The Women of Bridgerton on Season 2: Tackling Romance Tropes in a New Chapter

Newcomers Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran join returning cast members Nicola Coughlan, Adjoa Andoh, and Golda Rosheuvel to share the hot goss on what to expect for the hit Netflix drama's second season.

by | March 24, 2022 | Comments

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(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

While the breakout character of the first season of Bridgerton was Regé-Jean Page’s stubborn and determined bachelor, the second season of Netflix’s Regency-era drama is focused on Simone Ashley’s headstrong Kate Sharma and her doe-eyed sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran).

The Sharmas are new to London high society, which is known to insiders as the ton, having spent their formative years in India. Kate might not fit the mold of a proper lady of British society and it’s easy for the series to draw comparisons to classic stories like Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (there’s even an homage to the TV miniseries version starring Colin Firth and Jennifer Ehle when this season’s most eligible bachelor, Jonathan Bailey’s Anthony Bridgerton, emerges from a lake in a wet white shirt).

bridgerton jonathan bailey

(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Chandran tells Rotten Tomatoes that it’s more that the show, which begins its second season on March 25 and is based on the Julia Quinn novels, is playing around with “genre tropes.”

By this, she means, “things that are super fun and super enjoyable and popular with viewers of the romance period drama like [the trope of] enemies to lovers.”

Unfolding romances and scandals are told to the audience, and the characters, through a column written under the nom de plume Lady Whistledown — someone whom we’re led to believe sounds like Julie Andrews, but whom viewers now know is definitely not played by her.

So, since the series is all about female empowerment and people who can’t keep secrets, we asked Chandran and Bridgerton actresses both new and returning to the series to spill some tea on what to expect for season 2.

Simone Ashley’s Kate Sharma Loves the Thrill of the Hunt, But Not For a Husband

(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

While the first season’s heroine was the innocent and delicate Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) whose one focus in life was to find a suitable mate, this season has a female lead who has no interest in love and marriage (or so she tells herself). Simone Ashley plays Kate Sharma, the opinionated and spirited older half-sister to the more naive Edwina. She quickly makes an enemy out of Bailey’s Anthony Bridgerton, the heir to the Bridgerton fortune whom she overhears bragging about marrying for duty and finding love (or lust) elsewhere. Naturally, he becomes infatuated even if he denies it.

“It was so much fun playing a character that’s so honest, so opinionated and isn’t a people pleaser,” Ashley says of her lead, who largely bucks the norms of high society’s status quo that women’s roles are limited to piano lessons, needlepoints, and party planning. The competitive Kate rides horses, hunts, and can produce a very unladylike whistle — a nod to 1964 film My Fair Lady? — if you take her to the races. (And yes, that is Ashley actually giving a very loud, thumb-and-finger-in-her-mouth, whistle during that scene.)

This doesn’t mean that the chemistry between Kate and Anthony immediately leads to bedroom antics. While Bailey has said that the show has earned the nickname “Bonkerton” thanks to its many steamy trysts in season 1, Ashley cautions that this season’s sex scenes are more of a “slow burner.”

“I think slow burners are amazing. Sometimes it can be the better way in life with romance,” she says. “When they do finally get together and those romantic fireworks explode, it’s very earned.”

The show employs intimacy coordinator Lizzy Talbot for choreographing these scenes, whom Ashley says “was really enthusiastic about us portraying female pleasure and to make it less taboo, to normalize it.”

There’s a particular scene toward the end of the season that includes a shot of Bailey that’s just asking to be a meme. Ashley says all of that scene came about after loads of meetings that went shot-by-shot through what was to be expected during filming.

“It shouldn’t be taboo to be giving a woman pleasure,” Ashley says. “I think, if it was the other way around, no one would question it.”

Charithra Chandran’s Edwina Sharma Is Ready to Sparkle as a Debutante All-Star

(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Since their father passed away, Kate Sharma has dedicated her life to preparing her sister Edwina for her debut into high society — a world Edwina’s mother (Shelley Conn’s Mary) shunned to run off to India and marry the sisters’ more lower-class father. Edwina is the family’s only hope for financial stability and she has been bred to be the perfect everything: dancer, reader, discrete secret-keeper, small-talk maker.

“For Edwina, it was like training for the Olympics. It was like debutante boot camp every day,” Chandran says of what she imagined her character’s life was like in the eight years between her father’s death and her debut among the ton; however, Edwina has been raised on a fairytale idea of love instead of the realities of marriage. But has anyone asked Edwina what she really wants? “I think she does want to find love, for sure. I think she wants to find love and a good match.”

The first season of the series was known for embracing interracial relationships without necessarily acknowledging that they would come with cultural differences, something that some considered a misfire. This season incorporates more cultural identity along with its inclusive casting choices.

“I think that the show has been really quietly revolutionary. I mean, dare I say it’s kind of done for TV what Hamilton did for stage,” Chandran says. Now, “you’ve got two dark-skinned Indian women as the leads for season 2.”

Also, the second season includes a traditional Hindi Haldi ceremony, which means — spoiler alert — there will be some kind of wedding preparations happening.

Can Adjoa Andoh’s Lady Danbury Manipulate Anyone?


