EXCLUSIVE: 'Still Star-Crossed' Actress Previews Shonda Rhimes' New Romeo and Juliet Drama
By Philiana Ng
We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet's fleeting romance and tragic deaths, but what happens next has always been a mystery -- until now.
Inspired by the novel by Melinda Taub, ABC's new summer series, Still Star-Crossed, ramps up the action and drama after Romeo and Juliet die, and the treacherous feud between the Montague and Capulet families that continues to rage on. But another forbidden romance presents itself at the end of the premiere episode and that will certainly ruffle 17th century feathers as the season progresses.
"It's the ultimate romantic story about forbidden love and I think a lot of people can relate to that," actress Medalion Rahimi, who plays Princess Isabella, tells ET of the time-honored Romeo and Juliet tale. "The tragedy in the end -- I don't want to say that it's good to necessarily glorify young lovers' suicide -- but the idea that because of prejudice these young lovers couldn't be together... They were constantly forced apart and the only way they felt they could be true to themselves is to escape and end it."
RELATED: 'Romeo + Juliet,' 20 Years Later: Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes Were on Cusp of Stardom
"It's a strong story and for a lot of young people who struggle with being accepted, it can resonate with them," she added.
Filmed entirely on location in Spain, the one-hour drama features a diverse ensemble, led by Lashana Lynch (Rosaline Capulet), Wade Briggs (Benvolio Montague), Sterling Sulieman (Prince Escalus), Grant Bowler (Damiano Montague), Anthony Head (Lord Silvestro Capulet) and Torrance Coombs (Count Paris).
As Rahimi explains, executive producers Shonda Rhimes and Heather Mitchell, the latter of whomdeveloped the project, cast the Shakespearean characters completely color-blind.
"It's so exciting to be a part of it. As a viewer myself, there are so many times when I wish I could see more diversity, so I feel honored to be a part of something [like this]. The path has sort of been paved but this is just cementing it in a way," the 24-year-old actress says. "I don't think there's any TV show out there that looks like this one... It's not about black and white, it's about prejudice because of power as opposed to race."
RELATED: Shonda Rhimes Speaks Out on Latest 'Grey's Anatomy' Exit
Though the cast filmed in different parts of Spain, Rahimi shares that they spent most of their time in the ancient city of Cacares, located in the country's western Extremadura region.
"It's a very quaint town and most of the buildings are from that era, from the 1700s or medieval times. Our sets were all authentic -- real monasteries or palaces; one of them was a duke's house," she says. "It's unreal. And to live in Spain and Europe, the quality of life [was great]. You'd be walking to set and you'd be blown away by everything you see. You're just surrounded by history, so helps you get into character easily because you're already in that world."
"She's not who's so concerned with her clothes or finding a husband. Her main focus is keeping the city at peace and united, and making sure that her family stays in part and that the city doesn't get torn apart from the inside," she previews. "Not once is she concerned about falling in love or anything, she's a strong-willed, smart, unapologetic. She speaks her mind. She's really her brother [Prince Escalus'] right-hand wo-man."
"Some may say she's more fit to rule than he is because he has some emotional [romantic entanglements], so she's not so concerned about the frivolity of being a princess as she is about being in power that she's more attracted to," Rahimi hints. "She gets herself in some sticky situations later on in the season in that chase for power. She's willing to do whatever it takes."
Even though Princess Isabella isn't wholly focused on romance, Rahimi teases that someone does potentially steal her heart.
"Oh man, I wish I could [say]!" she says with a laugh, when asked if a man does take interest in her. "She's put love aside for so long that someone does come into the picture and may change her mind."
Still Star-Crossed premieres Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC.