Simone Ashley, who plays the fiercely independent Kate Sharma in the new season of ‘Bridgerton’, found a lot in her character: a young woman who has no time for love and who struggles when confronted with it.
“I’m still on that same journey, learning that balance between being serious and courageous and opinionated and genuine, but also sharing space and interacting with people and letting people in,” said Ms. Ashley, 27.
Season 2, which aired on Netflix in late March, centers on Kate and her little sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran), who have traveled from India with their mother to find a husband for the younger Sharma daughter. But Kate develops feelings for Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the Viscount Edwina courted, and does her best to deny those emotions.
While this season features significantly fewer steamy scenes than the first, it still offers plenty of juicy gossip, extravagant style and instrumental pop covers, as well as several nods to South Asian culture.
Ms Ashley, who grew up in England, had a breakthrough role in ‘Sex Education’, a Netflix comedy that follows the lives of high school students, but ‘Bridgerton’ marks her first time starring in a major production. In a video interview last week, the actress spoke about creating chemistry with her co-star and the importance of onscreen representation. This conversation has been truncated and edited.
What were your favorite scenes from this season of “Bridgerton”?
I like the scene where Kate and Anthony dance for the first time. And the bee sting scene – I think that’s such a pivot to the story. The stakes are really raised, and they realize that they have feelings for each other and that there is now an obstacle between everything they’ve worked for. And I love all the riding scenes.
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What was the most awkward scene to film?
There were never any awkward moments. Uncomfortable, maybe. With the mud scene we were just covered in mud all day, but on the second take we really got used to it. I try never to give in to thoughts of feeling uncomfortable or uncomfortable. I was just trying to go ahead and find the positives and see it as a challenge and have fun with it so I can leave and know I did my best.
As a viewer, the chemistry between Kate and Anthony was palpable. What was it like when you first met Jonathan Bailey?
We met for our chemistry class, and it was so bizarre. We sat on a couch and did three scenes. I think we did the horseback riding scene where Kate and Anthony first met, the library scene and, God, I can’t remember the last one. It just clicked.
How were the intimacy coordinators?
We worked with Lizzy Talbot, who was a great intimacy coordinator. She really encouraged us to show what it’s like for a woman to be empowered and to communicate that feeling that she knows what she wants. And that’s what I loved about Kate – she’s always been a woman who’s very self-aware, and I think she’s incredibly sexy in that sense. She has a sense of spirit in her that so enraptures Anthony, and it’s such a safe space for her to share that with him and have fun with it and have fun on her own.
I found it incredibly empowering, especially as a woman of color. I am so proud of my body and I love my body. I’m thankful it’s healthy and strong enough to get up every day and do the things I need to do.
What were the great romantic books or movies that influenced how you look at love?
I grew up watching a lot of Disney classics, a lot of classic movies and a lot of musicals. I think we all love to see people overcome whatever it is in life that gets in the way of following their hearts.
Which heroines did you look up to?
There was something about Uma Thurman’s character in “Kill Bill” that I didn’t quite understand, but was entranced by. She was a woman who was so focused on her goal, which was to have her baby and also to get revenge, but we won’t go into that. I thought she was so serious and conquered everything, physically or mentally. And I remember being a kid and seeing that – really inspired by her.
Women of color online have talked about how much it means to them to see you, a dark Indian woman, star in such a highly watched Netflix show. What does that mean to you?
I am so grateful and overwhelmed with the response we have received. I’m very proud of my heritage, and I’m proud that there have been some effects that I’ve had just that I’m doing my job, especially if they’re positive, and cheer up other women and make them feel like they’re seen .
The conversation about race in “Bridgerton” seems to have two sides. Some say it has worked wonders for representationwhile others claim that color blind casting is not used to create one taller point in the series. How do you view the representation in the series?
It is 100 percent color conscious casting and not color blind. We recognize the fact that these characters are Indian and they are women of color, but it’s done so beautifully because when the Sharmas arrive they fit in so seamlessly. It is not noticeable that they are from India. And it is celebrated in so many different ways. We certainly weren’t brought to this series as two Tamil women to completely ignore that. It is fully celebrated in everything from the costumes to the makeup to the storyline to the scenes.
Many South Asian viewers loved the show’s nods to Indian culture, including talks about chai, the fabric from which Sharmas dresses were made, and the inclusion of ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’ in the soundtrack. Did any of these moments in particular stay with you?
I like the scene where Kate applies coconut oil to Edwina’s hair. That scene is one such shift in the storyline where you see Edwina’s frustration and determination to become the Viscountess. That’s where Kate begins to lose control and Edwina begins to take charge of this plan. Everything changes at that moment, but at the same time it happens to be a scene where Kate applies coconut oil to Edwina’s hair. I’m sure women from so many different backgrounds resonate with it. It’s such an intimate moment between two women – two sisters – that many women can relate to.
What is your passion outside of acting?
I love singing. I Love Cooking. I am quite sporty and very outdoors. The perfect day for me would be to just spend hours in the sun and go for a swim.
How was fashion week?
I love fashion. I love clothes. It’s part of my job that I’m so privileged and grateful that I get to explore this. I learned so much about myself and fashion in general along the way. And I love the few red carpet moments I’ve had. It becomes all the more exciting to think: what am I going to do now? And what kind of things do I want to investigate? What message or feelings do I want to convey?
Who would you like to collaborate with?
I have a few. I’d say Greta Gerwig, Quentin Tarantino, Mimi Cave. Jeremy O. Harris is brilliant. I could go on, but I’ll leave it at that.