Jonathan Keltz Talks Once Upon A Prince, Cardinal, and Reign [Exclusive]
[Warning: General spoilers ahead.]
Hallmark Channel combines its mistaken identity and royal romance formula Saturday night with the premiere of Once Upon a Prince. Reign‘s Jonathan Keltz plays that titular prince, starring opposite Megan Park in his first film for the network. I spoke with Keltz about the movie, his run on Reign, and his role in the second season of Hulu’s Cardinal.
Once Upon a Prince was offered to Keltz over the holidays, and he immediately warmed to the script, and the added benefit of working opposite old friend Park. “It was wonderfully during the holidays and they asked if I’d be interested. I saw how sweet and cute and fun it was. On Reign, I played the kitchen boy and Queenâ€™s Guard and it was time to step up,” he laughs.
“I was so fortunate that they ended up casting Megan Park. We have known each other for 14 or 15 years and weâ€™d lost touch and it was a great opportunity to reconnect and work together finally after all this time. [These movies] move at a quick pace and you need to have a partner in crime.”
“I knew how great and warm and professional she was and it was a joy to finally work together. Everybody was awesome. It was a really great group. We shot in Victoria, BC at Hatley Castle and Government House and got to see the royal family’s quarters. A lot of people did high tea, but I didn’t. I did a lot of the farm-to-table restaurants. We didn’t get lucky with the weather. I need to go back when it’s warmer and do some proper hikes.”
“The movie takes place in St. Simon Georgia. It follows Susanna Pruitt, who works with her family’s garden supply company and dreams of being a landscape architect. One day, she gets her heart broken, and she gets a flat tire and Prince Nathaniel, who she doesn’t know is a prince, happens upon her on the road and they work together and get her back on the road.”
“That’s their meet cute. That starts them both on the journey of finding out who he really is and it’s the beginning of their love story and they find each other and prove that true love can conquer all and cross the stations of class, culture, and government.”
Keltz says is was helpful to shoot in Victoria’s storied locations and tap into that royal energy. “There’s a ballroom scene, some fun biking around stuff. We got to go all over place,” he shares. “We got to go to several different locations. Hatley and Government House were my favorites. It was so beautiful. It certainly helps when youâ€™re trying to feel royal trying to be in such extravagant locations.”
Keltz’s role on the Season 2 of Hulu’s Canadian import, Cardinal, was decidedly less glamorous but just as much fun. In the series, he plays Kevin, a recovering drug addict who makes some bad choices and finds himself aligned with even worse people. “It was just such a remarkable experience. I’d worked with Sienna Films before and Jeff Renfroe [directed on Reign.] We talked about it. I had a little bit of an idea [of the show],” he explains.
“I didn’t get to properly go through the scripts until I was signed on. It’s such a world that they’ve created. It’s a dark place, but I had a lot of fun doing it. We had our merry band of Ray’s goons. We were off in our little world…holed up in this little camp.”
“Jeff had such a brilliant vision for the season…the way he was able to respect the first season and bring his own vision to the second season. It was a dream project. Thankfully I had about six weeks of prep. I had some good time to watch the [first] season.”
“I ended up losing about 20 pounds for the role and was doing a deep dive into all things Kevin. I was so grateful to have that time. I felt so fortunate that Jeff was our fearless leader. I was ecstatic when I got to see the whole season. There’s probably a seventh episode worth of stuff that didn’t make it because of time. I hope thereâ€™s a director cut.”
“It felt like a cross section of Luther and Broadchurch and a little bit of True Detective thrown in. It feels very BBC [with the] the boiled-down pace. It feels very grounded and real. The location was perfect. It was between renovations at the edge of the river.”
“The car crash stuff was fun and cool from a nerd point of view. I loved working with Alex [Paxton-Beesley] and am hoping we can work together again. I loved the relationship stuff we were able to build between all the guys. Finding the different nuances was a lot of fun.”
Reign fans know Keltz for his role as Leith, which spanned the entire run of the series. He says the role grew from the initial few appearances to recurring once the creative team settled on his character’s arc. “It spiraled. I met on the show when it was first a pilot a few times and didn’t end up being right for it,” he explains. “When they got picked up, they asked me to play Leith.”
“It seemed like it would be a few episodes, but when it’s a new show, nobody knows. They’re flying by the seat of their pants. As the first season was coming to an end, they locked me in for the next couple of years and we were able to explore where things went.”
“I think they had a very clear idea of what they wanted to cover [in Mary’s history] and it was adjusted for (episode count). When you get down to that 10-16 [episode] range, you can boil down and deal with the nitty gritty. I thought it was exciting when we kept scaling back.”
“Everything, everything, everything starts with the writing. When you have the pressure of 22, it affects what they’re able to do. When youâ€™re able to focus on the more important narrative, you can take your time more because thereâ€™s less you have to maintain momentum on. It offers you a chance to intensely, quickly go deeper.”
“I would have loved to see Leith and Claude reunite at the end. Greer found her place in the world. And the fan fiction can take it from here on what brought Claude and Leith back together. We’ll have to imagine. I think no matter what, I am happy with the decisions Leith made. He finally had to protect himself from this very corrupting world.”
Keltz is also busy as a film producer, and he’s putting the finishing touches on a romance called Acquainted, which has been a family affair with several Reign friends. “Giacomo Gianniotti and I met on Reign. We ended up making this film together. He’s on Grey’s Anatomy now. It’s written and directed by Natty Zavitz. This is his second film. We’ve been in development on it for about three years,” he shares.
“Adelaide Kane in is it and executive produced. Rachel Skarsten is in it as well. The lead female is an unbelievable actress, Laysla De Oliveira, who also, conveniently, happens to be my girlfriend. It was all of us banding together to make this beautiful film.”
“It’s a romantic drama about two people who reconnect after having gone to high school together 10 years before. They have a beautiful night dancing and out and about and then they confess that they’re both in committed relationships.”
“It’s about their meeting and reconnecting and the spark there and how it affects the decisions they make of the rest of their lives. It’s raw, honest, and beautiful and I think it’s in the vein of the Richard Linklater‘s Before series. We’re [finishing it up] and then we’ll take it on the festival circuit. I’m really excited to share it with the rest of the world.”
Once Upon a Prince airs Saturday at 9 pm/8c on Hallmark Channel. Keltz does plan to live Tweet with Park during the film. Cardinal Season 2 is out now on Hulu. You can catch the entire series of Reign on Amazon, or on DVD.
Here are a couple of sneak peeks of Once Upon a Prince.
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