Nicholas Galitzine and Leo Woodall on Auditioning for the Same Roles, Intimidating Co-Stars and Family Members Watching Their Sex Scenes

Leo Woodall and Nicholas Galitzine
Photographs By Mary Ellen Matthews

Every casting director auditioning Brits in their 20s has Nicholas Galitzine and Leo Woodall on their wish list these days, as evidenced by the fact that both have auditioned for roles that ended up going to the other. This conversation — about Galitzine’s “Mary & George,” the Starz series about George Villiers’ affair with King James I, and Netflix’s “One Day,” starring Woodall as Dexter, who falls in love with his best friend over two decades — marks their first time meeting in person. The heartthrobs’ rapport is immediate, thanks to Instagram DMs they’ve already shared about how, as Galitzine puts it, “a lot of acting prep is very pretentious and twat-y.”

NICHOLAS GALITZINE: We just found out that we support rival football teams.

LEO WOODALL: We already kind of hate each other.

GALITZINE: The fact that you support Chelsea tells me a lot about who you are as a person. It tells me that you’re plastic; there’s no substance behind you at all. You’re just in it for the glory. Can the same be said about your approach to acting?

WOODALL: Incredibly plastic. I fake everything when the camera’s rolling.

GALITZINE: I watched the show, “One Day,” and you’re just incredibly human in it. There’s so much content nowadays — the Netflix of it all, the Amazons — but it felt so very real.

WOODALL: I was fumbling my way through it. Do you ever feel that way?

GALITZINE: Oh yeah, man, all the time. It was kind of different on “Mary & George” because —

WOODALL: Which, by the way, congratulations. It was so refreshing. And I felt for you, because we’re basically the same age, London boys, and I was like, “He’s going toe-to-toe with Julianne Moore.”

GALITZINE: You’ve had this in your career as well, notably “White Lotus.” We work in this industry that oftentimes pits people against each other; you and me probably end up going for all the same parts.

WOODALL: I auditioned for “Mary & George.”

GALITZINE: Did you really?

WOODALL: Yeah, you bastard!

GALITZINE: I auditioned for “White Lotus.” So you’ve got me there.

WOODALL: Did you actually? No way!

GALITZINE: But it’s so nice to engage in the human of it all. Julie — I can call her that now, by the way —

WOODALL: I was going to say.

GALITZINE: She actually goes by “Juju” sometimes. I felt like that was a bit too familiar. But you do think, “Julianne Moore, icon,” and then you meet her in person and she’s so grounded.

WOODALL: Was it intimidating though? You can be honest. It’s just me and you here, Nick.

Mary Ellen Matthews for Variety

GALITZINE: Maybe at first. But immediately, we’re scheming. A lot of combativeness. Earlier in [George’s] life, he’s just desperate for love and affection. Then, the more he feels like a pawn in her game, he gathers his own autonomy. A commonality between both of our shows is having to track something over the course of years.

WOODALL: The thing about Dex — the immediate challenge that I knew I had to overcome — was he had to be redeemable. On the page, it’s very easy to think he’s a bit of a twat, because he kind of is. He does act like a knob half the time. But some really bad things happen to him, and he’s got a lot of love in his heart. He’s on his knees a lot. For someone who’s so privileged, he really gets a crap deal. Like George — you meet him and he’s literally hanging from a tree.

GALITZINE: They both do feel sorry for themselves, but it’s not without cause. For George, his mom really wants to send him off to France — at the time, that’s like getting sent to the moon. He’s terrified. And, yes, there is some melodrama with his quite staged suicide attempts.

WOODALL: Yeah, how true are they?

GALITZINE: I think it’s both. He feels very hopeless. Where we leave George, it’s very tragic, because he’s been used by almost everyone in his life. He’s a commodity. People don’t really look beyond his looks and his powers of seduction, so there’s a desperate want to be loved.

WOODALL: Then he finds love with James. I was fascinated watching it, because you play it so subtly that I couldn’t work out where the genuineness in it was.

GALITZINE: I think it started out as transactional. Then there was a genuine love that brews. And George, his whims get the better of him; his appetite is voracious, and that blows apart the steady home life with the king.

