Who can teach us what we need to know about longevity and good temperament? The queen, that's who — which is why AARP is hosting a very special tele-town hall on Oct. 1 at 7 p.m. ET on these and other fascinating royal subjects. (Read more about it in AARP The Magazine this month.) And we found the ideal expert to host the live show: Jane Seymour, the Emmy- and Golden Globe-winning actress (Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; The Kominsky Method; the upcoming The War With Grandpa). A loyal subject of Queen Elizabeth since she was a year old, Seymour has friends in the royal palace, played British royalty on-screen and received the Order of the British Empire from the Queen herself in 2000. Here's what she told us ahead of the event.
Jane Seymour, you're named after the third wife of King Henry VIII, but that's not your birth name, right?
My name is Joyce Penelope Wilhemina Frankenberg. Difficult to spell, hard to remember. So my agent made me change it when I was 17.
Queen Elizabeth must not have been too offended, because she honored you at a ceremony at Buckingham Palace.
It's a great honor. It's called the Order of the Knighthood, and it comes at different levels. So the knighthood is the top tier, and before that is the OBE [Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire]. I'm an OBE. I have been presented to the Queen on a number of occasions, the Queen Mother, then Princess Anne, and I've met pretty much every member of the royal family. Except for Camilla.
What's Queen Elizabeth like?
I have a friend, whose name I can't quote, who actually works with the queen on a daily basis. And I have heard nothing but extraordinarily wonderful, wonderful things about her: how hard she works, her love of the simple life, a sit-down with a cup of tea. She's crazy about her horses and dogs. She's just an extraordinary woman. I'm very much in awe of her, and how she has the energy to do what she does, and make you feel that she actually cares, and [when she meets you] does know something about you.
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Which royals have you played on-screen?
I'm actually playing Eleanor of Aquitaine in a movie right now. She was Queen of France and Queen of England. I also played Wallis Simpson in [the 1988 television film] The Woman He Loved. She's considered to be bad news because she was the reason why King Edward left the throne and abdicated. The Queen Mother couldn't bear to watch the movie because she was so disturbed by what happened.
Weren't the royals surprised by some of the inside stories in The Woman He Loved?
It was very disturbing, and they wondered where we got some of the information — “How did you know about this?” And I said no, honestly, I just read the script and did some research. That was all I did.
And now you're costarring with American movie royalty: Robert De Niro, star of The King of Comedy, in The War With Grandpa [Oct. 9]. Is he still the king of comedy?
Oh, absolutely, he's still the king of comedy. It really is a good movie, and I think everyone's ready for a feel-good movie. My grandchildren loved it, and so did my kids in their 30s. The story is of a grandfather who's having trouble living alone after his wife has died. So he has to displace his 10-year-old son, and a war ensues over the boy's room. He engages me to join his team of old people, so I join Christopher Walken and Cheech Marin, and we do a dodgeball trampoline fight.
Tell us more about your encounters with the royal family.
When the queen came to Hollywood, I sat next to Prince Philip and had long discussions about what he referred to as “breakfast television” in England. I was hired by Good Morning America and Entertainment Tonight to cover royal weddings. I became known as the correspondent who actually could get to the royal family. I do not know Prince William and Kate. Prince Charles I've met on many, many occasions. And Prince Andrew and Prince Edward. I did know Princess Diana. Prince Harry told me about his passion for helping wounded warriors.
Tell us about your own charity work with Open Hearts Foundation.
We started Open Hearts over 10 years ago. We select organizations and people who have been challenged in life and have used this as an opportunity to turn it around and help other people philanthropically. You can see their stories at openheartsfoundation.org. We're funding six charities specifically affected by COVID — things like women who've been domestically abused and foster kids, and various others. I was painting with people on Zoom, especially with people stuck in old-people's homes, and we auctioned the paintings off, raising $75,000. I came up with scarves people have been buying that are to be worn as scarves or with a mask, and 100 percent of the money goes to the foundation for COVID-19. Olivia Newton-John very kindly posed in one, and they sold very, very quickly.
Share a royal evening with Jane Seymour this Thursday, Oct. 1, at 7 p.m. ET, at AARP's tele-town hall. Watch by clicking here.