Simone Ashley who plays the role of Kate Sharma in the second season of Bridgerton has also worked on another great Netflix show, Sex Education. She plays the love interest for Anthony Bridgerton in this new episode as well as one of the most talented and head strong woman of TV.
Q. Given that the first season of Bridgerton was such a huge success, what has it felt like joining the cast this season?
Simone Ashley: It’s been really exciting. I’m just really grateful to be a part of it. I remember hearing about the first season when it came out around Christmastime, and I was actually filming for Sex Education then. We were all in the car and everyone was discussing Bridgerton and talking about watching it, so to now be offered an opportunity to be a part of it is just really, really exciting. I found out I got the role when I was working on another project and couldn’t tell anyone at first. I was so excited.
Q. Bridgerton has an amazing built-in fan base from the novels who get so excited for every aspect of the show. How does Season Two balance staying true to the books while also expanding the story in new and exciting ways?
Simone Ashley: One of the most exciting changes is that they have created this new family coming to the ton — a South Asian family. In the books, my character is known as Kate Sheffield, but in the series we have introduced her as Kate Sharma. Kate is really well-known and loved by fans of the book series. She’s a strong, independent, fiery, smart, intelligent woman, and I think those were the key aspects I wanted to bring to the character; someone who really uses her brain, and is quite smart and has decorum, but also feels this pull to follow her heart.
Q. Bridgerton is known for being a very diverse and inclusive show. What has it meant to you to play a leading lady as a South Asian actor?
Simone Ashley: It’s been incredible. And I think that’s really down to our incredible writers and showrunner, Chris Van Dusen, who was adamant about encouraging a diverse writers’ room. I’m really grateful for that, because it just shows that having a thought, an idea, then ripples out and has led to me sitting here.
Q. Kate is so sharp, and so quick to speak her mind. Has it been exciting to play a leading lady like Kate?
Simone Ashley: Absolutely. Kate also holds a lot of power with silence. She does choose her battles a bit, and there are moments when she does keep quiet to stick to her plan; to not ruffle too many feathers; to keep her decorum. There’s a lot of power within that as well. She’s just incredibly smart, and she’s got her priorities figured out. She’s also wise and has humility; she knows she’s not perfect, and doesn’t always steer the ship perfectly. I really like that about her, too.
Q. Can you talk about Kate’s role within her family, and the Sharmas’ dynamic?
Simone Ashley: It’s a very female-heavy dynamic. We’ve got Kate, her younger sister Edwina, and their mother Mary. Unfortunately they lost their father a while ago. Sometimes a death in the family can split a family apart, but luckily it’s brought the three of them together. Kate’s taken on the role of caring for Mary and Edwina, and I think she can be quite controlling. She tends to make decisions on everyone else’s behalf a little bit, which can be a good thing and a bad thing. Mary is still processing and grieving the loss of her husband, and there’s a lot of trauma for her coming back to England and facing the ton. That puts a lot of responsibility onto Kate, to take care of Edwina and make sure she’s being married off in the right way. She feels a lot of duty as the other sibling. Kate’s not come to London wanting a husband or to be married herself, so she is totally focused on Edwina.
Q. One of this season’s lovely emotional centres is the theme of sisterhood. Can you tell us about the special relationship that Kate and Edwina (Charithra Chandran) share?
Simone Ashley: To be in a different country, and to have someone who understands you and knows you from your home, and to share nostalgic memories with — someone who’s like your best friend — is a really special relationship. It’s very rooting and grounding; it’s really sweet and lovely. Kate and Edwina adore each other no matter what their differences are. They have very different personalities, but really appreciate each other for that.
Q. Can you talk about Kate’s internal conflict with her sense of duty and doing what is expected of her, and how she grapples with that?
Simone Ashley: Kate can sometimes feel the weight of the world on her shoulders as the elder sister in the family; she has a lot of responsibility, very similarly to Anthony. She feels a lot of conflict about that, because she did lose her father — she’s lost both of her biological parents — so in that way she’s a bit of a lone wolf. She hasn’t ever put herself first and dealt with her own trauma. And she definitely does run away from confronting all of those feelings. I think she finds it easier to put other people first.
