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Nicholas Galitzine wants to prove he’s more than just a pretty face

“I have often found that the way people see me is very different from the way I see myself,” said Nicholas Galitzine. “People attribute purity to me.”

It was a recent morning in a rococo hotel room just west of Madison Square Park. (How rococo? Imagine Fragonard macrodosing psilocybin.) Galitzine, who recently moved from London to Los Angeles, was in New York for a few days to promote “Mary & George,” a steamy historical drama in which he plays George Villiers, the ambitious lover of King James I. It airs Friday on Starz. Next month, he will also appear as Hayes, a boy band sensation in a middle-aged romance, in Amazon’s giddy romantic comedy “The Idea of ​​You.”

Boyishly handsome, with lips like plump cushions and a frankly ridiculous jawline, Galitzine, 29, is often cast as princes (“Cinderella,” “Red, White and Royal Blue”), heterosexual and gay, or like modern times. prince equivalents – a pop phenomenon, a football star. That’s how Hollywood saw him: patrician, elegant.

“Refined, perhaps, is a word,” he said. (That upscale English accent? It helps.) But refined isn’t an adjective he uses. Rather, he describes himself as “chaotic,” as “disordered,” which princes are not always allowed to be.

“It’s a tricky thing sometimes playing princes and people expecting that,” he said. “The reality is very different.”

Really ? It stands to reason that emerging actors tend to act on their best behavior when dealing with a journalist, but despite this, Galitzine was never less than courteous. And her outfit was impeccable. Perfect, you could say. He wore a rugby jersey – he had once planned a career as a rugby player – with decorative cutouts and one ear holding a small hoop. This earring seemed like an homage to his “Mary & George” character, but he’s had this piercing since he was 12 years old.

In person, Galitzine is gentle, self-effacing, reasonably confident. He’s six feet tall, but in some ways he’s still growing. As an actor, he is only now moving beyond the confines of his debonair on-screen identity and seeking what lies beyond them.

“People really want to see you play the same thing until you can show them something else,” he said. He knows he has a talent for romance, which explains most of his previous and current roles. “If I had to brag for a moment, what I do well is create a sense of chemistry,” he said. And that’s true. He had chemistry with every actor and actress he acted with. He could probably have some chemistry with the sidewalk.

He was now out of the hotel and on the perimeter of the park, slowly looking away from fans who recognized him. They may have been disappointed to hear him say that he was done playing prince. “I’m moving away from romantic leads,” he said.

For most of his life, Galitzine never thought he would move toward them. The son of a Greek mother and an English father, he grew up mainly in London. During holidays in the Greek islands, his older sister coached him to put on plays, but at his all-boys school he did athletics – football and track and field in addition to rugby. On the field, he had a place to put what he called his “chaotic ADHD energy.” (He was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder as a child.)

These sports have led to many injuries: concussions, hamstring strains, rotator cuff problems. “I was just losing confidence in the reliability of my body,” he said. He was also losing faith in the macho culture of athletics.

“I was becoming a sensitive young man and I was coming up against these archaic ideals,” he said.

The abandonment of sports created a void that academics could not fill. His parents expected him to go to college, but he wasn’t so sure. As he neared graduation, he had vague plans to buy a motorcycle and drive around for a while when a girl he liked suggested he audition for a play called “Spring Awakening.” This play was presented at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where Galitzine almost immediately caught the attention of agents. Soon after, he landed a starring role in a film, “The Beat Beneath My Feet” (2016), a comedy about a soft-spoken singer-songwriter who blackmails the rock god next door.

Many actors have had periods of hardship or dues, but Galitzine’s rise has been relatively steady. Other film roles followed, often romantic. He says he’s perplexed that he’s been cast so often as pretty boys.

“It’s so funny, because I’ve never felt beautiful in my life,” he said. What’s funnier? He seemed to think so.

These roles were not necessarily artistically fulfilling, but Galitzine had entered the profession mainly by accident and not necessarily for the art. “Just because you’re good at something doesn’t mean you find purpose in it,” he said.

Yet as he grew older, he became more aware of the craft of acting and the type of roles he was or was not seen for. Cast for his face and biceps, he admitted to sometimes having professional jealousy and feeling creatively undernourished. He did what he could with the roles available, which wasn’t always much.

“You did not sense the implicit darkness with which I imbued Prince Robert?” he said about his role in Amazon’s 2021 version of “Cinderella.” “So strange.”

In recent years, he’s started to feel freer to act, and his co-stars now tend to have an Oscar or two lying around. In “Mary & George,” he stars alongside a scheming Julianne Moore. And if George is another pretty boy, he uses those pretty looks for evil purposes. He’s always wanted to play in the dark, he says, but he likes other shades too. “The Idea of ​​You,” in which its melancholic pop star woos Anne Hathaway’s bohemian single mother, isn’t exactly dark.

“I’m not one of those people who has to go through emotional turmoil in every role I take on,” he said. But there are moments of darkness even in a wish-fulfillment comedy like “The Idea of ​​You,” and the quality of his character, Hayes, that fascinated him most, he said, was “the claustrophobia of fame”.

So far, fame isn’t too restrictive yet. “The worst thing I’ve had to deal with is people finding out what hotel I’m staying at and showing up, people shouting my name and filming me without my consent,” he said. However, it is not always comfortable. Earlier in March, he included a since-deleted post on his Instagram that showed him shaking a female hand, and the internet went a little crazy.

“The online world is a funny, old place, and people are very, very curious,” he said.

As an actor, Galitzine is only just beginning to reward this curiosity. In many ways he is a completely typical, if slightly scattered, example of a man of the creative class in his late twenties. He’s just getting into vinyl. (His taste? “Eclectic.”) He’s taken up woodworking and wants to try pottery. He has yet to decorate his new home, and although he has started a production company, he has yet to come up with a name for it. But in his best works (“Bottoms”, “Mary & George”) there are hints of depth, of daring, of a sense of ancient play.

He would like to take on more meaningful work, he said, and explore different genres – westerns, science fiction. He believes “Mary & George” is already changing the way Hollywood views him, because the roles he’s approached for these days are more complex and demanding than in the past.

“I get to hang out with filmmakers who wouldn’t have been intrigued by me before,” he said. “It just gave me a sense of legitimacy that I had never felt.”

It’s a sign of his maturity, he believes, even if when he talks about it, he always sounds like a prince.

“There is so much more to offer for me now,” he said. “I’m a bit of a kid in the candy store.”

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