The third installment in the A Christmas Prince franchise, A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby, shows what life is like in the royal palace in Aldovia with a royal baby on the way. With Christmastime in full swing, Queen Amber (Rose McIver) and King Richard (Ben Lamb) host royals from the kingdom of Penglia to renew an ancient truce, but when the 600-year-old treaty disappears, an ancient curse threatens their family and puts peace in jeopardy, if they can’t find it in time to honor the tradition.
During this phone interview with Collider, co-star McIver and Lamb talked about the surprise success of these films, when they realized just how popular the first film had become, why these characters first appealed to them, the growth of the relationship dynamic, how much fun they have working together, and why they don’t think this franchise is done yet. McIver also talked about her five-season run on The CW series iZombie, while Lamb talked about his latest project, The Warrior Queen of Jhansi.
Collider: When you guys originally signed on to make the first movie, did you have any idea that there could be more movies? Did they say, “If this first one is successful, there could be a wedding and a baby, later on”?
ROSE McIVER: No. It’s been a joyful surprise that’s unrolled, every year. When we least expect it, there’s another film. So, I keep saying to people that we have no reason to believe there will be another film after this, and they haven’t told us there is, but also based on these last couple of years, I don’t rule anything out.
BEN LAMB: The first one that was a lot more popular. I’m not even sure that Netflix had any particular hopes, with the first one. But then, it suddenly seemed to pick up some traction and people were enjoying it. So, why not make another one?
McIVER: Yeah, it was a bit of a sleeper hit.
When and how did you realize that this had become so successful that you would actually have a franchise?
McIVER: We learned about its popularity the same way that everybody did, with that self-aware Netflix tweet that went viral for saying, “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?” That was when we felt like it had a media attention that we didn’t expect. On the page and in the script, it felt like people were gonna enjoy it, but I certainly had no idea, until a couple of weeks into the film playing on Netflix, that it had quite the audience it did.
LAMB: On social media, all of a sudden, people started talking about it and being really enthusiastic about it, which was really fun.
Christmas movies are becoming more and more popular. When this first film originally came your way — and since you didn’t know what it would become — what was it that really stood out for you with these characters?
McIVER: I liked the idea that it’s a story that we feel like we’ve heard a million times before, and it is very familiar and the characters could be these archetypes, but it still had relevance for a 2019 audience, or at the time a 2017 audience. Yes, she wanted to go off and become a princess, ultimately, but it wasn’t a princess like we’ve seen before, in a ton of cultures. It’s very much riffing on The Princess Diaries idea that she’s an independent, career-driven, capable woman, who I could support little girls looking up to. It’s on her terms, as well. It’s not just on the guy’s terms, or the royal family’s terms. She’s able to assert herself. So, it really helps when the material speaks to those values, even if it can sometimes be a bit silly or fall into certain stereotypes. It’s not something that I fundamentally disagree with, morally, which a lot of the traditional fairy tale stories, I do.
LAMB: I think the main thing for me was the script. I thought it was very amusing. When I first read it, I didn’t feel like it went along the usual story. I didn’t feel like it had all of the tropes that this type of movie tends to. I found it a really enjoyable read and thought it would be fun to get involved.
McIVER: And I wasn’t gonna have to wreak havoc on my soul and have these emotionally turbulent scenes, every day. As an actor, it was actually gonna be something fun to do, that was light and, hopefully, amusing. You wanna invest in it being as grounded as you could possibly make quite a wild premise like that, but at the same time, it wasn’t a job that was going to drag me over hot coals. That was certainly appealing, at the time. I think there’s room for all sorts of things, in a career.
In this third movie, it definitely feels like Amber has not only come into her own as a queen, but is also becoming confident enough in that, to encourage others to find their own voice. Is that something you also found fun about this third movie?
McIVER: Absolutely! Obviously, mad props to Anne Hathaway, who did it first, where it reimagines what it could mean to be a princess, and not expecting a certain repressed morality that we’ve seen for so long, in these princesses that take what’s given to them. It’s fun to show your quirks, as a person, because that can be charming, just as much as anything else. And that’s real. I’ve never been interested in anybody, when I can’t see any of their flaws or where any of their shortcomings are. That’s part of what makes somebody feel human. All of the characters in this are allowed to have those textures, but that doesn’t set them apart from royalty. That’s what makes them feel like a different kind of royalty.
With a holiday romance movie, the romance and the chemistry is very important, as is the growth within the relationship. How do you guys feel that the relationship between your characters has grown, from the first film until now? What do you enjoy about who they’ve become?