(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

The Sharmas are hosted by Adjoa Andoh’s Lady Danbury, who with her dramatic gesturing with her cane and flair for one-liners, has been known to not really give a damn what anyone else in society thinks. Last season, she was instrumental in the match of Daphne Bridgerton and Page’s Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. Lady Danbury is so good at the art of subtle manipulation that she’s even able to impact the thoughts of Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel), who herself can make or break a young woman’s chances of finding a spouse. So is she offering the Sharmas lodging out of the goodness of her heart or to stir up trouble?

“When they were young women, she knew Lady Mary [and] the Queen knew Lady Mary and they did not stand in sisterly solidarity with Lady Mary” when she chose to leave their lifestyle, Andoh says. “So I think she feels that she has a debt of honor to pay, and the way that she can pay that also allows her, as she says, ‘to show these other mamas the way the game is really played.'”

Lady Danbury also continues to unite with the Bridgertons. And her friendship with Ruth Gemmell’s Violet Bridgerton, the mother of Daphne, Anthony, and their siblings, grows this season — especially as the two families begin to share more common interests.

“You see through the series that their friendship is demonstrably getting closer,” Andoh says. “There are the moments where they have challenges within that friendship, and you see them coming back together. But I think there is a sense that there they are long lived friends.”

Given her stature and influence, it’s questionable if Lady Danbury is really all that worried about what is written in Lady Whistledown’s newsletter.

“I think in season 1, she was much more focused on that,” Andoh says. “In season 2, what she observes happening with the queen is the queen is allowing Lady Whistledown to set the narrative. Lady Danbury doesn’t want anyone else setting her narrative … However, Lady Whistledown will have a particular take on what’s going on at court. And information is power. So she will want that knowledge and information and tuck it in her back pocket for when she may need to use it.”

Queen Charlotte: She’s Just Like Us! Golda Rosheuvel’s Monarch Loves Gossip Too

(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Queen Charlotte, however, cannot get enough of Lady Whistledown and is still obsessed with what that gossip writer has to say about her and her subordinates — to the point that Lady Danbury tells her that she needs to get new interests.

“I think it’s a need of escapism from the world,” Rosheuvel says, particularly since she has a country to run and a husband, George III (James Fleet), who is ailing. “She’s a person who needs to have a fingers in all the pies. Some may call her a control freak.”

Charlotte also remains determined to unmask Lady Whistledown — especially, Rosheuvel says, because “she thinks that it’s a woman. So there’s that sisterhood rivalry going on. I think if they ever met, I would love them to sit down and have a cup of tea and really admire one another. I think the Queen really admires this person, secretly.”

This season also goes deeper into the real-life complicated marriage between Charlotte and George and shows how fiercely she feels the need to protect him.

Rosheuvel says that Charlotte “absolutely, 100 percent” believes in love and that “I take that from knowing a little bit about the real Queen Charlotte and George’s relationship and the fact that they had 15 children. And it is widely documented that they did really love each other.”

Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington’s Hair Is So Big Because It’s Full of Secrets

(Photo by Liam Daniel/Netflix)

While the characters of Bridgerton are still trying to crack the case of who is Lady Whistledown, the audience learned in last season’s finale that she is the pen name of Penelope Featherington — Nicola Coughlan’s much put-upon youngest daughter of the gaudy and scheming family who just wishes they could be as popular and refined as their neighbors, the Bridgertons.

Last season already saw Penelope show allegiance to the Bridgertons over her own family and this season will only continue her inner debates over how much to reveal in her column (and when to do it). There comes a question of whether Penelope has a moral code she abides by when debating how much to share.

Coughlan says that “I think she’s got a good heart at the base of everything” and that, “in season 1, she just really intended to write about the gossip as she saw it.”

Last season, Penelope spilled a secret that saved Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) — the family’s third son and with whom she is still infatuated even though he’s shown her little interest beyond friendship — but could have ruined someone else’s life in the process.

“I think she did it 90 percent to save Colin and 10 percent for herself,” Coughlan says. “And I think it hurts her and she carries guilt that she knows she did that with even a little bit of selfish intent.”

This season, she has to decide what to do when it comes to her best friend, Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie). It’s a decision that Coughlan says Penelope “doesn’t want to make” but ultimately decides “if it’s the only way I can save my best friend, that’s what I have to do.”

With interest in Lady Whistledown — both the writer and the column — growing, Penelope has to step up her game to hide her identity. She even pretends to speak with an Irish accent while attempting to go incognito at the printing press.

This is a wink to the audience, as Coughlan is from western Ireland; however, she says the script read that “Penelope speaks in a perfect Irish accent. So she went all in and worked with the show’s dialect coach to develop “a Dublin voice because, in that Regency period, there were a lot of people from the east coast of Ireland who went to London to work in the big houses.”

But what happens when Penelope herself starts courting someone? Will she ever fully retire Lady Whistledown? Would someone else pick up the torch?

“I don’t know,” laughs Coughlan, who reminds that Lady Whistledown stops being a thing after the fourth book. “I would quite like [Penelope] to have some guys interested in her to just to bolster her confidence a little bit, because I think she’s doesn’t see herself as viable or that anyone would care about her.”

Bridgerton season 2 premieres March 25 on Netflix.

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