The Version Interview.... Hugh Skinner on Channel 4's The Windsors
The Windsors is a brand new comedy soap opera from the writers of Star Stories that imagines the royal family as you’ve never seen them before. The satirical six part comedy series is a wry take on what the soap opera of their lives (and loves) might just be like. Comedic royalty Harry Enfield stars as HRH Prince Charles with Haydn Gwynne (Drop the Dead Donkey) as Camilla, The Duchess of Cornwall; Hugh Skinner (W1A) is the heroic Prince ‘Wills’, Duke of Cambridge with Louise Ford (Crashing) as Kate, his Queen consort-in-waiting; Morgana Robinson (The Morgana Show) stars as Kate’s sister, Pippa and Richard Goulding (Fresh Meat) takes his place fifth in line to the throne as Prince Harry – in The Windsors, a royally funny parody that takes a weekly peek behind the curtains of Britain's most famous family.
Hugh Skinner tells us more about playing Prince William...
You play Prince William in The Windsors. Presumably this is a very serious and respectful depiction of our future king?
Yes, very much so! No, this is a real soapy look at the Royal Family, a ridiculous imagining of the situation, with very little basis in reality. And I play William as a sort of child’s view of what a prince should be – heroic and charming. He’s the hero if the story, incredibly good and noble, so I’ve sort of played it as a bad imitation of a good leading actor, doing ‘very important’ acting.
Everyone loves Prince William – is it unnerving, taking the mickey out of such a popular character?
Before I started, I did think that might be an issue, but the person they’ve written in the script is so good and heroic. I don’t think he could take offence at his portrayal.
What can you tell us about what happens to him during the series?
He’s wrestling with the fact that he’s going to be king one day, and that the rest of his life is mapped out for him. He works for the London Air Ambulance, which keeps him sane and grounded. He’s trying to work out how he fits into the Royal Family, so he does things like trying to modernise the Royal Variety Show, and gets really hands on with that.
You don’t particularly have to look or sound like him, but did you study him for any insights?
I did watch quite a few interviews with him. It’s hard, obviously, because in all the interviews, they’re public appearances. A lot of the joke of The Windsors is this ridiculous idea of what might happen behind closed doors. But accent-wise, I worked on being as posh as I possibly could, and I guess listened to him a bit, but I went somewhere a lot more ridiculous. I used him as a starting point, but then went somewhere else, really. I thought a lot about shows like Dynasty, with a bit of Made in Chelsea thrown in.
What do you think of Prince William?
I don’t really know. I can’t imagine what his life is like. It must be a complete nightmare, having that much attention, and knowing, on some level, where your life’s going to go. I think that must be terrifying. The whole thing’s mind-boggling.
Bert and George did Star Stories, which in some respects is quite similar in tone to this. Did you ever see it?
Yeah, I saw the Simon Cowell one. It’s fantastic. You can definitely recognise their style. In many ways this has been made quite differently from that, in terms of the look of it, but the sense of humour is very much the same.
Which is to say absurd and hilarious! Did you find it difficult to keep a straight face while filming?
Yeah. There was a scene where ‘Kate Middleton’ gets Ebola, and William tries to make her feel better by singing Heads, Shoulders Knees and Toes. But she’s in an incubation thing, so I had to have my arms boking through a screen in these plastic gloves. It was awful, I was crying with laughter. It was very unprofessional.
How did you get on with the rest of the cast?
They were fantastic. They’re completely brilliant. I’d been fans of lots of them for a long time. Louise Ford, who plays Kate, was amazing. We had a brilliant time.
Prince Charles is played by Harry Enfield. Did you have a lot of scenes with him?
Yeah, and that was really hard not to laugh, because he’s so ridiculous. He is fantastic. When I was younger I had a lot of Harry Enfield and Chums stuff – audiobooks and books and videos – so it was amazing to work with him.
This isn’t the first time you’ve played a posh boy called Will. How much did your role in W1A mean to you?
I loved it. I’d been a big fan of Twenty Twelve, and I was so excited when I got the part in W1A. Again, such a brilliant cast. I was just really pleased to be a part of it.
Is that what you’re most recognised for?
If someone did recognise me, I think that would probably be why, yeah.
You’ve been cast in the new series of Poldark. Will you be comparing your six pack with Aidan Turner?
Yeah. He was so nervous when I got cast. He tried to veto it, because he’d heard tell of my abs. I called him and I said “Look, don’t worry. Hit the gym, I’m sure you’ll be alright. You seem like a dedicated chap, you’ll pull through.” I did look really good, though, so I don’t know how he felt…
The Windsors is coming soon to Channel 4