Hit show has two new global stars in the making…
ON-SCREEN period romance is back in a big way if the viewing figure are anything to go by – as Series 2 of Netflix’s smash English Regency drama, ‘Bridgerton’ drops this Friday (March 25) with a strong Indian angle to it.
The 1800s racy costume drama which has much intrigue, gossip and had a few naughty scenes (as an 18+ viewing) first time around, clocked over 80 million viewers in 2020 and Series 2 is based on writer Julia Quinn’s second book in her ‘Bridgerton’ Series.
In the latest, we see the mixed race Indian Sharma sisters Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran) stuck in a love triangle with Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest Bridgerton brother.
Writer Chris Van Dusen has also included a track from the 2001 Bollywood classic, ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…’.
At the show’s premiere in London yesterday (March 22), Ashley and Chandran spoke to presenter Clara Amfo about how the Sharma sisters fit into the show, with Ashley saying: “There’s no one quite like them in the sisterhood that they share”, and Chandran adding, “what’s unique about the Sharma sisters is that they grow up in isolation. They only have each other so it’s an exploration of sisterhood”.
Shonda Rhimes, creator and showrunner for the series, told Amfo that she first came up with the idea for the show when she found the Bridgerton books on holiday after running out of titles to read. She added that “they felt universal, and the way they spoke about women was modern and of the period. I had to bring them to life”.
Although the show is back, there are two major differences to the first series; the Duke of Hastings, played by Rege-Jean Page announced his departure from the show last year; and there is a dearth of the spicy scenes that helped to make its name first time around. Critics who have seen previews say the physical side of romance only gets a play towards the end of this six-part run.
Fresh from India, the Sharmas have returned to London after their aristocratic mother Mary (Shelley Conn) fell in love with a clerk, whilst Anthony has decided to settle down and find a sensible wife, after his promiscuity in season one. In his own words, he wants a wife who is “tolerable, dutiful, with suitable hips for childbearing and half a brain”.
Named the new ‘Diamond of the Season’, Anthony’s prime candidate is the polite and goodhearted Edwina, but Kate makes it her duty to stop the courtship between them when she thinks he’s not good enough for her sister. As the series progresses, Anthony and Kate’s war of words escalates, and they begin to form an unlikely romance of their own, but will it be to the detriment of Edwina?
Actor Simone Ashley told Glamour magazine: “She listens to her own instincts and she’s not easily swayed by what everyone else is doing….we meet her in different vulnerable moments and discover her background a little bit more and the family trauma that she holds. There’s a lot of common cause for an audience to relate to her.”
Filmed in the Georgian city of Bath, Ashley only had positive things to say of the setting: “Oh, my God. It’s so beautiful. It’s like London as if it was untouched”.
From Surrey, the Tamil Indian heritage actor is best known for playing Olivia in ‘Sex Education’ (2019), as well as appearing in crime drama ‘Broadchurch’ (2013), before which she attended ArtsEd, one of the top Drama schools in the UK. She has spent time in California, both growing up and more recently and admires both ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ star Freida Pinto and US star Mindy Kaling, who is a writer-director-producer, and best known for ‘The Mindy Project’ (2012-2017) and is the showrunner for the Netflix smash, ‘Never Have I Ever’ which started in 2020.
Charithra Chandran, who is also from a Tamil background, started performing at a young age touring West End musicals, and is best known for her role in series 2 of spy thriller show ‘Alex Rider’ (2020), based on Anthony Horowitz’s novel series of the same name.
She said the inclusion of the tgrack from K3G as it is known colloquially, was a “collision of both her worlds”. Growing up, she said, she didn’t know quite how she fitted in, but the song showed her that both these worlds – that of her upbringing and identity and her work could co-exist in harmony.
She also talked about countering the belief among some, that she only got the part because they were looking for a brown actor to play Edwina. One of the factors that has made the series so popular has been its colour blind casting and its openness to talent.
Chandran also performed in the National Youth Theatre whilst studying Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford University, where she played Greek sorceress ‘Medea’ in her third year.
Author Julia Quinn is a New York Times bestselling author whose novels have been translated into 41 languages. Whilst training for medical school, it wasn’t until her first Regency novels, ‘Splendid’ (1995) and ‘Dancing at Midnight’ (1995) were sold at auction that she decided to become a full time writer. The first and second books of ‘The Bridgerton Series’ were written in 2000, and are two of eight books in the series.
Sub-plots in this series sees Claudia Jessie reprise her role as proto-feminist Eloise who has discovered women’s rights advocate Mary Wollstonecraft and rages against the roles of women when she is of ‘coming out’ age.
The younger Bridgerton brothers Benedict (Luke Thompson) and Colin (Luke Newton) make some comic appearances, with Colin having just returned from his Grand Tour, or Gap Year.
Lead picture: Kate (Simone Ashley) and Edwina (Charithra Chandran) with Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey)
The new series can be streamed from Friday (March 25) on Netflix