It’s not every day an actor gets the opportunity to play a queen, but Bridgerton’s Golda Rosheuvel has taken on the task with gusto. As Queen Charlotte, Rosheuvel found it easier than you would imagine to perform as such a royal character, owing to her unique background and upbringing. Born in Guyana and raised in England from age five, Rosheuvel was no stranger to the more ubiquitous aspects of high society like afternoon teatime and horseback riding. Thanks to her posh mother, Rosheuvel was able to inhabit the Georgian world of Queen Charlotte, innately understanding how she and her contemporaries acted and spoke.
Rosheuvel is one of several actors of color featured on Bridgerton, whose upcoming second season hits Netflix this Friday, March 25th. The diverse casting of the show, which is one of Netflix’s most popular originals of all time, has paved the way for immense progress in the entertainment industry with regards to representation. The show, created by Shonda Rhimes, is based on a series of novels by acclaimed romance writer Julia Quinn and follows the titular Bridgerton family during the height of Regency-era London as they play the socio-political game of high society. Bridgerton is set in an alternate history with a racially integrated London where people of color are members of the ton, some with titles granted by the sovereign. Golda Rosheuvel’s character Queen Charlotte is the only one on the show based on a real character. Creator Chris Van Dusen stated he wanted “…to base the show in an alternative history in which Queen Charlotte’s mixed-race heritage was not only well-established but was transformative for Black people and other people of color in England.”
The Untitled Magazine’s Editor in Chief Indira Cesarine chatted with Golda Rosheuvel about her time on the Bridgerton set, as well as her personal acting journey that led her from stage to screen as Queen Charlotte. Read the full interview below, along with our exclusive photoshoot of Golda in London by photographer Pip and fashion stylist Rebekah Roy.
You have a very unique background, with a Guyanese father and an English mother. What was your childhood was like? Did your parents encourage your acting career?
I think mostly my parents encouraged me and my brother to strive and to follow our dreams. It’s as simple as that. They were very musical. They loved art. They loved classical music, opera reggae… jazz was a big influence of mine. Ella Fitzgerald is one of my ultimate supreme stars and inspirations. I was singing a bit and my brother plays any instrument that you give him. He’s got an amazing voice and he’s a record producer. Storytelling was really at the heart of my upbringing. My parents, they led a really unusual, very interesting life; a very vibrant life. One story I can tell you is that when we were in Guyana, my father was a Church of England priest, and he and my mother would trek into the Bush. And she used to tell stories of strapping me to her back, and they would hike into the interior, and he would preach to the indigenous tribes who were Christian. They would spend months, going around in the Bush, in the interior, and preach to the indigenous people of Guyana.
That must have influenced you in a way, as they had to be very outgoing to be willing to do that!
Absolutely. They were outgoing, welcoming, so generous, and kind. My mom was a social worker and my dad’s a priest, you know? So the house was always open to people in need and people who had lived lives, positive ones and negative ones. You know, when we came to this country, I really remember my brother and I sitting down in our sitting room, with like 20 people having an amazing dinner or lunch that my mother had cooked, and stories would be relayed.
Talking about it now, it’s just so energizing to me. And that’s how I approach my work. That’s how passionate I am about my work. I always say the best place for me is between “action” and “cut,” because that is the most magical place where dreams happen, where characters come alive, where storytelling is at its most physical.
Did you ever think that you would be playing the Queen of England?
I never thought that I would be playing such a role. I think as actors you dream of something that you connect with, that really sits well with you, that you can feel at ease with. And I think because of that upbringing here in England – and my mother and her background, and being dragged around manor houses, and castles, and traipsing through the mound of the English countryside, and horse riding and afternoon teas… because of all of that, that’s part of my heritage, that’s part of my journey. Queen Charlotte is very comfortable to play. I know the world, I know the tone, the language, how music is really involved in the language, and how they speak. So although [the role] was never on my radar, as it has come, I’m very comfortable with it.
I understand your mother was quite posh; she had lunch with Princess Margaret?
It only happened once! I think people have kind of taken that story and run with it a bit… But yeah, she met Princess Margaret one time. She was very posh, my mum.
Do you see yourself in the role of Queen Charlotte? Does it resonate with you personally at all?
Yes it does, to a certain extent. I think it’s really important that you put part of yourself into a role, but I also think that it’s important to leave it at work. I very rarely get recognized. I think that’s because I’m not in the wig and the frocks, but I think it’s also because my mannerisms are completely different. My humanity is completely different; the way I think, the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I dress, is completely different.
We are really looking forward to season 2 of Bridgerton! Let’s talk about those wigs and costumes. How long did it take you to get into costume each day? I imagine it isn’t that comfortable?
It really depends on the day and what’s going on. If I’m doing a ball, that’s going to take longer than a day look – we call “day looks” her having tea with Danbury or sitting by the king’s bed or whatever. But a ball look would be a couple of hours, maybe a bit longer. The wigs this time ‘round – I’ve had more of a collaborative role in it, which has been thrilling. One of the things that is set for Queen Charlotte is you have to keep the shape of the Georgian wig, but within that you can play and really modernize it and come up with loads of wonderful ideas.
One of the things that we had to really think about and talk about is how we were going to craft the wigs, and what material we could find to make them lighter; so that you could still have the work of art that we so love, but the actress doesn’t go through hell while she’s wearing it. So that was really interesting to be involved with, and to discuss materials and tools and the mechanics of it all to get inside them and create them.
I heard that you had to wear a neck brace sometimes?
