Nicholas Galitzine on sex scenes, ‘Mary & George’ and the next stage of his career

After breakout roles in Red, White & Royal Blue and Bottoms, Britain’s rising star Nicholas Galitzine turns his eye on the next stage of his career.

Nicholas Galitzine has spent the past few years playing different versions of the perfect boyfriend. Occasionally the high school quarterback or a US Marine. For one of his latest roles, he’s a boy-band heartthrob. In a movie landscape where male actors are being implored to star in romcoms and help revitalise a flagging genre, Galitzine has got you covered: his biggest roles have all been romantic leads straight out of a storybook (or Wattpad).

This, he tells me, is intentional. “My response to that is complex,” he says. “Some of my roles might seem quite archetypical on the surface but I try to add something unusual. Jeff [in Bottoms] is the high school quarterback but he’s also a human pile of trash. Henry from Red, White & Royal Blue is royal, yes, but he’s also paralysed by his own fear of not being loved. It’s really all about finding a character regardless of archetype that you feel you can bring to life.”

Nicholas wears jumper, jacket, trousers and trainers from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection.

The unfailingly polite Galitzine, London born and bred, has been acting for a decade now, cutting his teeth on coming-of-age indie dramas like Handsome Devil and High Strung. His star started to rise in the 2020s, with him becoming a go-to leading man for the streaming age, playing Camila Cabello’s prince in the musical Cinderella rehash and a conservative Marine to Sofia Carson’s liberal singer-songwriter in Purple Hearts. But it’s clear that Galitzine has his eye on more, uh, cerebral roles. He has been able to play teens and twentysomethings for a decade now, but Galitzine – though you wouldn’t guess it – turns 30 in September. “I feel like all of these incredible leading men roles start to trickle through in your thirties,” he says. “And I’m not quite ‘coming of age’ any more.”

Nicholas wears shirt from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection.

And because of this, Galitzine admits that he’s at a “funny time” in his career. He was one of many actors whose career breakthrough came during last year’s SAF- AFTRA strike. Both of his projects during that time – the fujoshi-pleasing gay romance Red, White & Royal Blue and the instant cult favourite Bottoms – did gangbusters and Galitzine’s profile and online following skyrocketed. How did he feel about having to stay silent during such an important career tipping point? “Obviously, my absence from the industry, as well as everyone else who was on strike, felt like a just cause, so that took some of the pain out of it,” he says, a touch diplomatically. “But it is difficult because you spend months on a project and building a character, and I felt they were great moments for me in different ways.”

Galitzine is keeping the momentum of those moments going. He’s aiming to step into genres and spaces he hasn’t yet explored, and away from the Amazon Prime and Netflix originals that made him. After his unexpectedly camp comedic turn in Bottoms, he would like to do more comedy. He has spent years training in Muay Thai to prepare for action roles, should they arise, and he would love to do something in the realm of sci-fi because it’s what he was raised on. The western is another genre that has been on his mind for a while. Why? “Well,” he says with a pause, “another concurrent theme throughout my work seems to be riding a lot of horses around the place and I have such a good time doing that.”

Nicholas wears shirt from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection and Baguette Soft Trunk Bag by FENDI.

But the ultimate goal for Galitzine is to do something similar to Paul Mescal’s role in Aftersun. “It’s about the genre work but it’s also the stripped-back character pieces that are really interesting as well,” he says. “You see how gratifying the experience was for Paul Mescal and I think I’m looking for my equivalent.” His new series Mary & George – mature, sexy and with a scene partner in the form of Julianne Moore – feels like a step in that direction. “I’m someone who likes to feel a sense of balance in terms of playing both sides of the fence,” he says. “George Villiers lives in both camps and he feels like the culmination of the past few years all embodied by this one character.”

Villiers is probably Galitzine’s most complex character to date, but his predecessors have almost all been complicated men suffocated by their circumstances. In the hands of another actor they could be played straight (and in several cases, his characters are anything but straight), yet Galitzine is capable of homing in on and articulating his characters’ inner strife. In Red, White & Royal Blue, he’s the British prince whose sexuality chafes with his royal upbringing; in The Craft: Legacy, he’s the school bully who’s bi and closeted; in the forthcoming Prime drama The Idea of You, he’s a pop star struggling with fame. “I find characters who are trapped by circumstance to be very interesting. I’m fundamentally curious about nature versus nurture and what, within this pressure cooker, creates and influences a person,” he says. “All of [my films] have these incredibly dramatic stakes and I like the fact that all of these people are forced to confront their vulnerabilities and fears in those circumstances.”

Nicholas wears jacket, body, shorts and trainers from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection and Peekaboo ISeeU Mini bag by FENDI.

