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Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte, Golda Rosheuvel: ‘We are presenting the world we are living in today’

Bridgerton shapes the way we view Britishness says Golda Rosheuvel, who reigns over the Netflix phenomenon as Queen Charlotte.

Black aristocracy has always existed but is rarely depicted in period cinema or TV.

This land of Bridgerton is like no other we’ve seen before, hardly historically accurate in the narrative but a smart and relatable reimagining of what London could have looked like circa 1813.

At this time in history, many well-educated and well-to-do Africans were travelling to the UK by ship. Regency England had an estimated 30,000 Black residents. Ranger’s House in Greenwich, which doubles for the Bridgerton’s home, is located close to where Ignatius Sancho, the first Black British voter, lived.

Queen Charlotte, one of the few real-life character depictions in the show, may well have had African ancestry in her bloodline.

Actor Golda Rosheuvel grew up with the best of both worlds, born in Guyana, raised in the Home Counties of England. She rules the pack with wit and playfulness (and just a little regal intimidation).

She is, in the world of Bridgerton, the sun around which all the other characters orbit.

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The Big Issue: Do people say hello to the Queen when you walk down the street?

Golda Rosheuvel: No, I don’t get recognised. It’s quite nice. If I’m not in the wigs and the costume, people don’t spot me. It’s very rare that I get noticed, as I talk differently, dress completely differently and my whole persona is different in real life.

Did you anticipate the impact of the show when you were filming it?

We didn’t. We were making a show about a single mother who was bringing up eight children in the Regency era, and all of the things she had to juggle with society. Even with season two, it felt the same while shooting. But now, the pressure is on!

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On Twitter, your character of Queen Charlotte caused quite the uproar, and the comparisons to Meghan Markle were rife [it was only days after Bridgerton’s premiere that Harry and Meghan announced they were stepping back from senior royal duties].

I didn’t see any of that. It’s a funny thing because we are all human, and Meghan is simply a human being trying to live her life with her family and children. She is faced with backlash from the decision that she’s made with her husband and it’s on a different scale to you or I, with my taking on this role that has an interesting history and dialogue about it. I am open to all discussions in life, negative and positive. From that, there’s a wonderful world that we can fictionally create.

All hail to the makers and the writers’ room and their question: what if. What if we put Queen Charlotte into the mix? How do we create an inclusive and diverse world that represents the world we are living in today? Placing her in that world pushed those barriers open. It made a bigger playing space for Black and brown artists to exist; to live a life of joy, of excitement, even of scandal, of love, of sexuality, and put it into the world for people to relate to.

This is the Midas touch of Shonda Rhimes. Charlotte is all glitz and glamour on the outside, but you see behind the scenes. You see that she’s a human being with vulnerabilities.

BRIDGERTON GOLDA ROSHEUVEL as QUEEN CHARLOTTE Photo: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

LGBTQ+ depictions are often wrong in TV and in cinema. Is this also the case in Bridgerton?

There’s a journey that we all have to go on, as artists. It is one of struggle, but this struggle opens doors to positivity and opportunity. If something doesn’t go my way, casting wise for example, I always think about what I can do to turn it into a positive. The depiction of sexuality, of race, of gender, definitely has a long way to go. There’s a big learning process. The Crown, Emma, these shows paved the way for Bridgerton, because they did not have representation. That’s the reason we are doing what we are doing – we have turned the negative into a positive with this show.

We learn from where there was no representation. I mean, I have wonderful, brilliant actor friends in Downton Abbey. But with this show, we are presenting the world we are living in today and we have seasons three and four in the works, and a spin-off too, to keep working on.

The idea of quintessential Britishness is something the show explores. What are your thoughts on that?

Britishness to me, is my mother and father and my family. I’m a British citizen, I’m a biracial person. I was brought up with listening to classical music, having a passion for horse riding, taking afternoon tea with cucumber sandwiches and visiting manor houses with my English mother.

The Englishness of that exists, but the bigger picture here is about multiculturalism and identity. This show celebrates both the garden parties and balls, and also the vibrant diversity that this country should celebrate more.

Do you think that the period genre will be different, now Bridgerton has opened up this side of history?

The conversation will never be the same, especially with casting, and hopefully will spill through into other aspects of drama, comedy, fantasy, sci-fi and other genres too.

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Bridgerton addresses the hustle of life – one family has inherited riches, the other is struggling and has to grapple for it.

My partner [writer Shireen Mula] and I always talk about the characters and storylines in the show and how these gorgeous young women are trained to get married, and it was glorified and celebrated. Some would say she’s like a piece of meat being lorded around, around all these men.

And then there is Eloise Bridgerton who says “fuck this shit”, that she wants to be a writer and doesn’t want to get married. Each is celebrated in the most human form. The families are being looked at and investigated, the clash between old and new money, but it’s done in a gaudy, sexy period drama.

Season two introduces a South Asian family, with two leads that are exactly the same background as me, British Tamils. Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran are dark-skinned girls too. I was delighted.

The moment I saw Shelly, Simone and Charithra on screen, it was emotional. My heart was full. I dare anyone to say it is not right, and not beautiful and glorious. I’m so proud.

Do you have a message you’d like to share with The Big Issue?

I don’t want to patronise. The journey is your journey. Nobody else can tell you where to go, what to do, where to walk, what to see. However the journey is walked, own it. Cherish it. Believe in it and believe that it can and will be better. You are in control of your journey.

The second series of Bridgerton is available on Netflix from March 25

This article is taken from The Big Issue magazine out this week. Support your local vendor by buying today! If you cannot reach your local vendor, you can still click HERE to subscribe to The Big Issue today or give a gift subscription to a friend or family member. You can also purchase one-off issues from The Big Issue Shop or The Big Issue app, available now from the App Store or Google Play.

@AshantiOmkar

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