Jane Alexander, Mark Penfold as Queen Elizabeth, Prince Phillip Hallmark Channel photo
Jane Alexander returns to TV Saturday (8/27) in the Hallmark Channel original movie “William & Catherine: A Royal Romance” — adding the role of Queen Elizabeth II to a brilliant roster of real-life characters ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Calamity Jane, Hedda Hopper and Georgia O’Keeffe. The esteemed actress says she wasn’t intimidated by the idea that Her Majesty might see her work in the film.
“No, not really, because she is a public figure, so I’m sure she is used to these kinds of things. God knows Helen Mirren did a brilliant job in ‘The Queen’ — that started it off. Who knows if she and Phillip would ever look at movies about the royal family. Maybe they would out of curiosity, but my hunch is, maybe not. They know the real Kate. They know the real William,” she points out.
For Alexander, “A Royal Romance” marked a reunion with filmmaker Linda Yellen, with whom she made the Peabody Award-winning 1980 concentration camp drama “Playing for Time.” (Alexander’s Supporting Actress Emmy was one of a collection earned by the production, including Outstanding Made for Television Movie.) She was delighted when Yellen contacted her about the Hallmark Channel film, which tells the William and Kate love story in a unique and fanciful sort of way; the late Princess Diana is a key character. As for the Queen, she is seen as a properly grandmotherly figure who has a strong competitive streak and likes an occasional game of Wii tennis. Such lively details came right out of Yellen’s research, notes Alexander.
“I know so well what the Queen’s face looks like. I’ve been a fan of hers for so many years. There is a slight resemblance. I don’t look the same, but what can one do? We had a very good makeup artist, and the hair comes close.”
She adds impishly, “Playing the Queen, I found myself very comfortable when people genuflected. I liked it. I said, ‘Oh yeah, this is good.'”
Production headquartered in Bucharest, Romania, where filming was done in Cotroceni Palace, home of President Traian Basescu. During the shoot, Prince Charles — the real one — came to call. “The irony,” says Alexander. “He was right across the courtyard from us and didn’t even come over to say ‘Hello’ to his good old Mum.” She laughs.
Victor Garber portrays the prince in the movie, with Jean Smart as Camilla, and Dan Amboyer and newcomer Alice St. Clair as William and Kate. (Preview clip.)
These days, the former head of the National Endowment for the Arts splits her time between New York and a home in Nova Scotia. She’s a conservationist, among her many causes, and does surveying work, keeping track of bird species for Canadian Fish and Wildlife. She also works with the Panthera organization devoted to saving the world’s big cats.
We have to believe Her Majesty would be most pleased with the casting choice.