Column: Encinitas man dukes it out on ‘Bridgerton’-themed ‘Courtship’ show

Alex "Achilles" King goes back in time to a British castle to woo a fair maiden in NBC's new dating series, "The Courtship."
(Sean Gleason/NBC)

NBC’s new reality dating series transports suitors to the 1800s in search of true romance


His last name just happens to be King. It seems to be a casting director’s dream for NBC’s new reality dating series called “The Courtship.”

The creators of the show, debuting at 8 p.m., March 6, are capitalizing on the popularity of “Bridgerton,” a series set in England in the early 1800s. Think of Jane Austen novels.

They also piggyback the premise of “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette,” in which suitors compete for the love of the eligible male or female star of the show.

Some viewers are jaded as those productions have become ever more dramatic, exploiting infighting and backbiting, and leaving less to the imagination, with clothing coming off too soon and too frequently.

Enter “The Courtship,” where chivalry is not dead; where getting out of corsets, petticoats, waistcoats, overcoats, cravats, breeches and knee-high riding boots can take a few minutes, if not an act of God.

In England’s Regency era, hot tubs did not exist and phones, let alone cellphones, were a figment of the imagination.

Messages and love notes couldn’t be texted. They had to be penned by hand. Horrors.

The creators of “The Courtship,” hosted by veteran U.K. presenter Rick Edwards, have gone to considerable expense to set the scene — the royal romance plays out at Castle Howard in North Yorkshire, England.

Courtship unfolds the old-fashioned way, by winning not only the heart of the fair maiden but of her court — her parents, siblings and even her best friend.

Enter Alex “Achilles” King — the dashing suitor resembling the “Bridgerton” Duke of Hastings portrayed by Regé-Jean Page.

“I felt like I was in a different world,” says King, who was born in the Dominican Republic. “It really was a fairytale.”

King is a personal online trainer who coaches high-performance professionals who lack the time to program their own eating and training regimens.

A casting agent for the show contacted him through his Instagram page. A week passed before he opened the message.

When he finally did, he informed the agent he had no interest in appearing on a dating show. After she elaborated on the theme — the elegance, etiquette, romance and its setting in Great Britain — he opted to give it a try.

Maybe it won’t be one of those crazy reality TV shows, thought King, who had been focused on his business, not looking for romance.

“I prayed on it,” he says. He knew he needed to take a huge leap of faith for this journey back in time from his condo in Encinitas to a castle outside London.

Little did he know that he might be fencing, or dueling, or attempting archery. “There were tons of surprises. I was in awe at all times,” he says. He constantly exclaimed, “What? I’m doing what?”

Each episode concludes with a masquerade ball, and some unlucky suitor is transported by horse-drawn carriage back to life in the 21st century.

Luckily, King is a self-admitted romantic. Instead of taking a date to a restaurant, he prefers something more adventurous — a ride on San Diego Bay in a Venetian gondola, a game of laser tag, a mountain hike and surprise picnic. “I’m romantic and passionate and authentic,” he says.

King viewed his greatest challenge as opening up to a stranger “and giving this person all of me in one shot.”

His fear dissolved, however, when he met “princess” Nicole Remy. “She is a very intelligent, very beautiful, very charismatic woman. I did not think I’d be interested that quickly,” he admits. King says he’s attracted to people who are authentic and transparent. “She displayed that immediately.”

The San Diego suitor remains mum about duels, archery and sword play but admits to horseback riding — something he hadn’t done for years.

He also is a Shakespeare fan from childhood, writes daily in his diary and composes poetry — a talent that came in handy in Regency-period England. He hopes to publish a book of his own poems.

Surprisingly, he was not one of the 82 million viewers who had tuned in to “Bridgerton,” but he made up for lost time, binge watching it after he arrived in Great Britain.

As for the costumes, they were a departure from his usually comfy T-shirts and workout gear.

“As we started filming, we started feeling more comfortable. Everything had to be pristine and proper. ... You had to learn to be more elegant, learn the ways of a gentleman of that era. You had to behave a certain way with a woman — be respectful, bow to her and to her parents.

“It changed my life in so many ways. It gave me the ability to really showcase more of my emotions, to understand what true love really is. When you’re on the show you think maybe you’ve been looking at love the wrong way. This is how you treat a woman, how you talk to her, how you express yourself.”

Not the entire experience was Regency era, he confesses. “We did have some modern meals.”

In retrospect, King concludes: “I’ve never had this kind of fairytale experience in my life. The entire thing was magical — the production, the people, the setting. It was amazing. ...

“I definitely would do it again. It made me a better man ... I wish I had grown up in that era.”