Matthew Hicks may not be a real prince, but he sure is charming.
On the upcoming Ryan Seacrest and Zig Zag Prods. co-produced Fox reality dating show “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry,’” the Brit sets out to convince 12 unsuspecting American women that he is, in fact, the fourth in line for the crown before revealing his true identity in the finale episode.
Before landing the job, the Prince Harry lookalike was working for an environmental consultancy firm, living with friends and leading a life that he describes as “nothing too exciting.”
Though he had no acting experience, Hicks says he had been approached on nights out by people who noticed his royal resemblance and even took on smaller-scale gigs.
“I’d done a few small ‘Harry’ jobs prior to this one … turning up at a club and doing a promo event for an evening – so literally pennies, pocket money,” he says. “I thought it was a bit of a laugh.”
Throughout the interview process and even upon being offered the gig, Hicks only knew that the show involved royal lookalikes.
“On the fourth or fifth interview they were like ‘Great, so you’ve got the job,’ and then they told me the premise of the show and I was like ‘Say what?’ Hicks admits, telling Variety that the idea sounded “absolutely ridiculous.”
Once he had accepted the challenge, Hicks underwent a royal makeover during the week prior to meeting the contestants. In addition to getting his strawberry blond locks dyed to match Prince Harry’s redheaded mane, Hicks went through what he calls “an intensive training program” in order to be able to keep up the charade when the ladies arrived.
“They put me through learning everything there was to know about him, from his schooling, his history, his military career, his friends, where he hangs out in London, previous scandals, ex-girlfriends,” he explains, adding that this included all the lurid details of the prince’s trip to Las Vegas in 2012, after which his nude pictures showed up online. “I just had to do a lot of research and find out everything about him so when I was in date situations and these girls asked me questions I had something to fall back on.”
The cameras also captured the various activities that Hicks had to master in order to completely embody the princely lifestyle. In just a few days, he got a crash course in horseback riding, fencing, etiquette, ballroom dancing, clay pigeon shooting and fly fishing — though the athletic Hicks says memorizing the personal details was much more difficult than mastering the sports.
“You just had to constantly check yourself and think ‘What am I saying? What have I said to this girl? What have I not?’ and it was just a bit draining,” he says.
In order to prevent any of the women from putting him on the spot, Hicks says he made sure to redirect any conversations that verged on revealing his true identity.
“I could always just bring it back to them and be like ‘Look, one girl’s going home tonight. The girl I send home I’ve got to have a justifiable reason, so I’ve got to find out more about you.’ So if they were starting to question me I’d just turn it back around on them,” Hicks explains.
Sending contestants home was the hardest part for faux royal, especially since he had to make the first elimination decision just two hours after meeting the 12 women. The entire experience was shot over the course of only five weeks, and Hicks says a contestant was sent home every three days, which translates to one episode.
“Sending the girls home was quite tricky. I just felt bad. I was like ‘I’m sure you’re a lovey girl, but on first impressions there are others that I want to get to know better and someone’s got to go.”
All the while, however, Hicks shares that they were “waited on hand and foot” by the castle staff members (who he says were not actors).
Though his stay at the castle was brief, Hicks says the whole process “felt like a lifetime” and he tried to check in with the women to be sure that they weren’t just falling in love with his princely persona.
“I sort of engineered it in my head the whole way through that the girls that stayed were the ones that I liked because they were genuine, because I didn’t think they were swayed by the money and the princely-ness,” he says. “By the time it came to it, I was relatively confident with the girl I chose that I wouldn’t get a rejection, but it always played in my mind.”
Fox’s “I Wanna Marry ‘Harry’” premieres May 27.