It’s easy to see why Galavant—television’s tongue-in-cheek answer to the movie musical—is an instant success. The comedy series features a powerhouse team both behind the camera (think: award-winning composer Alan Menken of The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast), and in front of it. Among the show’s all-star cast, which has featured guest stars like John Stamos and Ricky Gervais, is Australia native Mallory Jansen, who plays Madalena, a fame- and money-hungry queen with certain nymphomaniac tendencies. In real life, however, the former model embraces a more down-to-earth attitude. We recently chatted with Jansen about her spontaneous decision to switch careers, adopting an L.A. state of mind, and the perks of playing a royal.
When did you know you wanted to go into acting?
You know, I always felt a little unfulfilled when I was a model. I was probably a model from the age of 15 to 19, but then I just kind of felt like there was more for me and I needed to pursue that. One morning, I just literally woke up and said, “I have to go study acting and go to drama school.” I booked a plane fare to New York and lived there in a tiny dorm. It was very unglamorous, but the best thing I’ve ever done. I literally went over there with all of my savings and thought, “It’s now or never, and I’m just going to make this happen,” and it was the best year.
What was has been your most memorable experience as an actress?
I have to say that Galavant has been the highlight of my career so far. As an actor you never get to do anything that involves so many different things, like singing, and dancing, and comedy, and sword playing, and horseback riding. It was a real gift to be able to do Galavant. It doesn’t even feel like a job, because I’m laughing all day. If you’re doing that, then something is going right. My heart is in the show and I really believe in it and love it.
What’s your favorite musical of all time?
Oh my gosh, that’s a very hard question. Strangely when I was growing up I was obsessed with Phantom of the Opera. I know it’s a bit odd for a 10-year-old girl to be obsessed with something like that, but I honestly knew everything, word for word. I love the songs. In terms of more upbeat musicals, I love Hairspray and The Lion King. You can never go wrong with a musical—you’re always going to have a good time no matter what.
What’s your favorite musical number from Galavant?
I have to say it was one of my numbers, which is in episode five. It’s basically like a solo cabaret number for Madelena and she’s singing to herself in a hall of mirrors, which is different Madelenas singing back at her, and it’s just so funny. To film it took forever, because there are so many different Madelenas I had to film and record. To see it now, I was just so blown away, because it’s so theatrical, more like something you would see in a movie rather than a TV series.
Did you have a singing experience prior to doing the show?
You know it’s funny, because I used to sing when I was in high school. I did all of the school musicals and everything, but then acting sort of took over and I didn’t really pursue it after that. But then, when I got the audition notes for Galavant it said in bold, “Must Have Broadway-Caliber Voice,” so I thought whatever, I’m an actor, I can do this. Once I got the job, ABC put us up with singing lessons. It’s been great and has really invigorated my love for music. I just love singing, and working with Allen Menken has been a dream.
If you could duet with anyone living or dead, who would it be and why?
Whitney Houston. Her song “I Want To Dance With Somebody” is my karaoke song—that’s my go-to. I love her. She’d outdo me any day, but I would love to do it anyway.
Can you share any funny on-set stories?
There are so many. Most involve us hysterically laughing until we cry. There was one scene, which I think was in the second episode, with Tim [Omundson] who plays King Richard. We actually found it really hard to work together, because anything so tiny would set us off. But there was a scene at the dinner table where he was trying to man up and he took a swig from a bottle and burped and said, “Yeah I burped, deal with it.” That took about 30 takes, because we honestly just couldn’t get it through it and it got to a point where we were like, “How are we going to do this, are we actually going to complete this thing?” It was so funny.
If you could steal anything from Madalena’s wardrobe, what would it be and why?
It would have to be one of the crowns. You know when you wear a crown, it’s just so empowering. You just feel like a completely different woman, so I would love to take one of the crowns, but I don’t think costume would let me. I had about five or six crowns throughout the series. Madelena likes to change things up.
How would you describe your personal style?
I like to keep things pretty relaxed. One of my favorite stores is AllSaints, so that sort of encapsulates what I wear. I love leather jackets, ripped jeans, and old vintage t-shirts. But then other times, I’ll love to glam up. It’s forever changing, my style. I never really steal ideas from anyone else. I kind of just go with whatever I’m feeling at the time.
What is your favorite thing to do when you are in L.A.?
I’ve really taken on the whole L.A. way of life, and I love ordering juices at Cafe Gratitude. I just love being super healthy and going to those kind of places, because it’s kind of hysterical, but you know I thought, “When in Rome you’ve got do those things,” like go on a hike even though it’s just walking. I love going up to the Observatory, like doing a hike up there and looking out at the city. That’s really beautiful. I’m still kind of learning my areas.
What’s the first thing you always have to do when you go back to Melbourne, Australia?
I always have to go and get a souvlaki from my favorite souvlaki store. It’s like a Greek wrap that has lamb and fries, and they are just the best things ever created. I always have to go there as soon as I land.
What are you looking forward to most in 2015?
I’m looking forward to not knowing. That’s the thing, I never want to know what’s coming up. I love surprises. I don’t know what this year is going to hold, but I am excited about it. And I think, you know, Galavant has been a success already and I’m looking forward to lots more singing and dancing ahead.
What’s your TV guilty pleasure?
Alright, this is really guilty. I love Long Island Medium. I think she is so amazing. Not that I would ever want her to do my reading or anything, but I just find it so interesting when she is visiting others. People always say to me, “You know it’s not real, that stuff.” But I refuse to believe them.
What song is currently on repeat in your playlist?
“Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars. I love that one. It’s so great and pumps me up and gets me in the mood. It’s so great to listen to in the morning.
What are you reading?
I’m reading a book on Monty Python, funny enough. It’s by Michael Palin and a diary, I think from about 1959 onwards, about everything that happened throughout Monty Python’s success. It’s been really interesting to read.
Is there a clothing item you can’t live without?
It would have to be my leather jacket. I live in it. It’s the most comfortable thing, and it’s from AllSaints.