Interview with Haydn Gwynne from The Windsors
How would you describe The Windsors to someone who’s never seen it?
I would call it sublimely daft, I suppose. It’s spoofing not so much the royal family as media portrayals of the royal family. It’s spoofing a particular brand of American TV soap opera. And there are also lots of references to famous films and so on – there was Rebecca in the first series, and you get a bit of The Man in the Iron Mask. But it’s a particularly British sort of comedy.
You play Camilla. How is she portrayed in the series?
Someone asked me if it is a caricature of Camilla, and I’d say no, it’s absolutely not. That would be more like Tracy Ullman’s very funny version of her in her sketch show. That might be more of a caricature, in that it’s a horsey, jolly woman who loves the countryside. My model for Camilla, once I’d read the first scripts and seen the costumes, became much more as if she were played by Joan Collins in a soap opera called Balmoral. She is the sort of arch-villainess of the American soap opera. That’s the model for me, in a way, which is fruitful and rather fun. You can indulge your arch-villainess. Camilla de Ville, if you like.
Did you do anything in the way of research into the way she dresses or walks or moves, or is that totally pointless, because you’re not trying to recreate her?
Actually, in as much as I could, I did study her, at least initially, to see what, if anything, would be useful, and then I found that it was mostly not useful. People don’t know what Camilla sounds like, if you think about it. I did manage to find some speeches at charity events and things, but it wasn’t really useful to me. As regards the look – her main signifier is her hair, so what you do go for is the exaggerated soap opera version of the Camilla blonde flick. It’s quite interesting, researching her, because she is actually very stylish. She dresses extremely well, but we’re going for a whole other thing. We go for a red and black palette, which are not her colours at all, because that suits our American soap opera version of her. Our costume designer, who is completely brilliant, June Nevin, is very witty with what she does. So for some of the characters she’ll be looking for exaggerated versions of things. Here she might come back to the real Camilla as we have a section in this series that goes to Balmoral and the Highland Games, so then we’ll go back to looking at pictures and seeing Camilla in outfits where there’s a tartan combo, with feathers in the hat. So we’ve got that, and gone for a ridiculous, exaggerated version.
Almost all of your scenes are with Harry Enfield. How do you enjoy working with him?
I love working with Harry. Apart from anything else, he’s a really sweet, gentle man. It’s a really lovely cast, we really enjoy each other. Working with Harry, when we’re rehearsing, I never know what he’s going to come up with. We do just laugh a lot. Actually, we didn’t have a lot to do together in the Christmas Special, my storyline took me off in a different direction – so when we were having meetings about what was going to happen in the second series, I did actually check that I’d have a lot to do with Harry.
Do you ever worry about offending royalists? Have you been berated by any?
“No”, that hasn’t happened. I suppose it’s possible that people might take offence on behalf of the royals, but I think you could be an ardent royalist and still enjoy this show. It is mostly quite affectionate, and indeed some of the characters are rather heroic, like Wills and Kate. As for the royals themselves, do some of the younger ones watch? I don’t know. There is stuff is going on all the time about the royals, there are movies like The Queen, there’s The Crown, King Charles III, going back a bit there was Spitting Image. How do you deal with that as a royal? I imagine, with a lot of it, you just ignore it.
Do you have any favourite scenes or storylines from The Windsors?
Yes. I absolutely loved the whole abolition of the monarchy thread, not only because it lead to a leaders-style debate, and a cat fight – I love a good cat fight – between The Windsors’ Camilla and Kate, but also the fantasy of the Royal Hunger Games as a way of getting rid of the minor royals. That absolutely killed me.
Is the show as much fun to film as it looks?
It is totally as much fun as it looks. The only thing that isn’t fun is that our schedule is insanely tight, and so when we are having too much fun, our poor director Adam Miller has to start reining us in. It is hard not to laugh, and not to corpse a lot of the time. We do try and get most of it out of our systems during rehearsal. It’s lovely rehearsing scenes with the crew all chuckling away, because they’re seeing it for the first time. Before it went out, we were laughing, but we didn’t know if anybody else would, but now we know that there is an audience that really enjoys it. I have been in shows, not TV, where you’re having a fantastic time and the audience don’t quite agree. So what did surprise me was that I met so many people, who like the show, I was expecting to meet more people who didn’t like it. I thought it would be more fifty-fifty. I have a couple of members of my family who just don’t get it, but then I have other relatives for whom it justifies my whole career. They completely adore it. It’s probably the first TV I’ve sat down and watched with my teenage sons for a very, very long time.
June 20, 2017 5:46am ET by Channel 4