Q. Kate and Anthony Bridgerton’s (Jonathan Bailey) relationship is a complex series of misunderstandings, frustrations, and denial. Can you talk to us about their dynamic this season?
Simone Ashley: Sometimes when you meet someone who has qualities that you see within yourself, they can frustrate and annoy you. That’s what happens a lot with Kate and Anthony; it takes one to know one, and they are incredibly similar. They’re forced to spend a lot of time with each other because of the situation and how it all pans out, and soon that frustration turns into something a bit more playful; a bit more tender. There are all these things that they find annoying about each other, but it’s because they hold a mirror up to one another. They’ve both lost their fathers, and they’re both incredibly heartbroken and still processing all the 28 feelings that have come with that. That’s led them both to make some questionable choices, as we’ve seen in Season One with Anthony. It’s a really special thing to meet someone who has the same kind of fears as you, the same kind of heartbreak as you. You can see all the madness that other people might get quite intimidated by, but can also see the good person beneath all of that. When Anthony loses his temper and pushes people away, it’s really special to meet someone who’s going to say, “You can push me away as much as you want, but I’m not going anywhere.”
Q. Kate has a particularly interesting dynamic with Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), who’s sponsoring the Sharmas this season. Can you tell us about their relationship?
Simone Ashley: Kate’s used to getting her own way as the eldest in the family, but they’ve come to stay at Lady Danbury’s house, which is not her home. Kate is a guest there, and she’s very much aware of that. She can’t always have her own way; she can’t have as much control. And Lady Danbury does put Kate in her place a bit. Kate meets her match, and she’s forced to accept a few things and listen and take advice, and to be told that she’s wrong, and to be guided. Kate does fight with Lady Danbury, but she also respects Lady Danbury and listens to her. That was a really fun dynamic to play with Adjoa.
Q. Kate gets to go to some incredible balls this season. What was it like filming those lavish scenes?
Simone Ashley: It’s been such a pleasure. They’re incredibly beautiful scenes to shoot and everyone works so hard to make them happen. It’s the dancers who really nail it. They’re all incredibly talented, wonderful people, and they’re on set all day long repeating those dances again and again. And they slam it every single time. I thought that learning the choreography was going to be really hard, because I get a bit nervous about dancing sometimes, but our choreographer Sean “Jack” Murphy broke it down step by step. Whenever we wanted a rehearsal, we could go into the studios and rehearse. By the time it’s in your body, you just kind of enjoy it, and it’s all about the scene and the connection with your dance partner. It’s the gloves that make it. You’ll be in the studios and you’re in your trackies or whatever rehearsing, and then you come on set and you’re in your dress and your shoes and your corset and everything, your hair and your wig and your makeup. And as soon as you have the gloves on, there’s something about it.
Q. Have there been any particularly fun memories from shooting this season?
Simone Ashley: I always refer to the Royal Races. That was my first week filming and it was a pretty perfect first week, because it was beautiful, gorgeous weather and we were all together, and it was my first taste of the Bridgerton world. I just loved that scene because it’s the first time we see Kate play and cheer on the horses and rip her gloves off and get a bit cheeky and make a bet. You start seeing that side of her. The ton looks at her and thinks she’s a spinster, and bossy, but in this scene she really lets go
Q. What was it like to film the famous Pall Mall scene at Aubrey Hall, and why is that scene so important for Kate and Anthony’s relationship?
Simone Ashley: It was really fun, we basically played it in real life, so there was a lot of screaming. They’re both very sporty people; he fences, she’s a great rider, and they’re both incredibly competitive. The Pall Mall game forces them to play and get out of their duties as the older siblings; forget about their responsibilities and to just play with one another. That’s when they find these moments of laughter, and falling in the mud, and finding common cause. And that’s annoying when you’re like, “Oh, I actually really don’t like you, but you’re making me laugh and loosen up.” They’re forced to let go.
The Movie Culture Synopsis
Bridgeton season 2 is streaming on Netflix.