Settle in, because Lady Whistledown has some tea for Bridgerton fans: Simone Ashley will be the newest belle around town. The actress is joining the cast as season 2's leading lady, playing Kate Sharma. Netflix and Shondaland confirmed the casting news on February 15, teasing that Ashley would be the eldest Bridgerton son's new love interest. "Kate is a smart, headstrong young woman who suffers no fools—Anthony Bridgerton very much included," the Netflix tweet reads.
The official Bridgerton account, as Lady Whistledown, echoed the news, cheekily penning, "Quite the juicy bit of gossip, dear readers... This author is certainly looking forward to many a column covering Miss Kate Sharma."
And author Julia Quinn, who wrote the books the series is based on, also took to social media to celebrate the casting news. "I couldn’t dream of a more perfect Kate. I mean, just LOOK at her expression in that first photo!" Quinn captioned an Instagram post.
Her resumé includes a few television titles.
Ashley is no stranger to Netflix, having previously played Olivia Hanan in the streaming platform's hit teen comedy, Sex Education. The 25-year-old has also played Elise Fox in the thriller ITV mini-series The Sister. She's also had small parts in Doctors and the British series Broadchurch, but Kate Sharma is undeniably her biggest role yet.
Her character is changed slightly from the books.
In Quinn's books, the character introduced in The Viscount Who Loved Me is named "Kate Sheffield." In the Netflix show, Ashley will be playing "Kate Sharma." While it's unclear how much of Ashley's character will be based on the book, the official description of The Viscount Who Loved Me calls Kate is "the most meddlesome woman ever to grace a London ballroom." It adds that she is scheming to keep the "reprehensible rake" Anthony away from her sister when she starts to feel her heart falling for the rake himself. Uh oh.
Her relationship with Anthony will be a focus for season 2.
Season 1 saw Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) grappling with his familial responsibilities and enduring heartbreak over opera singer Siena. Show creator Chris Van Dusen teased their relationship on the Today Show in January, saying, “Anthony is going to have a love interest next season, and I think it’s going to be as sweeping and moving and as beautiful as viewers of the first season have come to expect from the show.” He continued: “We left him at the end of the first season at a bit of a crossroads, so I’m looking forward to jumping in and discovering how he fares on the marriage market.”
Her Instagram is full of personal tidbits about her life.
From the looks of her social media, the actress is an animal lover, a foodie, and is very close with several of her Sex Education castmates. Follow her @simoneasshley
Her Indian family was nervous about her pursuing an acting career.
In an interview with Veylex, Ashley revealed that her family was (and sometimes still is) skeptical about her career. But she's continued to pursue it due to her creative passions and her desire to rebel against Indian stereotypes.
"I’ve just always wanted to create, and anything that allows me to do that has got my attention! It allows me to be spontaneous and play—I guess it’s something I’ve always wanted to pursue and didn’t think twice about it. My father has always been deeply passionate about music, film, and photography. Growing up the record player was always playing rock n roll tunes, or Bob Marley, and the TV always had epic movies on, like Kill Bill. It’s a bit ironic, I grew up in a household full of Indian academics, you know, the doctors, the engineers, the accountants—it’s pretty cliche! I was never a budding academic and always thrived in creative fields."
She added, "They still find it quite scary and unsettling. There is no crystal ball, no security, no guarantee. Which can be a parents' worst nightmare. But they know I’m a smart lady. You can’t spend your life going with what your parents want, or your friends, teachers, lovers, want. You have to be your own hero and just go with your gut... It can be hard for my parents to understand that sometimes, but I just try to empathize with them and reassure them that I’m going to be fine."