McIVER: Well, I just feel really lucky that I get to work with Ben, and I’m not saying that because he’s on the line. We have such a good time, and there’s a sense of professionalism about it, too. At times, these movies have ridiculous elements, but you still have to be able to find the integrity and the moments that will keep people in the scenes with the characters and bring some compassion. So, it’s a really delicate tightrope that we’re trying to walk. I’m really appreciative that Ben will be laughing alongside me, in some of the many bizarre elements of being on set filming A Christmas Prince, but when I need it and he needs it, we both are willing to commit to the characters and invest in the journey that we’re trying to get the audience to go on. And I totally give Alice Krige, who plays the Queen, a lot of credit for being funny, and there’s definitely a twinkle in her eye about it all, but she’s also very honest earnest about how we’re there to do a job and share a story, and the stakes have to be invested in, or no one wants to watch it. I’ve been really grateful, even more so as the films progressed, that Ben and I have built a really great relationship, where we’re able to walk that tightrope.
LAMB: Thank you very much for saying that. I’ll put your check in the mail. No. It’s equally awesome working on set opposite Rose. I just feel like it would be pointless to watch these movies, if the stakes weren’t invested in. Also, Rose and I do get on as people and we make each other laugh. Sometimes in these films, you’ve got two people, who are turning up every day and doing their jobs, but they clearly don’t have any chemistry.
McIVER: And they haven’t worked to find it. You can become quite lazy.
There are definitely some very fun and sweet moments in this film. Was there a most fun day or a most fun scene that you got to do?
McIVER: I always love the crazy, big scenes with every single cast member in them. They make me laugh a lot. We have even more this year, with the Penglians arriving for the holiday traditions. The more people in there, the harder it is to hold it together, and the more annoying it is for the crew. It’s a bit like dominoes. Once one person starts to go down, everybody goes down. So, the giant scenes, like everybody singing the Christmas carols together in the second film, is really up there for me, with one of the funniest experiences I’ve had on set, followed by the conga line at the wedding.
LAMB: Mine is a pretty low-key one, but it really made me crack up on set, and I don’t know whether it made it in because I haven’t seen the finished film. There’s a moment when King Tai (Kevin Shen) and Queen Ming (Momo Yeung) are arriving, and I make this very hyperbolic, exaggerated statement, “You’re so wonderful, you radiate like the sun, Queen Amber.” And then, I turn to Queen Ming and just say, “Queen Ming.”
McIVER: I know! And I still haven’t decided if that is Richard being incredibly respectful or incredibly rude. It really is a brilliant moment.
LAMB: That was probably the moment, out of all three movies, that I laughed the most.
McIVER: We couldn’t stand beside people because we were just absolutely hysterical.
LAMB: Once things get into your head, you’ve just lost it. Once you realize that line is coming up, you’re doomed.
Rose, things recently came to an end on iZombie, and you were just so great on that show. How do you feel about the journey that you took with that TV series, over five seasons? Does it feel exciting, as an actor, to have had an experience like that?
McIVER: Absolutely! There’s something that happens, when you get longevity in a show like that, where it becomes like high school, and Christmas Prince is creeping up, in a similar way, getting to reunite with people, every year. There’s a familiarity, and that does breed on screen chemistry and people having a really good time in the project. I’ve just been so lucky. iZombie was a total gift. This year has been my first year away from it, and I miss the people a lot. I’m trying to look at it like, we got to go out on a high and we had a really good time. Hopefully, there’ll be something else around the corner. I’m doing a play right now, which has been a return for me. I hadn’t done it in nine years, and it’s been like going back to school, really. It’s such an incredibly different skill set, and really humbling and challenging and rewarding, and I really love it. But I’m not sure what’ next. I have no idea. It does feel like the end of an era. Hopefully, A Christmas Prince doesn’t leave us high and dry ‘cause I don’t think we’re done with Queen Amber and King Richard yet.
LAMB: I think there’s a hell of a lot more to explore.
McIVER: We can go to Penglia next.
Rose, what is the play that you’re doing?
McIVER: The play I’m doing is called Key Largo, and it’s at the Geffen Playhouse [in Los Angeles] until 15th of December. Andy Garcia adapted it for the stage from the film and the original play. It’s a play from the ‘30s, and he adapted it with a guy called Jeffrey Hatcher. It’s a classic noir, and it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve had a really good time with it.
Ben, do you know what, what you’re doing next?
LAMB: No, I have no idea. The latest thing that came out is called The Warrior Queen of Jhansi. That’s with Rupert Everett, Derek Jacobi, and Jodhi May. That was three months filming in India, a little bit in London and several weeks in Morocco. It was the first film I’ve done that was shot on three continents. It’s a really interesting, inspiring, exciting, story about female empowerment and the battle against the East India Company in India. It’s a really interesting story, and I had great fun shooting it. It was a really, really extraordinary experience. It’s one of those ones where you’re shooting in very challenging conditions, in quite remote areas sometimes. In fact, the director (Swati Bhise), at the very end of the shoot, contracted swine flu and almost died. And there were very several catastrophes that happened on set. But those are the kinds of things that are worth going through to have such an amazing experience. When you’re going through challenging moments at work, you’re also thinking about how grateful you are for being able to experience these amazing things.
A Christmas Prince: The Royal Baby is available to stream at Netflix.