Simone Ashley, star of Netflix’s “Bridgerton,” spoke to NextShark about her character in the show, the witty and headstrong Kate Sharma, and how the highly successful regency drama has introduced Indian customs and characters to millions of viewers from around the world.
The first season of “Bridgerton” saw a departure from the homogenous casting of typical Western period dramas, introducing Black aristocratic characters such as Queen Charlotte and the Duke of Hastings. The show’s second season continues to feature characters of color, this time with a focus on South Asian representation.
In Julia Quinn’s “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” the book on which the latest season of “Bridgerton” is based, character Lord Anthony Bridgerton expresses interest in sisters Kate and Edwina Sheffield. Netflix’s adaptation of Quinn’s story, however, changes the sisters to Kate and Edwina Sharma, introducing fans to two female leads of Indian descent.
Season 2 also incorporates various elements that speak to the Sharma sisters’ ethnic background while highlighting Indian customs.
“I learned so much more about my own [Indian] heritage and sharing that space with Charithra was such an honor,” says Ashley about working with fellow Indian British actor Charithra Chandran, who plays Edwina. “It was just a lot of joy and I felt really proud, and even more proud to receive such a warm reception, especially from South Asian women.”
Having grown up in London, Ashley reveals that Kate’s Indian background did not directly impact how she approached her character: “I think that there is something deeper than race that connects all of us together, and that is relating to one another within what is the human experience or what we feel.”
“So as an actress, I approached it trying to find the heart within the character, beyond her heritage and the color of her skin,” she says. “But also not being naive to that, and deflecting off that. I think there are so many moments within the show where [her race] is celebrated in the most joyful, warm way.”
The Indian British actor also describes the show’s Haldi (turmeric in Hindi) ceremony scene, which depicts an Indian pre-wedding ritual where turmeric paste is applied to the skin of the bride and groom to bless them.
“I think it’s probably the first time we’ve ever seen [the Haldi ceremony] on a television show like ‘Bridgerton,’ so I think that was just amazing,” Ashley shares. “I definitely related to the scene, and I think a lot of women, sisters and mothers and daughters from a variety of heritages and cultures can relate to the scene where Kate’s putting coconut oil on Edwina’s hair.”
“Bridgerton” show creator Chris Van Dusen notes that the period genre is “often considered a little traditional and a little conservative,” and so he set out to make it not look or feel “like any period piece that had come before.”
When asked about the ethnically diverse cast, Dusen explains, “the show is intended for a modern audience… we wanted modern audiences to relate to it and see themselves reflected on screen no matter who they were.”
Each book of Quinn’s bestselling series follows one of the eight Bridgerton siblings and their search for love. In the first season of Netflix’s TV adaptation, viewers saw the family’s eldest daughter Daphne, played by Phoebe Dynevor, marry the once unattainable Duke of Hastings, played by Regé-Jean Page.
This season, all eyes are on the dashing capital “R” rake Lord Anthony Bridgerton, a viscount and the eldest Bridgerton sibling. Anthony, who is played by Jonathan Bailey, intends to find a wife after he experiences love and loss at the end of the show’s first season.
Anthony decides to court the beautiful and sweet Edwina Sharma, but despite his very best efforts, her older sister Kate is there to block his every move and prevent Edwina from marrying the wrong man. Both competitive and headstrong, Anthony Bridgerton and Kate disagree on almost everything. However, the two also cannot deny the intense desire they have for each other.
With over 625.5 million hours streamed in the first 28 days of its season one release, “Bridgerton” became the second most-streamed show in Netflix history after “Squid Game.”
If the second season of “Bridgerton” is anything like the first, fans can expect even more dazzling ball gowns, intense romance and binge-worthy drama.