'A Christmas Prince' Writer Reveals How Princes William and Harry Inspired the Netflix Film (Exclusive)
A Christmas Prince may have been a runaway holiday fairy tale for Netflix, but its origins are firmly based in reality.
Author Karen Schaler, who wrote the popular original film that follows Amber, an ambitious journalist who falls for Prince Richard, the heir of the fictional country of Aldovia, reveals to ET that the onscreen story was loosely based on her experiences covering Prince William and Prince Harry.
Schaler, who is also the award-winning host of Travel Therapy, was invited by U.K. tourism to visit the Isle of Anglesey in Wales — where William and his wife, Kate Middleton, were living at the time — to produce a travel segment about the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge’s town. She quickly learned that the locals were not forthcoming with royal info and were protective of both the couple and Prince Harry, who had suffered his share of scandals in the past. “They go, ‘You have no idea what [Harry’s] been through. You have no idea the wonderful things he does for charity. You have no idea what his real story is. You guys blow it up,’” Schaler recalls.
As a former investigative reporter, the comments struck a chord with Schaler, who reveals a personal distaste for being asked to look for “the negative story.” Instead, she produced positive stories, only to be met with disappointment.
Ultimately, that experience inspired A Christmas Prince, which was “loosely inspired by trying to get scoops when I was an investigative reporter and they were always sending me to get the worst story,” Schaler says.
“I hoped that people watching [A Christmas Prince] would be entertained and charmed and all the normal things,” she continues, adding that the film is worth revisiting now that Prince Harry and Meghan Markle are married. “Take a second look, because it was very timely.”
Entertained and charmed as they were with A Christmas Prince when it was released in November of last year, audiences took to social media decrying their love-hate relationship with the endearing film, while also poking fun at Amber’s obvious lack of journalistic prowess.
A Christmas Prince is the most cliche, troped out romcom/holiday movie ever and I loved every second of it
Even Stephen Colbert and Whoopi Goldberg discussed the movie on air after Netflix tweeted a controversial message to its viewers. “To the 53 people who’ve watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?” the streaming service wrote.
To the 53 people who've watched A Christmas Prince every day for the past 18 days: Who hurt you?
To Schaler, though, all that buzz meant one thing: people were watching. “I love all the feedback. I love the ones like, ‘This is so bad it’s good and I have to watch it 20 more times.’ I was dying,” she admits. “Even the people who thought it was corny and ridiculous seemed to enjoy it and watch it. People loved picking on the poor little Christmas Prince, but all I said was, ‘Thank you for watching and I appreciate it all. Keep the comments coming.’”
Fans of the holiday tale won’t have to wait long to find out what happens following Prince Richard and Amber’s engagement at the end of the film. A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding is set to debut later this year. While based on her original characters and concept, the sequel was written by Robin Bernheim and Nathan Atkins. The two took over for Schaler, who was too busy writing new holiday stories to return to the project.
In fact, she has multiple holiday-themed projects coming out this year. The first of which is the novel Christmas Camp (William Morrow, Oct. 16), which will be followed by the novella Christmas Camp Wedding (Jan. 9) and an upcoming TV movie adaptation. Additionally, the book will be turned into a real-life Christmas camp at the Phoenician luxury resort in Scottsdale, Arizona, from Dec. 7 to Dec. 15. For Lifetime, she wrote a new, Christmas Carol-inspired film Every Day Is Christmas starring Toni Braxton, Gloria Reuben and Michael Jai White, premiering on Nov. 24.
With its recent debut (and franchise potential), Christmas Camp is Schaler’s current focus. She refers to the book — following Haley, a workaholic who leaves her city life behind to attend a week-long Christmas camp where she learns about the real magic of the holiday and finds love with Jeff, the camp owner’s son — as “a quick, happy, simple” read.
“I’m hoping that by reading Christmas Camp it just reminds people to slow down, take a breath, and to really look at the people that matter most, what matters most,” Schaler says of the book, which she was inspired to write after growing up on her mom’s Harlequin romance novels and religiously watching Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies, things she calls “a safety net.”
“I think at the holidays we’re all hoping for something magical and wonderful,” she says. “Not everyone has the perfect family life or the perfect holiday situation, but if you turn on one of those holiday movies or you pick up a holiday book, it can take you to a special place. It can almost be your family.”
That feeling of connection is something she’s hoping to recreate with the real-life Christmas camp, which will feature a signature cocktail, themed spa treatments, star-gazing, s’mores and baking. “Going to a location prior to the holidays, you can relax, reboot, find your Christmas spirit, reconnect with what matters most,” Schaler says of the event, which she hopes to implement in other resorts.
Thoughtfulness and gratitude are the author’s ideal takeaways from all of her projects and something she’d like to continue should Christmas Camp be franchised. Though a second film hasn’t been announced, Schaler wrote Christmas Camp Wedding as a “gift” to fans and credits her own impatience as both a reader and viewer for its quick turnaround.
“At the end [of Christmas movies] there’s always that kiss at the end and you wonder, ‘What happened to them?’” Schaler says. “You get so invested in these characters and then sometimes they’ll throw in that random two-second shot at the wedding, like they’ll fast forward a year and you’re like, ‘Oh, well OK.’ And then you’re done. And I always feel kind of like I need a little more.”
Whether watching her films or reading her novels, Schaler just wants her fans to know that this is all for them; an escape from everyday life, a joy in dark times, and, yes, a cheesy love story for the ages.
“If I can help one person, it pays back all the help I got over the years reading these Christmas books and these romance novels and watching these beautiful Christmas movies. It gave me so much,” she says. “… We’ve had a rough year. No matter what side of the political spectrum you’re on, it’s been rough. If I can provide some holiday happiness, a break, a little bit of laughter and fun, I will be very thankful. That’s my goal.”