Shondaland handles the multicultural aspects of ‘Bridgerton’ 2 with commendable sensitivity

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma with Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma with Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Published Apr 2, 2022


Before delving into Shondaland’s second outing with “Bridgerton”, where I got to be part of a press panel interviewing leads Jonathan Bailey (Anthony) and Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran, who are cast as the Sharma sisters, Kate and Edwina, respectively, let me address the elephant in the room.

This past week, there has been some noise about there not being “Indian representation” at Netflix’s recently-held “Bridgerton” soiree.

I was even tagged on social media for corroboration of this false narrative. I was invited but due to me being in Cape Town for another work engagement, I declined.

And if you didn’t crack the guest list, deal with it. Stop making it about race as it takes away from the casting of two great actresses, who are helping pave the way for minorities so that one day there will be little need for conversations around diversity.

Back to the chat with the show’s three leads, who were ( not sure if it was done deliberately) huddled together with Bailey sandwiched between Ashley and Chandran.

This season is based on “The Viscount Who Loved Me” by Julia Quinn, who is also the voice of Lady Whistledown.

In his interviews, creator and executive producer Chris Van Dusen went to great lengths to point out that this show “is a reimagined world”, where they pulled down racial divisions and introduced a society that was fully integrated.

When asked to provide their take on the multicultural aspects of the show and its relevance, Ashley responded: “So the whole world can relate and see themselves as part of this incredible story.

“I think that it’s important in this industry to represent minorities and to continue having that conversation so that eventually one day we can all sit here and not even have to answer that question.”

Shelley Conn as Mary Sharma, Charithra Chandran as Edwina Sharma and Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma in a scene from the second season of “Bridgerton”. Picture: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Her love interest in the show shared and supported her sentiments.

He said: “Yeah, it’s about empowerment. As an actor, you gravitate towards interesting stories. ‘Bridgerton’ is obviously incredible and it's putting romance and gives it an international platform that is beyond the literary that we love and know.

“But also as actors, you know that it is politically firm footed and doing something that empowers people and that makes it sweeter.”

Chandran added: “I think it's just more beautiful to look at. Quite literally it s more colourful and I think that visually makes it something more appealing.”

In season two, Kate and Edwina arrive with their mother Lady Mary Sheffield Sharma (Shelley Conn) as guests of Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) just in time for the new Ton season.

The objective is to find Edwina a love match and when Queen Charlotte chooses her as the “Diamond” this season, all the eligible bachelors make a beeline for Edwina, including Anthony.

But Kate, after overhearing a private conversation where he made it clear he wasn’t looking for love and merely someone to fulfil his Viscount obligations of producing an heir, becomes resentful of his pursuit of her sister and does everything in her power to discourage the union.

Expanding on Anthony’s state of mind, Bailey revealed: “I think he’s desolate. He’s given up hope and faith in himself. I think he feels that he needs to find a wife, purely to fulfil his duties.

“And we see flashbacks that show the trauma he has experienced and the unique relationship he has with his mother and with his siblings, where he has had to sort of be a surrogate father to them and it's kind of an interesting way to look at the romantic figure that we know.”

Fans looking forward to those steamy sex scenes that Regé-Jean Page delivered as Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, in the first season will be sorely disappointed.

There’s a much stronger feminism trope and Shondaland and her team ensured they handled the story of the Indian family with sensitivity.

It was most impressive when they included a scene of the hurdee night, which in Hindu tradition is where turmeric is applied to the bride and groom ahead of their nuptials.

The actors felt strongly about the messages their respective characters delivered.

Chandra, who has sadly been getting a lot of hate from streamers since the show debuted, said: “For me playing Edwina, especially for women, sometimes putting yourself first and acts of self-love takes immense bravery. You should be commended for putting yourself first at times.”

Bailey said: “You assume the role you were born into. But sometimes it’s important to stand back and question it and to align yourself with your heart and your head.”

Ashley chimed in: “And a lot of bravery - dare to be brave.”

The actors admitted to not being consumed by the pressures to match the success of the first season.

Bailey said: “I think there is a pressure when the books are so beloved and I read ‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’ before we started shooting season one. And I loved Anthony and Kate so the pressure was to do that justice.”

Chandra explained that her focus was on being in the moment.

She shared: “When you are in the moment and shooting the scene I don’t really think you are thinking about how is this going to end up, you are just so focused on being in the scene and giving it your all.

“I also think the story is so different that it doesn’t really warrant comparison.”

The mixed reactions to “Bridgerton” 2 aren’t unexpected.

Personally, I wasn’t blown away by this season. I felt it was too heavy on the drama and needed to be offset by more humour and passion.

But the one thing that Shondaland did get right was making sure she told a story that was authentic to her casting of the Sharma sisters, proving that colourism has no place in solid storytelling.

Love them or hate them, they do shake things up, on camera and off it.

“Bridgerton” 2 is currently streaming on Netflix.

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