In the acting world, Corey Mylchreest is considered to be in the throes of infancy. He is a relative unknown as far as actors go, but his portrayal as King George III on Queen Charlotte has got him newfound fans and acclaim.
The spin-off from Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte follows the titular queen in two phases of her life. The elder Queen Charlotte is still played by Golda Rosheuvel from the original series, with the younger queen portrayed by India Amarteifio. Cast opposite her is Mylchreest, as the young King George III. The series focuses on their marriage and the effects of King George III's ailment.
Still reeling off from junkets and interviews, Mylchreest has to contend with one more: ours. Thus, a day before his photo shoot with Esquire Singapore, we meet over a Zoom video call for his turn on the hot seat. Mylchreest's hair has grown out, which softens the angles of his mien. He's relaxed, his posture slants, favouring his right, as he sits in what appears to be the nondescript room beneath the attic.
I congratulate Mylchreest on the success of Queen Charlotte and his performance in it and ask, not certain if the question puts him in a spot, because Queen Charlotte is a Bridgerton spin-off, how he feels about the hype around the sex in the series overshadowing the drama, the complex human nature and acting?
"In the eyes of the beholder, that's where the story lies," Mylchreest says. "But that is the point of all storytelling—it is for the audience, not for us. It doesn't really matter what I think; whatever the audience chose to focus on, that is success for the show."
While there were challenges in filming Queen Charlotte's intimate scenes, Mylchreest sees more difficulty in accurately portraying George's mental affliction without bordering on caricature.
"That was something that I was really worried about. We wouldn't be diagnosing King George and that brought a heightened importance to what I think is the antidote to caricature: specificity and detail."
For his role, Mylchreest dives deep into the sea of research. He spoke to a specialist about the script; on whether he was going in the right direction to highlight the moments where George transitioned from confusion to lucidity.
"There was a doctor's report," Mylchreest adds. "A sort of daily report that was sent to Charlotte. They were delivered later in his life but it was still useful to read. It was so factual, so black-and-white. It'd describe the days when George would talk non-stop for 12 hours and would start to foam at the mouth because he has been speaking for so long. Then, there was an entry that said, though his mind was still ravaged, George seemed physically at peace.
"It's very clinical, without emotions, these documents, but the pain of that moment seemed to scream out. By then I'd done a lot of research and it was then that my empathy peaked. I just wanted to hug him. He didn't have an easy life by any means."
Like Mylcreest's research into KingGeorge III, I've embarked on my own into Corey Mylcreest.
Search results on him reveal myriad interviews of him doing press for Queen Charlotte. There is only one social media platform that he's on—Instagram—and on his feed, his first post is dated 7 April 2022. The casting of Queen Charlotte was announced the day before, 6 April 2022. For a Gen Z, you'd think that he would be more active on social media.
"I have a private account," Mylchreest says, "but the last time I was on it was maybe four months ago, and before that, I wasn't on it for about three or four years. I think I jumped off it in 2019 because I find Instagram, or social media in general, a hotbed for procrastination. I don't think it's necessarily the healthiest place for people's mental health."
But Mylchreest sees benefits in getting on social media. It's a fantastic vehicle for getting the word of Queen Charlotte and any other projects he's part of out there. "If I was going to be on it, I'd want to make it limited in some way. Not only to protect my own privacy and the people around me that I love, but also to protect my own work ethic."
Is that part of the reason for privacy? That if the public were to know more about your personal life it would affect how you'd portray other lives on screen.
"That's a really good question," Mylchreest says. He thinks about this for a while. "I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."
He highlights an example: people who have known him all his life, would watch a film that he is on, and then in the slivers of the act points out, That's Corey! I saw a glimpse of him. "For people who aren't initiated into my private life, I think those kinds of moments can pull you out of the story. To tell a story requires the audience to suspend disbelief. A forensic knowledge of the actor can break that."
But this is what he is willing to reveal about his life: he can't remember when it started but, as that old saw with any origin story of many actors, Mylchreest has always been interested in acting since young. "I remember doing plays at school and it was the most fun I'd have in that week. I gladly stayed on even when it was time to go home."
There's a quote from a composer that his mom used to tell Mylchreest: the thing that you should do in your life is the thing that makes the hours feel like seconds.
Time's steady beat quickens as Mylchreest enrolled into Guildhall [School of Music and Drama]. Each Saturday, he would spent five hours learning advanced lessons like Stanislavski's acting techniques; discovering that there was method behind what you see on stage. It soon dawned on Mylchreest that drama school was a possibility. That there will be no half-measures in pursuing an acting career. "I didn't even try to go to the university. I knew this was going to be something that I wanted to do and I did for four years of training at RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts)."
