Georgia Flood and Lifetime’s ‘American Princess’ Are the Fairest of the Faire
At the onset of Lifetime’s brilliant dramedy American Princess, the wedding-day dreams of socialite Amanda Klein (Georgia Flood) implode in an instant after an ill-timed video call reveals her betrothed in a compromising position. Humiliated and clothed in only her bridal undergarments, Amanda flees the debacle astride a cycle rickshaw and stumbles upon a Renaissance festival, where she finds herself among a community of welcoming — albeit scruffy — oddballs and decides to run away from her problems and join the faire.
The uproarious series from creator Jamie Denbo and executive producers Jenji Kohan, Mark A. Burley and Tara Herrmann (the geniuses behind GLOW, Orange Is the New Black and Weeds) offers outrageous escapism from the expectations of modern life. “It’s a pretty random place to end up, but I think it represents any place that someone would want to escape to,” says Flood. The Aussie actress admits that the festivals aren’t a “thing” Down Under, but she understands what her character is drawn to: love, acceptance and support from those who live and work at the faire.
The “Rennies” form an unlikely faire-mily of craftspeople, washer wenches (Mary Hollis Inboden), mud beggars (Lucas Neff) and Queen Elizabeth I (Seana Kofoed) with her Tudor entourage. William Shakespeare (Rory O’Malley) is also there, and while his permanent residence at court isn’t historically accurate, the delightfully snarky character is a clever foil for Amanda, our former English major heroine.
The series’ troupe of actors is magnificent — from character actors shining in wonderfully bizarre faire-folks to day-players embodying withered crones with great aplomb — and Lesley Ann Warren as Amanda’s overbearing and hyper-critical mom is absolute perfection. “She’s so fabulous,” gushes Flood, who reveals that she and Warren bonded on-set over their mutual love of Chinese medicine. “She’s not like, ‘Oh, I’m Lesley Ann Warren. I’m amazing because I’m this big star.’ She’s just so humble and sensitive and she stays vulnerable in her acting, so I think that allows her to be free in all of her choices. It’s so inspiring to watch her work. She would just bring spontaneous little things all the time, and gestures, and little ad-libs. It was just incredible.”
Flood reveals that while American Princess is written by some of TV’s wittiest scribes, the cast was also afforded a generous latitude to improvise. “It was like a haiku — you know those Japanese stanza poems? — There’s rules, but within the rules you can do whatever you want,” Flood explains. “Incredible directors like Mark Burley would say to us, ‘Okay, now we’ve got a fun run,’ which means they’ve got what they needed for the scene and now they just want us to let it fly, and be free, and do what we wanted to do. That’s when those little gems of spontaneity happen and that’s why I love this type of acting — it’s collaborative. Then, you can bring in ad libs, or do those things that Leslie would do, or we would do on our fun runs — which were my favorite.”
Life as part of a Renaissance faire isn’t only jousts and turkey legs. After hours, the employees wash off their Elizabethan persona — literally and figuratively — and enjoy lives that are partially occupied by the banality of vagabond life (tent-living and communal showers) and part Woodstockian nirvana. Amanda isn’t the only one of the faire’s employees who has found emotional paradise immersed in the Renaissance; Prunella, an aforementioned washer wench (whose “real” name is Delilah, and who is perfectly played by Mary Hollis Inboden), reveals, “I came for the day five years ago and never left.”
After Amanda finds her bearings, she reinvents herself as a bar wench she dubs “Ophelia Feelsgood.” Flood describes donning her character’s Renaissance Faire costume as “the cherry on top of an acting cake,” and reveals, “There’s nothing like doing all your homework as an actor and then being like, ‘Oh I don’t know if I’m gonna be good enough,’ and then stepping into that costume and into your shoes and lacing up into a corset and being like, “Holy [email protected]#$. I feel like I’m transcending my own self and I’ve become a Rennie!” Like Flood, her character — once bodice-clad, Brummie-accented and beer-slinging — finds respite from her stressful life in a world filled with anachronistic shenanigans.
With encouragement and a few helpful pushes from her new friends, Amanda starts to see what life could be if she’s true to herself. “Even though it was a tragedy what happened to her on her wedding day, it is almost a bit of an opportunity for her to escape and find a real family — or a different family,” says Flood. “Where you come from isn’t necessarily where you belong.” And for those searching for a place on TV where they belong, run away with American Princess and discover the merriment of who you really are. Even if you are meant to be the court jester.
American Princess, Series Premiere, Sunday, June 2, 9/8c, Lifetime