We caught up with Still Star-Crossed’s resident prince, Sterling Sulieman, to talk secret affairs, sacrifices, and Shakespeare.
Bid good-morrow to your new favorite TV prince: Sterling Sulieman has just begun his run on ABC’s Shakespearean soap fest, Still Star-Crossed. Before assuming the throne, the charming Hawaiian was best known for his roles as Nate St. Germain on Pretty Little Liars and Harper on The Vampire Diaries. Now in the capable hands of Shonda Rhimes, the Queen of Soap herself, his Romeo and Juliet is sexy, fun, and surprisingly complicated. We’re only three episodes in, but we’ve caught up with Sulieman to get the scoop on what to expect in the upcoming season, and what his character was “born to do.”
Sulieman phoned into TV After Dark to talk romance, violence, and intrigue in his new hit series, where his Escalus is still learning to balance his personal life with the greater good. We learned about Prince Escalus’s regrets, his relationship with Rosaline (Lashana Lynch), and what may or may not have actually gone down in Venice. Want to know more? Read on!
TVAD | Romeo and Juliet is on the required reading list for many schools. Of all the Shakespeare you had to read in high school, did you have a favorite?
Sterling Sulieman: I really liked a Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s so fantastical and magical, that’s one of my favorites.
Do you think you would still have taken the role if you had to do the lines in old English?
I definitely would have accepted that, but I guess it would be rough.
Prince Escalus lives in a society in which social class is of the utmost importance. Have you ever been in a situation where social conventions got in the way of love?
I think, personally, I haven’t been in that kind of situation, and it definitely exists in our society. It’s interesting to play with, so it’s not like a foreign concept but, personally, I never had to deal with that.
With so much pressure to abide by duty to his people, do you think the prince will ever truly be free to be himself?
You know, that’s one of the things that I wonder as well, because Benvolio and Rosaline from the get go–they are kind off battling their place in society. They don’t really want to be the heirs. They don’t want to get married, but as much as I want Rosaline, I am the prince and that’s what I was born to do, and I don’t think Escalus sees a way out of being the prince, or even wants a way out of being the prince. He just wants his cake and to eat it too!
The prince initially chooses duty over love. Will he come to regret the decision?
Yes. I mean, I think Prince Escalus regrets it while he’s doing it. It’s not a choice he makes lightly. In that scene, he wants, he thinks he can have her. He thinks it can happen, and then when he discovered Romeo’s body, it’s just very clear that, that can’t happen. If Verona falls, then everyone falls. He sacrifices his happiness for everybody.
What we do know is that the prince is a peacemaker of sorts. Is that something you’ve ever found yourself doing in real life?
Yes, that’s definitely a role I play in many relationships.
Prince Escalus often must appear neutral and dutiful to his people, but could giving up the woman he loves to another man force him down a dark path and if so how dark should we expect?
I feel like he doesn’t understand how dark he’s going to get. When he comes to town, he would assume that the way it should go is that his father should help him into this role, and he would take over, and there wouldn’t be this scandal with Juliet, and everyone is coming at him so fast. He’s learning to stand up for himself, and so it’s coming out in different ways, and it’s coming out harsh, and I think he would definitely continue down that path if he can’t be with Rosaline.
Prince Escalus may choose peace over love, but could his decision to push Rosaline into marrying Benvolio Montague have unintentional consequences?
Yes, definitely. He can’t choose a side, but there’s not, like, the feeling goes away, but there’s definitely be some kind of animosity against Benvolio, who gets to have the woman he loves. So, even though Prince Escalus is the one deciding it, I don’t feel like he feels that way about it. It’s like this has to be done, and, unfortunately, I think he probably will hold some grudges against the circumstances.
The show is going to turn audiences with more than just sexy accents and Shakespearean eye candy. Are there any surprise hookups for Prince Escalus?
There are some hookups happening all over the place but not for Prince Escalus. He is caught up in his duty and the drama with Rosaline. He’s pretty occupied.
While the original Shakespearean text about Romeo and Juliet had one innocently sexy bedroom scene, what is the most scandalous thing we can expect to see coming from the show this season?
There are definitely some secret affairs, and there are some love scenes.
Women in Shakespearean times were not given very much power over their lives. Given that this is a modern take, in what ways will we see Rosaline and the other female characters take charge and assert themselves?
You know, that’s interesting, because we do kind of stick to what the rules of the society. You know, Rosaline’s not off having affairs and stuff, like she’s keeping a virtue and all these things, but the women definitely find a way to manipulate their way around the rules and figure out what’s going on–and I think manipulate the men that are already in existence. You definitely see them all standing up for themselves and being very strong in our story.
We know that political intrigue is commonplace in this era. Could Prince Escalus be harboring a secret that could destroy his family?
I mean, he definitely has a past in Venice that we don’t really get to know about, but I mean, they broke Romeo and Juliet apart, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
If you could play a female character on the show, which character would you love to play?
Ooooh…that’s interesting. I think…tough. I mean, they are all wildly different. Maybe between Lady Capulet and Rosaline. Rosaline has a lot of fire, but Lady Capulet is so dangerous. She’s strong, and she knows her powers for sure.
What are your after dark guilty pleasures?
I would say drinking wine and going out dancing. My favorite nights is playing old school 90’s R&B.
Be honest. If you had to choose, would you be a Montague or a Capulet?
I was told to never take sides. (laughs)