While incredibly supportive, his father professed concerns and suggested that he get a vocational degree as a backup. "That came from a place of love and concern," Mylchreest is quick to add. "I understand where he was coming from. Maybe if I were to have children, I'd do what my dad did."
His mother, on the other hand, championed his decision. She grew up in a working-class environment in Huddersfield, Yorkshire, and escaped on a full music scholarship. "She understood what it was like to have such love for the creative and the need and hunger to dive into it."
"I think that there's an inherent usefulness in the mystery of someone. Especially when you use your appearance like an instrument. Sometimes the less someone knows of you, the more powerful your character portrayal can be."Corey Mylchreest on keeping a private life
Mylchreest graduated from RADA in spring 2020: not the best time for launching an entertainment career when the world was ground to a halt. All things considered, the young actor was lucky; he already had an agent before the lockdown. The Sandman would pass his way. Mylchreest never read the comic series the show is based on but he met with casting director Lucinda Seisen and auditioned for the lead, Dream. After a few callbacks, Mylchreest was about to go in for a chemistry test when the decision came down the line that "he was too young". They had him read for other parts.
"And then, about four months later, I got an email offering me the role of Adonis," Mylcreest says. "I think it was a pity hire because they knew that I had auditioned many times and didn't get anything."
It was a role so small that if the character wasn't in it, it wouldn't have any ramifications on the story. But there are no small roles, Mylcreest reminds me. Only small actors. Mylcreest came up with a whole backstory for Adonis—why he was there that evening, why he needed to be admitted to see the Magus.
His appearance as Adonis lasted less than 30 seconds. He had two lines—"Oh, the Magus insists, does he?" and "Can we still come back tomorrow?"—which he captioned on his Instagram: "'Best two lines delivered on screen'—my mum".
Jokes aside, this foray into a multi-million dollar production would prove useful. In the past, Mylchreest acted on intimate sets of short films. For The Sandman, he is awed by the hugeness of it all. The scene was filmed at Joyce Grove, a Jacobethan-style mansion that Mylchreest pointed out was where Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, spent most of his childhood at.
"There was a rumour at the time that Harry Styles was going to buy the place, which everyone seemed excited by, but I just remember being completely racked with nerves." He was a speck in the grand scheme of things; surrounded by 60-70 extras, all dressed in 1920s ball gowns and three-piece suits. Restored cars from the era criss-cross in the background. Massive lights bathed the expanse of the set; cranes with attached expensive cameras swept and swivelled. A hubbub of different departments; cogs in the film machine, setting up for the shoot.
"But to be honest, by the time the camera started rolling, I was so nervous that all the backstory just flew out my head." Sheepishness creeps into the edges of his face. "I was just glad that I knew the lines. I was told to, at a certain point, turn and deliver my line but I could never quite see where the camera was and we had to do it a few times. I felt really bad for the director and everyone because we had to reset everything."
Regardless, this experience prepared him for his first day at Queen Charlotte. "I was incredibly nervous when I started filming Queen Charlotte but I'd have been even more so if I hadn't filmed The Sandman.
But his roles in The Sandman and Queen Charlotte are vastly different and the necessity for preparation and research into the latter warranted more attention.
On the set of Queen Charlotte, before shooting commenced each day, Mylchreest would run through scenes and ideas with India Amarteifio to make sure that they are on the same page. They would run the scene in the hotel they stayed at or over the phone or Zoom but what's important to Mylchreest is the preparation needed for a shoot.
"I say this with acknowledgement that I am just starting my career, so I know very little in comparison to others who have been acting far longer. On Queen Charlotte, I found it useful to know the scene inside and out. I would record the lines of the other person and run through a slew of questions for the scene."
This allows Mylchreest to figure out the "points of concentration". The process could determine his character's intention; where he might go to and come from; what the relationship with the other player is like. "What this [preparedness] allowed me was once to earn my own trust in the moments that matter. Once I got onto set I have this whole host of possibilities in front of me that I could then let go of because I've done them a million times. I don't have to worry about lines or where it sits in the story.
"There is only the way forward."
Mylchreest tasked himself to read Andre Roberts' bio on King George III and accessed 20,000 of the king's personal writings. There was another avenue of exploration into King George III that Mylchreest could venture into and that is the portrayal of the king by other actors before him.
The depictions of King George III are many and mostly unkind. He's been played by Jonathan Groff in the musical Hamilton; Nigel Hawthorne in The Madness of King George; Tom Hollander in the mini-series John Adams... the list, albeit short, goes on.
"I wasn't sure whether [watching another actor's portrayal] will be a good idea because sometimes you can start overthinking your own performance. I saw some clips of Lin Manuel's Hamilton and The Madness of King George and both of those depictions feel like they exist in completely different worlds to the George that we see in Queen Charlotte. If anything, it gave me confidence because I knew that I was going in a different direction with him. There would be almost no comparison."
