What if the son of the American president fell in love with the grandson of the British monarch? That’s the hard-to-resist premise of Casey McQuiston’s romance novel Red, White & Royal Blue. The book—primarily set in DC and London—has become a blockbuster since it came out in 2019, and in August a film version premieres on Prime Video, starring Taylor Zakhar Perez and Nicholas Galitzine.
The book has found an especially eager audience in Washington. “You’re able to see a love story blossoming in a city that you love,” says Marta Hernandez, a former Hill staffer who co-runs the @capitolhillbookclub Instagram. “It gives us that full DC political experience: going to Dirksen, the White House, places near Georgetown. There are fun little Easter eggs to find throughout it.” The film version will definitely emphasize the romance part. “I love taking the juiciest parts of The Crown and the juiciest parts of The West Wing and then putting two queer boys at the center of it,” says director and cowriter Matthew López.
Like many movies set here, Red, White & Royal Blue was filmed elsewhere—England, in this case. (Yes, those shots of the Potomac are actually the Thames.) But while there are some visual moments that will be painful for locals, López says he made an effort to keep the depiction of political Washington somewhat authentic: “This is a fairy tale, but for it to work, it has to be grounded in something resembling a recognizable reality. Especially when it comes to the world of DC and the White House.” To that end, the director tapped journalists and Obama-era staffers to help shape the local scenes. The movie’s political speeches were guided by a former political speechwriter.
Much of the Washington action takes place in the Oval Office, which in the film is occupied by a Texas-bred President played by Uma Thurman. That character was partly inspired by former Texas state senator Wendy Davis, while The West Wing’s C.J. Cregg and Veep were on the creators’ minds for other White House characters.
Though many of the DC references were influenced by conversations with insiders, López himself thought of one zinger that will resonate with Washingtonians. He was trying to imagine what an irritated President’s son might say about a journalist, and he came up with a line about how Politico is a “little wannabe Washington Post website.”
“That was from my nasty little brain,” says the director. “Apologies to Politico—it was low-hanging fruit. I hope Politico doesn’t have a film critic.”
This article appears in the August 2023 issue of Washingtonian.