Simone Ashley: ‘Bridgerton is empowering women of colour’

Simone Ashley, who plays the fiercely independent Kate Sharma in the new season of Bridgerton, found a lot to relate to in her character – a young woman who doesn’t have time for love and who struggles when she’s confronted with it.

“I’m still on that same journey, learning that balance between being serious and brave and headstrong and heartstrong, but also sharing space and relating to people and letting people in,” says 27-year-old Ashley.

Season 2, which arrived on Netflix in late March, centers on Kate and her little sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran), who have travelled with their mother from India to find a husband for the younger Sharma daughter. But Kate ends up developing feelings for Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the viscount who has been courting Edwina, and tries her best to deny those emotions.

Although this season contains notably fewer steamy scenes than the first, it still serves up plenty of juicy gossip, extravagant style and instrumental pop covers, as well as several nods to South Asian culture.

Ashley, who grew up in England, had a breakout role in Sex Education, a Netflix comedy that follows the lives of high school students, but Bridgerton is her first time playing a lead character in a major production. In a video interview last week, Ashley spoke about establishing chemistry with her co-star and the importance of representation on screen. This conversation has been condensed and edited.

Q: Which were your favorite scenes from this season of “Bridgerton”?

A: I love the scene where Kate and Anthony dance for the first time. And the bee-sting scene – I think that’s such a pivot in the story. The stakes are really raised, and they realise they have feelings for one another and that there’s this obstacle now between everything that they’ve worked for. And, I love all the horse-riding scenes.

Q: What was the most awkward scene to shoot?

A There were never any awkward moments. Uncomfortable, maybe. With the mud scene, we were just covered in mud all day long, but we got really accustomed to it by the second take. I try not to ever indulge in thoughts of feeling awkward or uncomfortable. I just tried to get on with it and find the positives and see it as a challenge and have fun with it so that I can leave and know that I did my best.

Q: As a viewer, the chemistry between Kate and Anthony was palpable. What was it like when you first met Jonathan Bailey?

A: We met for our chemistry read, and it was so bizarre. We sat on a sofa, and we did three scenes. I think we did the horse-riding scene where Kate and Anthony first meet, the library scene and, God, I can’t remember the last one. We just clicked.

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