EDGE Interview: William Hanson – the Etiquette Expert on 'Red, White & Royal Blue'
Steve Duffy READ TIME: 5 MIN.
There is no cultural entity more driven by etiquette than the British royalty. Every bow, every curtsy, every gesture is scrutinized to follow longstanding protocol. This is likely why the producers of "Red, White & Royal Blue," the hit Netflix rom-com about the bad boy son of a female American president who gets involved with a staid royal, hired etiquette expert William Hanson as a consultant before filming. Even this unconventional relationship needs to play by the rules.
But, as it turns out, there is no royal rule book. "Protocol is...now a bit of a dirty word, which is a great shame because actually what protocol is – it's event management, generally," Hanson said on the Pureview podcast "Royally Obsessed." "We all know that there is no etiquette book or etiquette rule within the royal household." Hanson clarified that there is really only a convention, saying, "It's not a protocol rule, it's just convention that has become adopted."
So how did Hanson guide the film's breakout stars Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine to behave according to the rules, even if they are not baked in rule books? EDGE spoke to Hanson about his career, his role in the film, and what is the best etiquette rule to follow, whether you're dating a royal or not.
EDGE: What is an etiquette expert?
William Hanson: I'm just very uptight. Basically, that's mainly what it is. My day-to-day job is going around teaching people the rules of etiquette. I help them have confidence in their social and professional lives. I'm very fortunate to be able to work in film and TV productions such as Red, White, and Royal Blue. I help add some authenticity when it comes to the storylines that involve the royal family or English aristocracy.
EDGE: How did this become your chosen career?
William Hanson: Completely by accident. As a child, my grandmother gave me a book of etiquette for Christmas because–and this would shock you–she thought I was a precocious child. She thought I would benefit from it, and I did. I bought more books because I wanted to know why you had to do certain things a certain way. Then when I got to about 16 years old, I was asked by a teacher to teach the younger grades how to set a table. That's how it all started, and no one's pressed stop, so I am still going strong.
EDGE: Tell us about your role in the making of "Red, White, & Royal Blue."
William Hanson: I was first aware of "Red, White, and Royal Blue" in its book form. My now husband was reading it and loved it, so when I got an email asking if I'd be involved in the pre-production of the film, he insisted that I say yes, whether I liked it or not. It's lovely to actually be involved in the pre-production because sometimes a consultant like me is not brought on during pre-production, which makes no sense. So, to actually get to be going through the first few drafts of the script with director Matthew Lopez and the team was amazing. For example, in the film they go to Paris, and to be able to say where and how security would be in the restaurant just makes the scene so real. It really adds that extra level of authenticity of detail. It was truly a fun experience, and I am so excited for everyone to finally see the film.
EDGE: Any challenges in making sure the set and scenes were authentic as possible.
William Hanson: No challenges or problems that couldn't be overcome. There were a couple of scenes that didn't made the final cut, but I'm sure we'll see them on the DVD extras or whatever the equivalent is now. Those scenes were involving the dining. There was a lovely breakfast scene and I had to have a discussion with the prop department about what shape the toast should be. This could be viewed as ridiculous, in the grand scheme of things, because it's toast, but it's that sort of level of detail that we were keen to add.
EDGE: I didn't see a lot of curtsying. Was there a reason for that?
William Hanson: Well, we definitely filmed it.
EDGE: What is the one rule of etiquette everyone should follow?
William Hanson: Just being nice to people. It's nice to be nice. Etiquette, although it's sort of a slightly dirty word with old-fashioned connotations, it's just treating people with respect. As long as humans are walking this earth, there is going to be a need for etiquette. It evolves and it adapts to reflect the society that we are in, but it's just simply being nice to people. We all need to treat each other with respect and compassion. It is the one thing that we need now more than ever.
EDGE: What is the biggest misconception about etiquette?
William Hanson: That it's just for certain types of people. It's not just for someone in high society and whilst there is an etiquette with high society, there is an etiquette for everything and everyone. Etiquette is the act of interacting with other people.
EDGE: Tell us about "Keeping Up Appearances - The LUXURY Podcast."
William Hanson: We release episodes on Wednesdays. There was one today – it's an episode-by-episode companion for the BBC sitcom "Keeping Up Appearances," which is hugely popular in America and obviously in Britain. My friend and colleague Jonathan and I just talk through each episode. It's a limited run series. There were only 42 episodes of the show. We will have a few extras because we have interviewed some members of the cast. We've got the QE2 episode next and for any fan of the show they will know that this episode is a pretty great one.
"Red, White & Royal Blue" is streaming on Prime Video.