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Hallmark dramatizes royal romance of William and Kate

Four months after a royal wedding isn't too late for a movie about the courtship, especially if the couple in question is Prince William and the former Kate Middleton.

That's how Hallmark Channel sees it, at least, and evidence supports the newlyweds' ongoing popularity with the worldwide public the attention to their recent trip to Canada and the United States being a prime example. Lifetime depicted their relationship the week before the wedding in the April drama "William & Kate," and Hallmark offers its version when "William & Catherine: A Royal Romance" premieres at 9 p.m. Saturday.

Newcomers Dan Amboyer and Alice St. Clair have the title roles, but the teleplay co-written by executive producer and director Linda Yellen also spends much time on other parties to the relationship, giving some veteran performers chunky roles.

Two-time Emmy winner Jane Alexander plays Queen Elizabeth II, and Victor Garber ("Alias") and Jean Smart -- fresh from what turned out to be a short stint as the governor on CBS' "Hawaii Five-0" -- are cast as Prince Charles and Camilla Parker Bowles.

Debuting actress St. Clair came to "William & Catherine" with a bonus, though she didn't let the producers know until she already had landed her part: She's a lady. Her father is an earl and also the security chief for the queen.

"I went through the whole process of auditioning and everything," St. Clair says, "then it was when I was already cast and having tea with Linda in London that she said, 'You know what I read yesterday?' She said it was so strange to see, having had no knowledge of that. And she also said, 'This was even more meant to be.' "

British-born but now a New York resident, St. Clair admits playing someone with such a globally public profile was "quite a challenge and relatively daunting, but at the same time, it's quite amazing to play someone so of-the-moment. I felt very privileged.

"I kind of told my family I was auditioning for it, though I didn't want to get anyone too excited," St. Clair adds. "When I finally got the part, I got my mom on Skype and said, 'Mom?' Then she got the whole family in, and there was screaming all through the house. And my little brother thought I was an extra. It was only later that he said, 'You're playing Kate?' "

Alexander was approached for "William & Catherine" in an interesting way by Yellen, who had helped her land one of her Emmys by also making the 1980 drama "Playing for Time." Alexander reports she has "kept in touch with Linda through the years, so whenever she sends me an email, I pay attention. The first email on this just said, 'From Linda,' and it was a picture of me and a picture of Queen Elizabeth side by side.

"I had never seen any resemblance before, but I saw it there. Then, Linda sent me another email and explained and said, 'I really hope you'll do this.' And I thought it would be a lot of fun. I loved how she wrote the script; it was so romantic, and it had some really nice scenes with the queen that I don't think people would expect to see.

"I thought all my British friends would excoriate me for playing their monarch," Alexander adds, "but that wasn't the case. One said, 'Listen, if Meryl Streep can do Margaret Thatcher [in the forthcoming movie 'The Iron Lady'], you can do Queen Elizabeth.' "

Though it's her first big project, St. Clair doesn't envision being typecast by "William & Catherine," since it tells the one big Kate story there is to tell thus far, anyway. "I don't really worry about that, because actually, I don't look anything like Kate," she reasons. "My style is different, and I had hair extensions for this. I feel there's much more to come, so I'm just excited to get moving on to the next thing."

Also seen last season as a judge on CBS' "The Good Wife," Alexander recently filmed the TNT holiday thriller movie "Deck the Halls," based on a Mary Higgins Clark novel. The stage and screen veteran -- also a former director of the National Endowment for the Arts -- allows that getting to play Queen Elizabeth II is special, particularly since she has encountered some royals herself.

"Henry Kissinger, who was secretary of state, loved actors," Alexander recalls, "so I was invited to a lunch where I was next to Princess Anne and her husband. Then, when I was chairman of the NEA, I was invited to a dinner and was next to Princess Margaret. I remember my mouth being open, which was a little rude of me, but I was looking at her jewels. They were so big, I could not get over the fact that they were real! She was very, very charming."

Alexander, for one, expects the interest in William and Kate to remain high for a very long time to come. She thinks that, in turn, bodes well for the new Hallmark Channel movie.

"I'll bet it gets played over and over again," she says, "because as long as Kate Middleton is as popular a figure as she is right now, this film will never go out of style."


"William & Catherine: A Royal Romance"

10 p.m. Saturday Hallmark Channel

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