Queen Charlotte delves more into the king's hobbies of gardening and science, with a focus on astronomy. He's known as Farmer George; the king has an assemblage of scientific equipment and wax lyrical about the constellated wilderness.
A crown too heavy for his head; his head full of stars, the mind of King George III belies more than just "madness".
Still, his mental health is a lightning rod which provides conflict to Queen Charlotte's narrative. There are swaths of text about King George III's manic episodes—he would often repeat himself; his vocabulary became more florid and complex; he shook hands with a tree because he believed it to be the King of Prussia—these and other instances baffled doctors of the time. Ranging from bipolar disorder to porphyria, there wasn't a conclusive diagnosis of the nature of the king's malady.
In Queen Charlotte, the character experiences bouts of lunacy and the show is careful not to define it. Near the end of episode three, taken by mania, George removes his clothing in the silence of his garden. A smattering of stars lights the night sky. Arms raised and eyes bright with awe, George calls out to Venus, "I knew you would come." We do not see what George saw that evening but his frenzy is evident.
In another interview, Mylcreest mentioned that before his scene, he'd listened to the theme song from Succession to get into the role of King George III. Given his familiarity with the HBO drama, how did he find the finale?
"I haven't watched it. I started watching [the series] about a year and a half, two years ago... which is already very late, I know. It was the final episode of season one where [Jeremy Strong's] character (Kendall Roy) had this look of resignation where he realised that he has to return to be under his father's wing. There was an immense sense of claustrophobia; this feeling of being trapped and then this track came on.
"I paused the scene, screenshotted it and taped that image on my character book." Mylcreest picked a notebook off-screen of the Zoom call and brings it into frame. He points to an affixed image of a crestfallen Kendell Roy. "I saw that and I thought that's George or, at least, that's an element of George."
And because Mylcreest's process was to listen to his playlist on repeat when he does his research, he's unable to watch any more episodes of Succession. "It's very important for me that the song didn't remind me of anything else if I was preparing for a scene. I needed to subconsciously make that song be just for that." So, he stepped away from further updating himself on the Roys' shenanigans until recently, after Queen Charlotte wrapped, Mylcreest resumed catching up on Succession. He's halfway through season two if you must know, so no, he doesn't have a take on the finale but he sums up the series in a word: "phenomenal".
In any project that Mylchreest takes on, the result is a collaborative effort. "It takes a village to raise a child and every piece of art is a collective baby. If I feel invalidated for my work, then that's not a great feeling but I don't feel that way at all. I understand that the actors are the face of the show but there are hundreds, if not, thousands of people who work on it—remove a few of them and the entire thing falls apart."
He recounts a piece of advice that his acting teacher imparted: "When you're in a scene, be selfish to be generous". It is an old game of improv, the basic tenets of creation between two parties, where, via generous contribution and its genial acceptances, a scene blossoms.
This give-and-take makes for a stronger scene. To paraphrase a certain quartet of musical scousers—"the love you take is equal to the love you make."
And these exchanges in Queen Charlotte are what gave the series its chewy centre—relationship dynamics worthy of viewers' investments; rapports that even spill over into the cast's personal lives after production has ended.
"I'm so proud of everyone's work in Queen Charlotte and, truly I mean, this from the bottom of my heart, I have friends for life."
It's not every day that you see this level of graciousness. If there was ever a show of congeniality, it was usually virtue signalling. But in interviews and in behind-the-scenes videos, Mylcreest is a mensch. He is effusive about his co-stars and what they bring to the table, he's self-deprecating.
Needless to say, the landscape of Mylcreest's auditioning process has completely changed for him. Queen Charlotte has opened up doors that would have been very firmly shut to him. Mylcreest knows how indebted he is to the show.
As to what is next for Mylcreest? At the time of the interview, he empathically says that he doesn't know. He is, as he calls it, "in a state of unknown" at the moment.
"There are some things in the pipeline that I'm waiting to hear updates on," Mylcreest says. "I'm meeting people for something incredibly exciting." Then he adds this bit that catches me off-guard. "And even if the project moves on without me, the world will have some brilliant pieces of art coming their way."
This period of unknowability is a terrifying prospect but while others see only the damning absence; Mylcreest sees a space of possibilities, as countless as the stars above.
Photographer: Zoe McConnell
Photo Assistant: Carissa Harrod
Digi tech: Nick Graham
Stylist: Thea Lewis-Yates
Styling assistant: Jamie Fernandez
Groomer: Stefan Bertin c/o The Wall Group using 111 SKIN
Producer & Casting Director: Even Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Manager: Guoran Yu @ APEX Communications
Production Coordinator (UK): Kate Zhu
Location: Lordship Park