Interview: Simone Ashley on Bridgerton, diversity, and future projects

Join Monaco Life’s Cassandra Tanti as she sits down with Simone Ashley, the captivating actress who dazzled audiences in Bridgerton Season Two and took home the prestigious International Golden Nymph Most Promising Talent award at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival.

Simone Ashley is a rising British actress who gained widespread recognition for her role as Kate Sharma in the second season of the hit Netflix series Bridgerton. The series was so popular that it landed on Netflix’s Top 10 Most Popular List in the English TV category, amassing an impressive 94 million views within the first three months on the platform.

Before her breakout role in Bridgerton, she appeared in various television shows and films, including Sex Education and the movie Pokémon Detective Pikachu.

Ashely was recently in Monaco to accept her awards at the opening ceremony of the Monte-Carlo Television Festival. 

How does it feel to be the belle of the ball here at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival? 

Oh, wow. That’s so sweet when you say it that way. I’m really excited and really honoured to here and I’m having the best time. 

You shot to fame as Kate Sharma on Season Two of Bridgeton. Tell us how you landed that role, and did you ever imagine that it would become the absolute phenomenon that it has?

Well, because Season One had already come out and the world had been introduced to Bridgeton, and it really did leave a mark on the world, everyone was already cheering us on loudly. So yes, I think in theory, I did know how big it was going to be. 

But I didn’t know emotionally what that meant until I actually experienced it. I think I preferred it that way, it was better to be oblivious. I spent 11 months doing Season Two during the Covid times, so it was nice to not have the pressure emotionally.

I got the part of Kate Sharma after I did a few self-tapes and had a chemistry read with Jonathan. I remember getting in to the car afterwards to go home feeling quite excited, thinking to myself that I really wanted to get this. 

Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey in Bridgerton Season Two

Well, you and Jonathan Bailey definitely have a lot chemistry. How do you prepare for those kind of things? You’re still quite young actress, so I imagine this is the first time you went from doing children’s roles to being quite steamy and spicy. 

As you said, I’ve matured now, so I think that comes with emotional maturity. It’s about conveying a relationship, a story and a message to the world. We worked with intimacy coordinator Lizzie Talbot, who helped us choreograph the scenes almost like a stunt, so you feel really safe and you know what you are doing when you go on set. The purpose is to convey an emotion and to really perform something as honestly possible, but with certain restrictions, so the actors feel comfortable. 

I’m interested to know how actresses and actors like yourself watch back the series… Do you grab a tub of popcorn and binge watch it like the rest of us? 

It really depends. This year, Season Three, I watched most of it on my phone because I was traveling and filming something else, so if I had some time I would just watch as much as possible in a corner.

Season Two, I did manage to have some time to watch it on my TV at home. We received it quite shortly after we wrapped up filming, so we could get an understanding of what we were about to share with the world. 

As an Indian woman, how does feel to take part a series that is breaking so much ground when it comes to clichéd topics like race, gender and redefining beauty? This must be something that you’re proud of? 

I am so proud, because we all know how this world has worked and how it continues to work sometimes. But I just think brown/dark skin is so gorgeous and, like, “Duh, of course!” (smiles).

So, when people ask how does it feel, I say I feel great, I think I look great, I think my skin looks great, and I am here to root for all brown girls, black girls, all of us. We are beautiful in our own right and never let anyone tell us otherwise. 

Representation is important, especially for the younger generation. What we see is really powerful, and the more that we can see ourselves on the screen, and the more diversity we see, it helps us connect with each other in the world, and how we think about ourselves and our own ambitions. I’m so proud to be a part of the dark skin girl club. 

You were named one of Variety’s 2021 Brits To Watch, and now you’ve received the International Golden Nymph for Most Promising Talent. What does this kind of recognition do for your career? 

It’s a huge privilege, and think it’s a really interesting experience. It hasn’t altered the way that I approach my work, in the sense that I just truly want to make smart decisions and be part of work that I’m proud of and feel that the world needs to see. 

I think for movies, seeing a dark skin leading woman is something that we are still working towards and I’m just really proud to be a part of that movement. 

I have two movies coming out this year, one is more culturally specific but it’s a rom-com, and growing up I never saw a girl that looked like me leading a rom-com. I love romcoms! I produced it with 42 M&P and it’s coming out on Prime this summer. I’m just so proud that this one is for the brown girls; we deserve to see ourselves get the guy and be that Bridget Jones kind of character. 

I’m also doing a psychological thriller, which is coming out this year, and that one is very non-culturally specific. I remember reading the script and I wasn’t sure if they were going to cast me, because it is a psychological thriller inspired by true events and it is essentially a woman’s journey after a very traumatic incident, about her finding her strength again. It was her family that chose me. So, it means a lot and I’m really nervous and excited to share that with the world. 

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