For something like this, which is such an epic, what’s your lead-up?

WOODALL: A lot of the prep happened because I was doing so many auditions. I remember Rachel Sheridan, the casting director, would read with me, and I was breaking down in this audition room. I said a line and I looked up, because she didn’t say her line, and Rachel, she was crying as well. So I reached out and I just touched her foot, and we carried on. After that, I was like, “I know how to play Dex now.” Your process, is it different? I feel like it changes job to job.

Mary Ellen Matthews for Variety

GALITZINE: I did this film called “Bottoms.” I’ve never done an out-and-out comedy like that. With [my character], Jeff, he’s so ridiculous that there was no way to prep other than watching “Not Another Teen Movie.”

WOODALL: I’ve never done an out-and-out comedy like that. What’s it like?

GALITZINE: Emma Seligman, who directed it, she’d be like, “You’re an infant, and you’re throwing your toys out the pram.” The next day, “You’re a sociopath, and you’re gaslighting this person.” I’m like, “I have no idea who this character is.” Then with George, it’s the opposite, because you have a historical text that you can go to. It was tricky, because I had two weeks, maybe, between wrapping “The Idea of You” to go on to “Mary & George.”

WOODALL: “The Idea of You,” where you play Harry Styles.

GALITZINE: Deny, deny, deny, deny! But you’ve done things back to back.

WOODALL: Knackered, mate.

GALITZINE: You’re exhausted. I imagine Dexter took some time to shake off.

WOODALL: Shaking off Dexter wasn’t that difficult, because we would do these days where I’d just suffer. And things like that, you want to shake them off immediately. By the time we wrapped, I’d been letting it go along the way.

GALITZINE: I find that the more I try and sit in a dark energy, the more it drains me. So when it actually comes time to do the scene, I don’t have as much of it. I did a movie a few years ago — which wasn’t fantastic, but I actually feel like I learned a lot — where my character had to really break down crying. It was pretty forced, and the director came up to me and she was like, “This next take, just do nothing.” And that was when it poured out of me.

WOODALL: So, Nick, how does it feel to be an internet boyfriend?

GALITZINE: Am I an internet boyfriend?

WOODALL: I’d say you’re quite solidly an internet boyfriend.

GALITZINE: Do you type that into Google, just to see who’s on the list? I mean, you’re an internet boyfriend.

WOODALL: No. I’ve been typing it, waiting for me to come up.

GALITZINE: You’ve been trying to make the algorithm realize that you are an internet boyfriend.

WOODALL: It’s a silly question, but “Red, White & Royal Blue,” that was a big launching pad for you.

GALITZINE: The fans are such fans of the book as well, so I already knew what that was going to be, and just hoped that it matched their expectations. I could ask you the same thing with “One Day” and the Netflix effect of really launching you. Because of “White Lotus,” you were definitely revered. But it’s a whole ’nother level.

WOODALL: I got a gentle push into the industry, but I’ve been bowled over by how many people watched “One Day.”

GALITZINE: Your whole family are actors.

WOODALL: My dad, my stepdad, my grandma. It goes way, way back to a woman called Maxine Elliott. Are you the only actor in your family?

GALITZINE: Yeah. They’re definitely weirded out. They came to the premiere of “Mary & George,” and it was pretty uncomfortable. My dad, in this hypermasculine way, was like, “I’m going to watch this. Men watch their sons do sex scenes.” It was like, “Dad, you really don’t have to. I get that you’re proud.” I did four sex scenes in one day one time, with people who, that was their only scene. So I would welcome them on set like, “OK, we’re in position.”

WOODALL: I had the one scene in “White Lotus.” I watched it with my brother. I didn’t tell anyone that it was going to happen. I recorded him. He was like, “Uhhh!”

GALITZINE: I love that. Well, I guess we’ve got to transition out of mate mode.

WOODALL: Let’s go to the pub.

GALITZINE: It’s L.A. They don’t have pubs.

WOODALL: Get a pub, guys.

Production Design: Keith Raywood