Running away to join a renaissance fair sounds like the perfect recipe for a Lifetime series — and now it is, thanks to “American Princess,” based on a chapter from series creator Jamie Denbo’s life.
“It’s inspired by a true story so it doesn’t seem that out of the box to me,” says Denbo, 45. “But I guess it is. There’s always one episode of every series about renaissance festivals and it’s always such a hit job: ‘Look at those crazy nerds with turkey legs!’ That’s an easy joke, sure. But there’s so much more. These are real people with real lives and stories to tell, and they’re all really fun to listen to.”
Premiering Sunday (9 p.m.), “American Princess” follows Amanda (Australian actress Georgia Flood, “Home and Away”), an Upper East Side socialite who runs off to join a nearby renaissance fair after her fiance cheats on her right before their wedding.
She’s quickly thrown into a world that’s teeming with bards and wenches.
Denbo, who calls herself a “career guest star,” has appeared in shows such as “Orange is the New Black” and “Glow” — both created by Jenjie Kohan, who’s the executive producer on “American Princess” — and on ABC’s “Happy Endings,” which aired from 2011-2013.
Denbo says she’s been trying to make this show for 25 years, ever since she accidentally joined a renaissance fair in 1995.
“I wound up at the renaissance festival by mistake. I thought I was auditioning for Shakespeare in the Park,” she says. “This was before Google. I got a callback to what looked like Shakespeare in the Park from the brochure and got the job and drove six hours north to Lake Ontario outside of Syracuse and wound up at the Sterling Renaissance Festival. I got there and I was completely blown away by this whole other layer of life’s onion that was like, ‘People live like this? This is a lifestyle?’ ”
Denbo likens the festival to a circus and says she wasn’t aware of the festival subculture before accidentally becoming a part of its lifestyle.
“It’s one thing if you become a movie star. That’s something that everyone understands,” she says. “But renaissance festival work is a whole other layer of entertainment that people live. There are many layers of midlevel entertainment that exist in the world — it’s just [that] you don’t see them if you’re not looking for them.”
Although the festival Denbo joined was in New York, “American Princess” was filmed in California and her experiences from 1995 updated to appeal to a modern millennial audience.
“For better or worse, this generation lives with self-imposed judgment [because of] social media,” she says.
“To be able to escape that and go to a place where non-judgment is revered and respected and encouraged — and having this old school retro experience — is such an amazing thing.” And, she says, the prominence of pop culture juggernauts such as “Game of Thrones” has made the festival subculture seem less obscure.
“It may seem like it’s niche but renaissance festival culture has bloomed with Comic Con nerd chic culture,” she says. “They were born of the hippie movement — and that became ‘Robin Hood’ in the ’80s, ‘Lord of the Rings’ in the ’90s and ‘Game of Thrones’ in the teens.
“So people are bringing their own love for fantasy and comic book genre [to the mainstream]…. The world is kind of ‘anything goes,’ and it’s lovely.”
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