The “Bridgerton” universe is expanding as creator and executive producer Shonda Rhimes now shifts her focus to the prequel series “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” featuring one of the franchise’s most captivating and beloved characters.
The Netflix historical drama follows Queen Charlotte’s rise to the throne and her love story with King George III. Golda Rosheuvel who plays the formidable queen in “Bridgerton,” also stars in “Queen Charlotte.” She portrays the queen in the present timeline.
Meanwhile, India Amarteifio portrays the bright-eyed 17-year-old version of the queen as her reign begins.
On April 26, Rhimes joined Rosheuvel and Amarteifio at the extravagant Los Angeles premiere of “Queen Charlotte.” Fellow cast members Corey Mylchreest (King George III) and Arsema Thomas (Young Lady Agatha Danbury), executive producer Betsy Beers and director Tom Verica were also in attendance at the event, which included a screening of the first episode followed by a panel.
During the panel, led by Variety’s Angelique Jackson, the cast spoke about the significance of Queen Charlotte, a Black woman, being at the center of the new series. The character instantly became a fan-favorite for “Bridgerton” viewers because of her witty replies, elaborate ball gowns and intricate hair pieces that tower high above her head.
Charlotte’s signature hairdos are further highlighted in the new series. In one of the “Queen Charlotte” promotional photos, Amarteifio sports a sparkling crown and a large afro.
When Jackson asked how Amarteifio felt cruising down the famous Sunset Boulevard and seeing a billboard of herself rocking her natural hair, the actor joked, “It makes me speechless in many forms. One, it’s just an image of my face on Sunset Boulevard.”
On a more serious note, the "Queen Charlotte" star continued, “This job is so much bigger than us and myself and it just means so much to have this representation, for especially young Black girls growing up.”
Amarteifio recalled not seeing herself represented on screen often as a child. “I never thought growing up wanting to be an actor that this role would be something that I could even consider myself being a part of,” she shared.
She said it was “an absolute honor” to have the opportunity to play the character.
Rosheuvel also opened up about being on a show that showcases Black women and their hair in England’s Regency era.
“It’s extraordinary on one hand and very heavy on the other,” she explained. “I remember my initial chats with hair and makeup and being really really shocked, actually, that they wanted to just tease my own hair out and have that as kind of the front line of the wig.”
She revealed that she had never had that experience on set before.
“Those words and that kind of discussion of showing my own natural hair within a character’s look had never ever been discussed with me. So, I got so emotional and I cried because it was such a moment of I’m being seen not only as an actress, as a person of color. But this character is being seen through these ideas, hair and makeup and costume and how the show looks,” she said.
The British actor added, “I will never ever forget it.”
After hearing Rosheuvel and Amarteifio’s heartfelt responses, Thomas became emotional as well.
Thomas said she felt validated when she walked onto set and saw that the hair and makeup department used photos of Lauryn Hill for Young Lady Agatha Danbury’s reference sheet.
She appreciated that the team used another dark skin Black woman as a reference point.
“There’s one thing about a Black person being there. But a Black person being themselves, being blackity-black…embraced in all (different) and beautiful facets is validation,” Thomas shared.
Thomas and Amarteifio bonded over their hair when they first met which helped them form the connection between Charlotte and Agatha.
Executive producer Verica suggested some random topics for the two — who showed up to their chemistry read wearing almost the identical outfit — to discuss during the audition.
After initially trying to chat about HBO Max’s “Sex and the City” sequel series “And Just Like That…,” Thomas and Amarteifio started discussing their hair routines.
Thomas gushed that they had an “unspoken” bond between them.
Amarteifio called their connection a “breath of fresh air.”
“I know the journey you’ve been through, not to have any prejudice, but I also understand what it’s like when you walk into a room,” she told Thomas. That dynamic and understanding translated onscreen as well. In the series, Charlotte and Agatha are supporting each other while simultaneously trying to navigate society and figure out where they fit in.
Fans will get to see the backstory of their relationship unfold during the six-episode season.
Before the panel ended, Rhimes teased the excited audience that the highly-anticipated series will be worth the wait.
“I am never satisfied when I make a show. I’m always staring at my mistakes and being really stressed out. This is the first time writing a show that I ever left thinking, ‘If I retired tomorrow, I’d be fine,’” the head of Shondaland said.
She also revealed that the show’s theme of celebrating Black women will be reflected in the soundtrack, which includes an orchestral version of Alicia Keys’ “If I Ain’t Got You.”
“You’ll hear music from a number of Black queens,” she told the crowd.
Viewers can experience the wigs, songs and Charlotte’s powerful reign when the series hits Netflix on May 4.