Yeah! I mean, that was a really beautiful day for me, where one of the crewmen was all like “how are you doing, are you alright?” because I was slouching a little bit, and I said “yeah, I’m a bit tired.” Literally an hour later, he came back with a whole contraption thing that he had made out of wood. It has a straight panel and a head thing that came out. It’s really primitive stuff, nothing high-tech. So the long thing goes round the back there [gesturing to her back], and the collar goes ‘round here [gesturing to her collar], and I’m able to just rest my neck, and it takes all the weight off my neck. It was without me even asking, without any kind of prompting, they just went and made that! I love all these people, they’re just amazing. It was so generous, so kind, so supportive. And I use that [brace] any time I feel I need a bit of support.
How heavy are the wigs?
They’re quite heavy. I weighed myself once – and this was a light day – and then I weighed myself once I put on the stuff: the wig, the jewelry, the costume, and I put on two stone! So that’s what I’m carrying around with me.
Let’s talk about the casting of the show. A lot of people refer to it as “colorblind casting,” and the creator has made quite the point that it is intentional. How do you think the casting has impacted the overall success of the series?
It’s an interesting question because I struggle with answering it, only because I don’t want the question to asked. We need to be in a place where we don’t ask the question. We need to be in a place where it just is, you know what I mean? It’s just there and we deal with it, because it’s there and we deal with it in real life. But then on the other hand, I think it’s really important to drive that message that we can be inclusive, that we can reflect the world that we’re living in, that we can support Black and Brown artists to do the storytelling, to be in shows like this, and that that should be celebrated.
It took Shonda Rhimes to do it, in many of her shows. Bridgerton is not the only show that she has done it in: that she has asked the question or placed people of “other” in prominent roles. But I think the genre of a period drama is one that is, I think, really fascinating because we haven’t seen [this casting] before. We have seen something of a status play, of a racial play, where the rich people in the big houses are white, and the poor people are often people of color, they’re Black. But this time we’ve created a world that is 100% where everybody exists. Everybody has a say. I think it’s really important because now the conversation has to change, especially in period drama. You cannot have the same conversation again, because it has been proven that we can do it, and it can exist and make money. That’s the other thing, is that I think people above my pay grade are scared that these things won’t make money. They do. Time and time again they do.
As a bi-racial actress, have you experienced racism firsthand in the industry?
Yeah, twice. I had some really interesting rejections. I’ve been told that I wasn’t “Black enough” for one role. I was told that I was “too exotic” and my eyes were too close together for another role. I think both times it really hit me emotionally because both times there’s nothing that I can do about that. I’m not going to “Black myself up” to play that role. I can’t change my “exoticness” and I cannot change where my eyes fall on my face. It kind of feels like a real blatant disregard for me as a person. But having said that, it has only happened twice. I know numerous stories of people that it’s continually happening to in this industry. It’s not a good thing and it’s not a good place to be.
Prior to Bridgerton, you were also very heavily involved in stage productions where you played LGBTQ+ characters, for example, you played a lesbian Othello. Did you find your stage experience helped transition you to the role of Queen Charlotte?
It’s interesting because the majority of the cast of Bridgerton comes from theater. I think that’s a really good training ground. In theater, you do eight shows a week, and it’s a slog, it’s a real grind. And you have to come every night with a new energy and a new perspective. I think working with an ensemble in a theater really lends itself well to Bridgerton, and that’s why we are all so close. That’s why the ensemble aspect of the show is really strong. Our work ethic is really strong. We’re grafters, so we come in knowing our lines, we know what to do, and if things change up, we can handle that as well. I think it’s a really strong grounding for coming into something like Bridgerton.
As a gay actress, what progress do you think needs to be made with regards to the entertainment industry and representation of LGBTQ+ characters?
I don’t class myself as a political person at all, but my work, I think, has to reflect the politics of the world. And if I can speak out in any way, shape or form, by playing a lesbian Othello or a lesbian/bisexual Mercutio, then I think that’s really important, and I would encourage others to do so.
I think race is a different thing to sexuality because sexuality is such a personal thing. You would never know that I was gay if I didn’t tell you. The more we speak out, the more we are seen, and the more we celebrate our sexuality, I think the better.
I want to say as well: I am a gay actress, but I can also play straight. There are people that say only gay actors can play gay characters. I disagree with that, I’m afraid. Because the art and the storytelling and me as an actress and men as actors is really important. It is one of investigation. So whatever you are: race, gender, sexuality… if you’re an actor, if you’re a storyteller, the investigation is the important thing. And the honesty in that investigation is the important thing, not the label or the box that you are.
Tell me about what you have coming up? I hear that there is a spinoff series in the works!
Yes! There is! Amazing! An origin story of Queen Charlotte! And Shonda Rhimes is writing it, which I’m thrilled about. We haven’t got any dates yet, unfortunately. It’s coming though, apparently. I’ve been told that the scripts will be written!
Are there any words of wisdom that you would like to leave us with about how you have gotten to where you’re at now?
Words of wisdom, gosh. I worked with a director called Gale Edwards in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar, the musical. There was a conversation where I actually overheard her saying to somebody that “Golda can do anything that she puts her mind to.” And in those moments of doubt and darkness, I always remember overhearing that conversation. But then also, in living my life and in my journey, vulnerability is such an empowering thing. If you can be vulnerable in your life, I think that’s the answer to confidence, the answer to being courageous, to grace. On the foundation of vulnerability, things can be built. In those moments of darkness and those moments of doubt, to just be vulnerable; to break down, to cry and not be afraid to do that, because from that foundation, you can rebuild.
Very poetic! It was so lovely to talk with you!
Thank you so much, sweetheart. It’s been a good one!
Golda Rosheuvel interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Photographed in London, UK by Pip
Styling by Rebekah Roy
Hair by Dionne Smith
Makeup by Kenneth Soh
Fashion Assistant Melania Peluso