Tonight is the premiere of the Fox dating show I Wanna Marry “Harry,” a next-gen Joe Millionaire in which an ordinary 23-year-old British bloke named Matt Hicks woos single women by posing as Prince Harry … if somehow Prince Harry’s strip-poker nights in Vegas had dried up and the queen had suggested her grandson regain his mojo on American television. The charade here is so ridiculous (e.g., “Harry” is attended 24/7 by a manservant named Kingsley) that it’s great fun to watch for at least the first episode. Vulture chatted with the 23-year-old Brit about his past work in the look-alike industry and how hard he tried not to come off like a scumbag while lying to 12 totally silly girls.
Did you have to audition to be fake Harry?
No, I was on a look-alike website for a few months, and got an email from the production company. I didn’t hear about the premise at the first interview. It took three or four to get it out of them. But yeah, I essentially got head-hunted for it and, well, I wasn’t going to turn it down because, why not do it?
Let’s back up. You were on a look-alike website?
It was a website with various other look-alikes for David Beckham and Bruce Forsyth, Simon Cowell, other royals. People can hire them out for events, parties, whatever. I was one of the profiles.
So you were already in the fake Harry business.
[Laughs] Yeah, I put some pictures up as a joke with some friends not thinking anything would come of it and, well, here we are.
How long ago was this?
That would have been early 2013 or maybe late 2012. About four or five months before this all came about.
Had you gotten any work from it?
I had done two or three really small jobs, promotion events at nightclubs. That’s about it. This is the first main job.
What did you have to do at the nightclubs?
Essentially, I got to turn up and sit in the VIP area and shmooze the people in there, have photos taken. They put me on their flyers and used it to promote their evening. It’s pocket money. It kept things ticking over.
Have you always gotten that you look like Prince Harry?
Since I was about 19, yeah. When I was little, my brother and I got compared to the princes then. He bears a vague resemblance to William. For the past four or five years, it’s come up more. I guess you could say I’ve grown into him.
Once the producers told you they wanted you to pretend to be Harry on a dating show like The Bachelor, what did you think?
I was silent for all 30 minutes of the pitch, and then I sat there absolutely speechless. I thought it was hilarious. They asked if I had any questions, the first thing I asked was, “Do I get to keep the clothes?” I thought it sounded like a great idea and a great opportunity.
Did any of the girls really believe you were Harry?
The girls were brought over on the premise of meeting an eligible bachelor. We dropped hints and they were left to come to their own conclusions. And you know what girls are like, they gossip. Some of them believed more than others, and the ones who didn’t believe were persuaded by the ones that did. As long as there was a seed of doubt, that was all we needed to be successful.
It sounds like you did the show just for fun, but the girls who go on a show like The Bachelor in general are crazy serious about falling in love.
I mean, let’s be honest: These girls were probably in it for the same reasons as me. I can’t imagine any of them seriously thinking, I’m gonna come out of this with a boyfriend — and oh, my God, I’m gonna be a royal! I’m sure they did it to have a lot of fun and to see what happens.
You’ve obviously never seen The Bachelor!
I can’t imagine any of them went away too disappointed. It was just a good opportunity to meet some girls who were different from the kind that I would get to meet in England.
In the first episode, you invite a really loud, spazzy schoolteacher into the crown suite for the night. Different from what you’d get in England?
Yeah. She seemed a bit shy and cheeky; at the same time, she was quite forward. I don’t know! She had come-to-bed eyes.
Seriously though, have you ever watched one of these dating shows?
I can’t say I’ve ever followed one or got into it completely.
It’s hard to come off well.
You’re telling me.
Were you concerned about that?
Yeah, absolutely. I only said yes to it with the idea in my head that it would be beneficial for me in some way or another. I had to send girls home, so I had to be horrible in a way, but at the same time I tried to do it in a manner where I was justified and I wasn’t a complete douche about it. I knew in the edit they could essentially do whatever they want, but I gave myself every opportunity to come out of it looking good and fingers crossed that I did.
What do your friends and family say?
They think it’s absolutely hilarious, as you would. I’ve put myself up for endless mockery. They find it really bizarre, I think.
What was the hardest part about staying in character?
When you date, you automatically panic. Every single time I opened my mouth to speak, I also had to think what I was saying. I had to remember all the history about Harry, his schooling, his military career, his entire background. I put in as much of my own personal history as I could so I wasn’t having to lie all the time, but it was really difficult remembering (a) what I had told each different girl and (b) sticking to the same story. It was just draining.
Did you have to study?
There was a lot of cramming in the beginning, and I’m fortunate enough to have a really good memory. Any facts or figures I was fine with. There was also a week of training where I did horse riding, polo, etiquette, acting, dance lessons. The majority of it was for show, and I didn’t learn a huge amount. But it was an entertaining week, that’s for sure.
You had acting lessons?
I had a lesson, yeah, where I was told how to breathe properly and how to use and project my voice. It wasn’t acting. It was about not feeling self-conscious.
Do you want to act?
Absolutely not. I’m terrible.
So this really was all about the free clothes.
I did get to keep some of the clothes. I got that written into my contract.