I know people don’t make westerns anymore, but anytime I get to ride a horse, I’m happy,” he says. Eventually, he’d also like to do sci-fi. “Just dipping into the genre of it all, which I haven’t done much, feels quite exciting.”

In the meantime, Galitzine is enjoying where he is. Unlike his character in The Idea of You, he doesn’t think of fame as a prison. “I love being able to talk to people who’ve been following my career on the street and feel their excitement,” he says of fan interactions (and there are many). The actor may be a reluctant romantic lead, but for now, he’s getting acclimated to the attention his new post brings him. “That gives me such energy and hope for the next few years of my career.”

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