Bridgerton’s Simone Ashley on Playing Kate Sharma

When Bridgerton viewers last encountered the titular family, the attention of “the ton”—the upper echelon of society—and Lady Whistledown was firmly focused on the whirlwind romance between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her husband, the Duke of Hastings (Rége-Jean Page). But for season 2 of the show, which drops on March 25 on Netflix, another Bridgerton’s matters of the heart will take center stage. This time around, the drama zeroes in on rakish eldest son Anthony’s (Jonathan Bailey) dogged search for a wife. While Anthony sets his sights on Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran), the diamond of the season, he’s met with resistance from her older sister, the headstrong and fiercely independent Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), who’s determined to find her sister the best possible match. Anthony is a tough opponent.

Sparks fly between Anthony, Kate and unexpected feelings develop, which leads to an epic love triangle. Simone Ashley (26-year-old actress who portrays Kate) felt that the chance to play such an iconic character was one of her greatest dreams. Ashley has appeared previously in Sexual EducationAnd BroadchurchShe was thrilled to be able to explore the magical world of period pieces. “You’re really transported to this era, when you step on set, the clothes that you’re wearing, the settings, you’re transported to this world,” she says. “It was just very beautiful to step into.”

Get ready for season 2 BridgertonAshley talked to TIME about sisterhood and tapping into her competitive side in order to play Kate. She also shared what it was like filming the Pall Mall scene.

This is a drama set in the Regency era, but I think a lot of modern women will identify with Kate, who’s fiercely independent. Why do you think she’s a character who can be a heroine for any era?

I think someone following their heart doesn’t have a shelf life, so she fits into any era in that sense. She is so honest. I love that she is also reserved, very observant, very smart, very protective, and values her family—I think that’s a very strong value to have. It is possible that she has been a long-serving lover and believed in it, but was afraid to give up. We root for Kate to let go a bit and when she does, it’s nice to see.

The colors seemed to be different for me. Pride and Prejudice’s Elizabeth Bennett as Kate. How did you prepare for the role of Kate?

My life was influenced by strong women who encouraged me to be truthful and openly speak my mind. I think that’s what makes Kate so interesting. It’s amazing to make a really likable character, but there was something about Kate that was flawed, and I found that very endearing.

Kate’s an excellent competitor. You ride horses and hunt.A lawn game that dates back to the 16th or 17th century and was an ancestor of croquetWith the ruthless Bridgerton clan. These were all things you did to prepare for your role.

Yes, horse riding was a part of our lives. There were shooting rehearsals and ballroom dancing rehearsals. We spent hours just doing these things. It was a lot fun.

And do you identify at all with Kate’s winner takes all attitude?

Sometimes I’m a little sporty, but also competitive when it comes to playing games. And I like challenges. I think I’m quite disciplined and I’m quite driven and ambitious. There’s a fire to Kate that I definitely relate to.

What’s the game you would be the champion of?

Trivial Pursuit perhaps? Any game—I learn very quickly.

Let’s return to the Pall Mall scene, which is when Kate and Anthony really have to confront their feelings for one another. It was a difficult scene to film.

It was a lot of fun. It was actually a game that we played when you see the montage. I think there’s a shock where Kate gets her ball through one of the wickets. It was something I actually did. You can see the reactions, jumping up and dancing around. It was quite a competitive game. The mud scene was just as fun. I think that’s one of the first moments that we see Kate let go and play.

Which were your favourite behind-the scenes moments during filming season? Bridgerton?

Every day that it was the entire cast. I didn’t have many scenes with the Featheringtons, but any scenes where it was the majority of us. It was great fun. Just singing lots of songs, playing games, being silly—it’s why I love this job. When you’re all together and waiting for cameras to go up, we were just having lots of fun together. It doesn’t feel like work.

Although this show is about love, Kate believes there are many types of love. She obviously has her romance with Anthony, but there’s also a real tenderness that I felt with her mother and especially her little sister.

I’m glad that that translated in that way. I’m the youngest sibling in my family, so it was really fun to explore what it would be like to be the oldest sibling and create that sisterhood with Charithra (Chandran). I think everyone’s going to really fall in love with Edwina as well, who is very much a diamond in every way possible.

India-born, the Sharmas make up a large part of character development and identity for their family. Was this a significant element of your show? Did you have any suggestions for storyline?

It was all Chris Van Dusen’s amazing, creative mind. His conversation with me was very open. He was there for me to hear my thoughts, answer any questions or share his opinion. I’m really excited for the world to see the Sharma family step into the Bridgerton world. They blend in very quickly—it’s like they’ve always been there.

Bridgerton’s cast is multiracial and really diverse, which is not something we always see on TV, let alone in period pieces. How does it feel to be part of a cast that’s so inclusive?

It’s normal. It feels the same as it should be. That is what I want to see continue.

Fans of obviously BridgertonYou are not here to romance. Did your work on Sexual EducationDo you have the right equipment to film intimate scenes?

Yes, technical aspects aside. The shows have a very distinct look, and that is evident. However, it would be a good idea to work with an intimacy coordinator. Sexual EducationBeing involved in scenes like these helped me understand what professional acting is all about. This experience taught me how to use my muscle to make sure my scene partners are safe and secure, as well as to listen to my instincts to convey what I needed.

Before, intimacy scenes weren’t handled in that way. But now, we are in an era where they are choreographed and there’s always an intimacy coordinator on set. I think it’s great. These scenes could be brought to life at work so that I can go home safe and happy.

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