This story was originally published in April 2022
Dear gentle reader. . .
The current royal family may be embroiled in all sorts of scandals and sagas. But whom among the Cambridges, Sussexes and Yorks can command quite the same attention as the monarch who rules the roost in Bridgerton?
No, dearest reader, it is unlikely anyone can match the presence of Queen Charlotte. Little wonder then that queen of TV Shonda Rhimes announced last year that we’d be seeing more of the magnificent monarch in a show devoted entirely to the character she calls “the Beyoncé of the show”.
The prequel will centre on a young Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton and the cast playing their younger versions were recently revealed. At the end of March they started doing table reads, which means the show is now in production although no release date has been set.
READ MORE | Bridgerton series author Julia Quinn never imagined her books would be turned into a hit Netflix show
Golda Rosheuvel, Adjoa Andoh and Ruth Gemmell, who play the current Charlotte, Lady Danbury and Violet respectively, will feature alongside their younger versions. In the series we’ll see how the queen’s marriage to King George was a great love match – and one that changed the society in which Bridgerton is set in more ways than one.
The Bridgerton universe has been a huge hit for Netflix and the show’s second season, which premiered 25 March, broke viewership records. It clocked more than 251 million viewing hours in the first seven days of its release – the most-watched English language series in the streaming giant’s history.
“It will be interesting to delve in and see some backstory,” Golda (52) says. “I know questions are being asked about her.”
Golda is as comfortable on screen as she is on the stage but may easily have skipped the arts if her dreams of being an athlete came true.
She was born in Guyana in South America to a Guyanese father and English mother and moved to the UK with her family when she was about five. Golda is dyslexic and battled at school but was good at athletics – at one point she wanted to be a decathlon athlete and compete at the Olympics. But an ankle injury ended that dream so she turned to acting.
After high school she did a drama diploma at a college then studied musical theatre at London Studio Centre.
She was proud to play the first female Othello in an adaptation of the Shakespeare play in 2018. “It’s amazing to be a black gay actress playing a gay role,” she said in an interview then. “I’m playing Othello as a woman and she happens to be married to a woman.”
Golda is gay and her partner of nine years, playwright and writer Shireen Mula, helped her to do an audition for the queen’s role after she’d originally auditioned to play Lady Danbury.
She’s delighted to portray Queen Charlotte and feels the controversy around her being a black monarch is good. There was a huge outcry after the first season of the show about the historical accuracy of a person of colour being the queen of England who is based on a real person, unlike the other characters in the show.
Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz married King George III and ruled the UK between 1761 and 1818. There has been questions around her heritage but nobody can confirm that she’s mixed race.
The show has done society a great service in opening the door to these conversations, Golda believes. “I am a dual heritage: my mother was white and English and my father black and Guyanese. And all my career, because of the colour of my skin, I have played black roles.”
Now she gets to represent her mother’s heritage, she says. “I get to be involved in a period drama that I never really saw myself doing because there weren’t any black people being cast in those roles. So to get the opportunity to play a queen – I celebrate that.”
She also loves that Bridgerton celebrates so many strong women. “There is a beautiful kind of quality between the women in the show. Yes, of course in name the queen holds status, but I think all the women are on the same level and there’s a real community that makes them, in a sense, all high status. There isn’t a hierarchy in the way they interact – there’s real girl power there.”
A diamond of the first water, wouldn’t you agree, dear reader?
Lady Agatha Danbury (nobody dare use her first name in the show) isn’t one to trifle with. British actress Adjoa Andoh (59) draws on every iota of her theatre experience to bring to life the indominable character who can bring even the most imperious of dukes to their knees.
Adjoa loves her character. “She’s a survivor,” she says. “She has a great lust for life. She likes to satisfy her appetites, be it a gorgeous frock, a good smoke, a great brandy, dancing or beating all the other mamas at playing the game.
“But we see Lady Danbury thinking she’s got things sewn up, and then events overtake her, and she suddenly has to go, ‘Right. So I’m not in control of everything. What are you going to do?’”
Lady Violet Bridgerton is the mother of the children who are at the heart of the current series. Ruth Gemmel (54), the British actress who plays Violet, has appeared in several TV shows, including Silent Witness. She loves playing mom to such a big brood on Bridgerton.
“The family scenes are my absolute favourite,” she says. “We often film the scenes with all eight of the Bridgerton family’s children, meaning it’s utter chaos but always fun. We all spend a lot of time laughing and it’s always a lovely atmosphere. I honestly love those children like they’re my own.”
Queen Charlotte’s wigs are practically characters in their own right. They were so heavy Golda needed a brace to help her neck to bear the weight while filming. “It gets linked onto the chair and I can lean back on it and it comes around and I can just literally rest my chin,” she says.
The wigs are important to her. “There are lots of fittings, lots of discussions, lots of creating the look actually on my head in the room. I’m definitely in a relationship with the wigs.”
SOURCES: NETFLIX, SHONDALAND.COM, GOOD HOUSEKEEPING, VARIETY, TOWN & COUNTRY, DIGITALSPY.COM, THE GUARDIAN, HARPER’S BAZAAR, LIVERPOOLQUEERCOLLECTIVE.CO.UK