"She's not a cookie-cutter queen," Hurley said of Queen Helena

By Alexandra Zaslow
Updated March 10, 2015 01:25 PM
Credit: Neilson Barnard/Getty

When Elizabeth Hurley began creating her character for E!’s new primetime soap The Royals, the actress spotted a few unexpected inspirations.

To play Britain’s Queen Helena, “I didn’t use the Queen of England because we’re from different generations,” Hurley told PEOPLE on Monday night at the show’s premiere in New York City.

“But I’d like to think Princess Diana could look and dress – had she ever become Queen of England – like Queen Helena because she looked very modern, very fresh.”

Hurley said she also drew from Disney villain “Cruella de Vil and a lot of other people … to make my part three-dimensional.”

Although the 49-year-old actress felt more of a connection to Princess Diana, she still watched tapes of Queen Elizabeth II to observe her dignified manner, how she conducts herself while meeting subjects and how she stands and shakes hands.

But Helena, says Hurley, is “not a cookie-cutter queen. She’s herself and she’s out there, so I can make a lot of that up.”

Hurley’s costar Alexandra Park, who plays Helena’s daughter Princess Eleanor, says her character might also raise some royal eyes: “I don’t know if Kate Middleton would be friends with her.”

Park told PEOPLE, “She’s a little wild, but … she’s a good girl at heart, so if Kate got to know her she’d be friends with her.”

The Royals premieres March 15 at 10 p.m. ET on E!

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