'Mix of Gossip Girl and Euphoria': Alyssa McKay talks role in new podcast drama 'The Royals of Malibu'

'Mix of Gossip Girl and Euphoria': Alyssa McKay talks role in new podcast drama 'The Royals of Malibu'
Dominic Fike performs 'Elliot's Song' to Rue in Euphoria

Alyssa McKay has made a name for herself, paving her way to social media stardom with 15M+ followers across all her platforms.

Perhaps you’ve seen the McKay dishing out diss tracks to popular creator under her "rich girl" alter-ego Lyss, or have engaged with her acting and lifestyle videos.

Now, the 22-year-old from Portland is now dipping her toes into another media, podcasting, after she bagged the lead role in new highly anticipated scripted podcast from Diversion Audio, The Royals Of Malibu, a 13-episode audio adaptation of the book Paper Princess by New York Times bestselling author Erin Watt.

Sign up to our free Indy100 weekly newsletter

In the series described as "Cinderella meets Cruel Intentions meets Euphoria," McKay plays Ella Sinclair, a 17-year-old orphan who is swept away from a life of sex work to the privilege of ultra-wealthy Malibu.

She chatted with indy100 what the role means to her, the acting process and why The Royals of Malibu is “the best fiction podcast that [people] will listen to in their entire life.”

From our discussion, it was clear how passionate McKay was about her character Ella, and as she explained there some personal ties she shares with the protagonist that helped her to have a deep understanding of the role.

“There were connections and parallels with Ella that it was. It was kind of like a dream project for me as soon as I read it.”

McKay detailed how she drew from “personal experiences,” and added “a lot of who Ella is I kind of based off of myself, just because we're so similar,” in terms of their difficult childhoods.

“So in the story, Ella is an orphan and she has a really rough childhood growing up. I was actually in foster care for 11 years when I was growing up, and I also had a fairly tough childhood,” McKay explained.

“So that I think that's where we, I relate to her the most and just being resilient in the face of adversity.”

She added: “It's hard not to feel be so personable with her character.”

For McKay who has been acting since was 14 years old, this was her first voice acting experience and soon became aware of the various ways she would have to adapt her performance for audio since the audience cannot not see her face.

“You really have to have a lot of inflection in your voice and you have to make the audience believe how you're feeling and what's going on,” she explained.


@The Royals of Malibu will be your next obsession. dropping feb. 6th 💻❤️‍🔥💸💋👀 #fictionpodcast #paperprincess #theroyalsofmalibu #booktok #acting #podcast #voiceacting

“They have to understand that by just listening to your voice,” she said, adding that when it is on-camera acting you “use your eyes and your face and your body to convey emotion and feelings.”

And then there’s the co-stars, which the actor said she performed with in the recording booth.

“It was a really interesting dynamic because I was worried. I was like, ‘Are we just going to like talk into our microphones and not like interact with each other?' but it was actually really good,” she said.

“Anytime I had scenes with anyone... you'd look at each other and interact as much as possible. We're not being filmed but we still had the facial expressions and everything. It really helped deliver a very authentic performance."

McKay has kept her followers up-to-date with her podcast, posting behind-the-scenes videos - and it seems that 'screaming' is one of the perks of the job.

“POV: you’re a voice actor and you get to scream at people for a living,” she wrote on a video where she shouted in a dramatic scene.

“There's a lot of intense moments. There's a lot of screaming and yelling that goes on,” McKay told us.

“Those were the scenes I was the most afraid for because I'm not a yeller [in real life]. I'm not screaming at people too often and so I was really worried for those scenes, but that just flowed out of me.”

As well as screaming and shouting, listeners are in store for some spicy scenes as recording snippets were shared to McKay’s TikTok – with one of the videos receiving 15.3m views.


I’m sorry mom #booktok #theroyals #paperprincess #theroyalsofmalibu #fictionpodcast #acting #voiceacting

“Yes, though the spicy scenes did make me nervous, even if there was no on-camera anything involved,” she confessed in a TikTok talking about the experience.

“It was super nerve-wrecking but super fun.”

With The Royals of Malibu being compared with the likes of Cruel Intentions and Euphoria, the show does not shy away from mature themes.

I would say just come into the story with an open mind,” McKay said on this topic. “I think everything is presented and delivered very authentically and very raw and with real emotion and and yeah, I'm just really excited for people to listen and hopefully can find something to relate to.”

Before her leading role in The Royals of Malibu, McKay had been building her online audience since 2018 as a 17/18 years old, which has since risen to 10m TikTok followers and seen her become top female lifestyle creator on Snapchat globally with 2.5B+ average monthly views.

“I was just kind of posting for fun. I was a theatre kid in high school. When I wasn't in a production, I was anxious and I was like, 'I need to get this creativity out of me' and so I would just make videos on the internet.'

But her love for video making goes back even earlier than that, when she recalled how she “mastered Sony Vegas Pro” as a preteen.

“It's been a wild journey for sure. But I wouldn't change it for the world, I love it so much,” McKay added.

There’s always a new social media trend, and so I asked McKay if she had a particular favourite, and the discourse of one popular TV show came to her mind.

“I loved it when "Euphoria Sundays" were a thing like when episodes would come out every Sunday, and everyone would make a bunch of edits and there would always be trends surrounding what had happened in that week's episode," she said.

It's not all been positive for McKay. With a vast online following, McKay has experienced her fair share of hate comments which “used to get to her” when she was young and first starting out.

The moment things “clicked” for the influencer was when she decided to “no longer value the opinion of of people that have anything negative to say,” and this had led her mental health to become “much better.”

“I've gotten older and I continue to get older and grow the opinions of others just doesn't faze me as much, so I'm mentally in a much better place now than when I first started out on social media, but it's a learning curve for sure. You definitely have to train yourself not to let it bother you.”

Now she’s got a lead role in a podcast under her belt, McKay revealed what kind of acting gigs she would be up for in the future.

“I would love to do more on camera work, whether that's, you know, like a TV show or a film,” she said, before adding: "I would even do another fiction podcast because it's so much fun to record."

To sum up why people should listen to The Royals of Malibu, McKay said: "It is the best fiction podcast that people will listen to in their entire life. It's literally a mix of like Gossip Girl and Euphoria. It's so good. It's like listening to a TV show.

“I would say that for people who typically aren't like huge podcast fans, and they like to consume like TV shows and movies."

She added: “This is something that you can like listen to while you're driving to work or while you're on a hot girl walk.”

"The Royals of Malibu" is the newest podcast from Diversion Audio, to listen to first three episodes click here.

Have your say in our news democracy. Click the upvote icon at the top of the page to help raise this article through the indy100 rankings.

The Conversation (0)