Galitzine’s on-screen romances, no matter how schmaltzy, are seldom straightforward. Whether it’s as a British prince or the US president’s son, a Republican and a Democrat, or a pop star and a normie, Galitzine thrives on illicit culture-clash affairs. “Mary & George is like the zenith of that [dynamic],” he says. “Everything George does is taboo in a way and his sex is his power.” And boy, is his sex his power. Mary & George feels like a pointedly horny rejoinder to the depressingly trendy notion that sex in TV and film is somehow extraneous. The series averages about four graphic bedroom scenes an episode, more than enough to kill the openly sex-scene-averse Henry Cavill.

Nicholas wears shirt, trousers and trainers from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection and Baguette Soft Trunk bag by FENDI.

“I feel like a lot of my work within that space always seems to serve a higher purpose,” Galitzine says. “[Sex is] integral to the plot of Mary & George. This is how this young man dominated people in his life and got what he wanted. I think there’s a cool, sexy way of portraying it on screen and I’ve been really lucky that all my stuff in that regard has been shot incredibly.” He says all this with the distinct confidence of someone whose prolific body of sex scenes has been justified, hot and – you could now argue – countercultural. “I don’t know what it is about them,” he says. “Maybe Henry Cavill will change his mind after he’s watched Mary & George.”

Nicholas wears shirt from the FENDI Spring/Summer 2024 collection and Peekaboo ISeeU XCross bags and sunglasses by FENDI.

In May, Galitzine stars opposite Anne Hathaway in Michael Showalter’s The Idea of You, a featherweight charmer of a romantic drama. He’s a listless boy-band member, she’s the single mother of a fan; they fall in love when they meet at Coachella. Galitzine grew up while Backstreet Boys and N*Sync were crotch-thrusting their way to global stardom, so he didn’t need to do much research. “There was this show in the UK… What was it called? It was made to find a girl band and a boy band, and Girls Aloud came out of it… ” Popstars: The Rivals? “God, wow. That’s unlocked a core memory of watching it with my family and my sister.” For The Idea of You he looked to K-pop bands like BTS to try to understand what makes a boy-band member in the 2020s tick. “I feel like their vulnerability seems to be more guarded than we’ve seen from Western boy bands like One Direction,” Galitzine says. “It was just really important to understand who this young man was and how he had to grow and become a man while on the road.”

After Purple Hearts and Red, White & Royal Blue, it’s Galitzine’s third role in a major streaming adaptation of a #BookTok darling. Is there pressure in portraying a character with a pre-established fanbase? “There’s a line you have to toe between carving your own outline of the character while paying homage to the genesis of Henry and Luke and Hayes,” he says. “The benefit you have is people who are already really, really passionate and ready to support your work. It definitely can be daunting but, if I’m honest, I’ve only felt encouragement and love.”

icholas wears jacket, apron and trousers from the FENDI Spring/ Summer 2024 collection and Baguette Soft Trunk bag by FENDI.

As part of his prep for The Idea of You, Galitzine was put through boy-band boot camp and given singing and dancing lessons. “It was tricky because my other bandmates in the movie – Jaiden [Anthony], Vik [White], Raymond [Cham Jr] and Dakota [Adan] – were all professional dancers and have been all of their life. My remit was just not to stick out like a sore thumb because I am not a dancer by trade.” Turns out the boot camp actually did too good a job. “I still sing and do some of the choreography alone in my apartment,” he admits. “It’s very catchy.”

One of the most surreal moments in The Idea of You comes when Galitzine’s Hayes briefly appears on The Graham Norton Show. “When I started out as an actor, my parents would joke that, ‘You haven’t made it until you make it onto Graham Norton,’” he tells me. Aside from doing his parents proud, Galitzine’s scenes on Norton’s show – taped months after wrapping on a night off from filming Mary & George – would end up merging his two most recent worlds.

By coincidence, Moore was booked for The Graham Norton Show on the same night, so she and Galitzine left work together and reunited that evening for their real and fake chat show appearances. To cap it off, Hathaway, who was in London and has since become a friend, swung by to support him. Hathaway and Moore are two of our finest actors working today and that Galitzine is going toe to toe with them bodes very well.“There was this moment,” he recalls, a little bemused, “where I was just observing Julianne and Annie talking with each other, and I thought, ‘My life is so bizarre, I don’t really know how I got in this position. But more of the same, please.’”

  • WriterPatrick Sproull
  • Photographer Jordan Rossi
  • Fashion DirectorMarco Antonio
  • GroomerDiana Schmidtke at Forward Artists
  • Photography Assistant Maya Sacks
  • RetoucherAlice Constance
  • ProducerMarina Negrao