In Bridgerton’s rarefied world, they are the ones who rule and control high society with their matchmaking and machinations.
At the very top is Queen Charlotte, monarch of Regency-era England (1811-1820) along with the ailing King George III. Every social season she declares her “diamond,” a young lady of impeccable lineage and character worthy of the attentions of the eligible lords looking for a suitable wife.
The queen herself is such a compelling character that Netflix and Shonda Rhimes’ production company Shondaland are creating a spinoff series all about her (details below).
Then there are the queen’s ladies: Lady Danbury is the matchmaker supreme, at the center of all the goings-on of the ton (high society); Lady Violet Bridgerton is the widowed mother of the eight Bridgerton siblings, who last season steered eldest daughter Daphne to a match with a dashing duke—this season she helps eldest son Anthony in his search for a viscountess.
I had a 3:1 online interview with these powerful Bridgerton matriarchs: Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte; Adjoa Andoh, who essays Lady Danbury; and Ruth Gemmell, who portrays Lady Violet. Here are excerpts from our chat:
How does each of you feel about your character’s arc this season?
RUTH GEMMELL: I'm really excited for mine. By the end of last season, we find out that Anthony intends to find his viscountess and that is his music to Violet’s ears, and then she realizes that he doesn't want to involve love in any way and she's crestfallen. So her arc is to try and navigate him towards finding love. And through that I get to explore a bit of my past and the reason why I am the way I am, and the way he is the way he is, and the way the family is the way it is. And that's really exciting for me.
GOLDA ROSHEUVEL: Yeah, me too. We find the queen at the beginning of the season still wondering whether Whistledown is in her sights. Also, we see a brief moment with the king, which is really great and how that affects Charlotte. And also the friendships that she has and how the three of us—Lady Danbury, Violet and the Queen—how they bond and a little bit of insight into what their history is and how they've related through the years and the secrets that they have and how they kind of manipulate the ton, so that's all very exciting.
ADJOA ANDOH: I'd say for Lady Danbury, she's had a very successful previous court season. Her godson, her beloved baby whom she raised and nurtured, has married lovely Daphne Bridgerton. And that's been a huge success. So you know that they're expecting and she's going to be a great godmother. That's all thrilling. She's very satisfied with that season, but her satisfaction in the offseason is broken by the knowledge that the Sharma family are coming back to court and Mary Sharma, the mother of the two girls who we will focus on this season, is an old friend who she did not stand by when she needed friends at court many years before, and Mary Sharma left court under a cloud. She's now returning because she has grownup girls who need to be presented at court, as all women of status would be in this era, and so Lady Danbury needs to turn all her significant strategies and talents and influence on helping that presentation at court goes smoothly, to get them before the Queen and to see how that might turn out in terms of their status within the court.
I’m getting a very strong female-empowerment message this season, and each of your characters embodies different facets of that. What do you find most empowering about your character and has playing her changed you personally in any way?
GOLDA: The most empowering for me is the Queen's vulnerability. We could see her as a one-dimensional character, with lovely frocks and wigs, and going to the balls and being a gossip and very kind of surface, but I'm really grateful that we see her private life, her humanity, so to play a full-rounded character is every actor’s dream.
RUTH: The most empowered I feel as Violet is when the stakes are high for her. So whether there's something immensely emotional going on, or whether I feel my son, for example, needs to be told the truth or when there's something that rocks the friendship of her and Lady Danbury, then she can be quite… well, normally she's kind of vivacious and kind of bubbling along and kind of skittish, but when the stakes are high, she it's almost like there's absolute clarity with what she has to say. And I wish as Ruth I could take that away, but I don't really do. (Laughs)
ADJOA: For Lady Danbury, I've been really thinking about this. Her whole reputation is predicated on her ability to get the job done, to get the marriage matches in place, to have knowledge about what's going on with the ton, to manipulate and strategize to her own benefit and to benefit those she is batting for.
And in this season, we see that slightly derailed and I think it's something that we all in life have to think about and for me, it is empowering. It's that thing of sometimes you push and push as hard as you can to get what you want in life. And sometimes it just doesn't happen. And there are moments when you have to surrender. You have to surrender and go, “I can do no more.”
So how do I reflect on that? What is the learning I get from that? And how do I move forward from it with this new knowledge and how do I use that to my benefit, rather than it just be a case of I didn't get what I wanted and I'm in mourning and I'm really fed up? You just have to surrender because you are not God and you cannot shift every mountain, so for me that's been the empowering takeaway from Lady Danbury’s arc this season.
What was your favorite scene to shoot and why?
GOLDA: I think the scene with George is really powerful. I don't get many of them so when they come it's really, really beautiful.
The other scene is the one with Edwina where two women stand together, one at the beginning of her life, at the beginning of her experience of the ton; another who has been there, done it, is part of it, has created it. I wanted that scene to be not mother, daughter or student—I wanted both of us to be senseis. Both of us to have some kind of spiritual empowerment, spiritual learning together and those scenes for me are really special. And working with Charithra as well is just sensational. She's a beautiful storyteller. Exquisite actress.
RUTH: I always love my scenes with my family… always love them. They are just joyous. And in particular this season, I have some very vulnerable scenes with Anthony and I just relish doing those that I think it's a gift as an actor to have. Have a moment where you show the human frailties of life, and I've really relished those.
ADJOA: For me, there are a couple of scenes with lovely Simone, who plays Kate, that I really love. There's one where I'm in her bedroom with her and she's talking about, “Can I be an unmarried woman and just live my life on my own as long as I sort my sister out—that's all that matters.” And Lady Danbury says, “Life doesn't have to be self-sacrificing for you as a woman. You can be married to the wrong person and life can be very lonely within the wrong relationship. And an independent woman can still have a fabulous life.”
I'm not saying that those things aren't possible, but an independent woman is a choice. We have choices that we have to make for our life. And I think what Lady Danbury is saying to Kate is “Choose yourself.” That's not the exclusion of everybody. But you have to choose you to love yourself. If you don't love yourself, if you don't value yourself, how can you actually share that with other people? So I find that a really moving moment.
On a similar theme, there's a moment on a balcony with Kate late at night where Lady Danbury is continuing to push at her and say, “What is your truth? Speak your truth. We all have to speak our truth and anything else is disastrous for you if you're not true to yourself.”
And then, of course, giggling with Lady B while hiding from the Queen after the wedding—(laughter)—that was also fabulous to do because look at us: the three of us are terrible corpses, so to just have a moment to legitimately be laughing on camera was quite nice.
GOLDA: It’s so wonderful to hear. As I'm listening, each of us have similar things, similar teaching moments with different parts of the story.
Golda, I read that you have a spinoff series for Queen Charlotte. What can you tell us about that?
GOLDA: Yes, well, we all are in it: Lady Danbury’s in it, Violet’s in it, we'll see our younger selves. It's an origin story. And it's in the world of Bridgerton, so it will be fascinating to see how us girls have grown up and come to the place that we are as you see us in Bridgerton. It's written by Shonda Rhimes, which is thrilling.
Yas, Queen! If it’s anywhere near as good as Bridgerton—and with Shonda Rhimes at the helm, for sure it will be—I’m there.
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Bridgerton Season 2 starts streaming on Netflix March 25.