Warning: Spoilers for Queen Charlotte and Bridgerton ahead. Golda Rosheuvel, the veteran actress behind Bridgerton's elegant, cutthroat matriarch has personally been building her character’s backstory ever since the show's first season in 2020, when Netflix’s wildly-popular period romance introduced the original character inspired by the real-life 18th-century queen. Rosheuvel’s magnificent portrayal has made Charlotte one of the series' most nuanced, fan-favorite characters, as each of her scenes revealed a new facet of her being. And now that rich backstory has finally been brought to life in Bridgerton’s first spin-off, Queen Charlotte, which depicts both the early days of the titular character's marriage to King George (with India Amarteifio playing young Charlotte) and the royal’s present-day matchmaking efforts to have one of her 13 (!) children produce a royal heir.
Here, Rosheuvel chats about bringing Queen Charlotte’s family to the screen, the universal themes highlighted in showrunner Shonda Rhimes’s writing, and how the Netflix spinoff reminds her of Succession.
Marie Claire: How does it feel to know that Bridgerton fans are getting a closer look at Queen Charlotte’s personal life, which has been a bit mysterious up until now?
GR: I have always advocated for those intimate scenes [when audiences get to see] Charlotte and George together. Now, to be able to really show Charlotte as a human being—as a vulnerable woman, as a mother, as a wife-to-be—I think that's really important to the arc and the development of this character. Her family is one of those things in Bridgeton I've always imagined. It's a layer that the actor puts on: your backstory. To then have Shonda write those humans and physically have them in the room was really extraordinary for me.
MC: Were you able to work with India [Amarteifio] on crafting the younger version of your character?
GR: The only advice that I gave India was to take it and make it her own. I think Charlotte really stands on her own as a really empowered, unapologetic woman, and we—myself and India—as actors need to bring our own understanding of that. So I really encouraged India to roll with that.
MC: It was so cool seeing how Charlotte was there from the beginning. From the first scene it's like, ‘Yes, she can run a country.’
GR: She stands firm in her own soul and mind and body... I think that's the thing that the fans and the audience will love to see: a strong independent woman still standing firm in who she is, even though she’s in a vulnerable position.
MC: It's also interesting seeing the parallels between Bridgerton-age Queen Charlotte and Princess Augusta—these two women who are now doing everything for the Crown—and then seeing Charlotte being thrown into that at such an early age.
GR: It's like a triangle of women and generational linking. For me, it's a very interesting look at how the females are in this "Bridger-verse." In Bridgeton, I include Lady Featherington as well. The four of us stand firm in that matriarchal, feminine sisterhood. Then, in Queen Charlotte, you have myself, you have Michelle [Fairley, who plays Princess Augusta], you have India, and then Lady Danbury [Arsema Thomas]. The four of us in that is a really interesting dynamic, and it marries the two shows together in a really lovely way.
MC: Watching Queen Charlotte, I was reminded of Edwina being pushed aside for Anthony and Kate's love in Bridgerton season 2. I see now how ridiculous all that would’ve been to Charlotte, knowing how her marriage started. The part where she set Edwina up with her nephew felt like Charlotte being like, 'You tried to do your duty. It didn't work out, but I've got you.'
GR: I think it's the different layers of love. What love looks like through the centuries, and what a woman in Charlotte's position had to deal with back in the 18th century. Especially the heaviness of duty and how that is put upon somebody who is of free spirit and free mind… Shonda’s writing really lends itself to that and the exploration of love through these women, through society, and the history and lineage of love, with what is expected of us as women.
MC: There is an amazing speech from present-day Charlotte about how love is a choice. And how love is about dedication and true commitment.
GR: Yeah, definitely. Then there's more of a motherly connection when she says to her son, 'love is X, Y, Z.' I think in those moments, those for me are a real testament to the relationship that she has with George: the communication, and the ‘till death us do part,’ ‘in sickness and in health’ [aspects]. Love is such a grounding facet for this family.
I've been watching Succession, and I'm really fascinated with how the siblings are so against each other it seems. But then when the father hits one of them, they all rush to protect their sibling. Watching that, I was like, love is really interesting. It's the foundation of who these people are; it's the foundation of George and Charlotte and their family. Yet the [Roy] family and the siblings are so messy. There's the scene as well [with all of Charlotte’s children] in episode one. They're all in the same room. They're complaining that they're all in the same room, but they're all there.
MC: There are so many layers to your storyline with the kids this season. There's a line where one of them says something like, ‘You are a queen to us more than a mother.’ How was it to play that dynamic?
GR: For me, that's the wonder of Shonda's writing: It's so accessible.You can see it and relate to it, even when it's a period drama that sometimes is inaccessible to people who look like you and me.
My [own] parents were like that. My father was a priest more than he was a father. The ministry was so important—and absolutely that whole sense of community and fellowship and support—that sometimes in his personal life, that wavered a little bit. I definitely used that and that understanding of a higher purpose for Charlotte and George, in terms of duty.
MC: It was understandable yet bittersweet that there was only one scene of adult Charlotte and adult George. How are those scenes where both of you get to actually be in the room and depict that love on screen?
GR: It's so fun. James Fleet, who plays George, he's just a dream to work with. It's effortless. James has been around for a while. He's a veteran actor and I've admired his work the whole of my career.... [It's great] to have somebody that you feel confident with, especially in those moments. They're quite delicate moments that we play where he's in and out, lucid and not lucid, but it's such a safe place because he's so bloody good, and he just gets it. As I came into the room, at the beginning of the scene in the last episode, the door opens and he's scribbling. He turns to look at me and his eyes are completely in the scene. It's so great to work with an actor like that because you can play. You can do anything you want because you know that he's locked into that character, and into that marriage—with the love, communication, sorrow, pain, and all the levels that we play as a couple.
Also, that scene was really interesting to film because I never worked with India. James never worked with Corey [Mylchreest], and I think [that scene] was one of the last things that was filmed. We all—and definitely the youngsters— had been through the journey of filming this love story. So when the four of us got to be in the same room together, it was great and exciting. The scene was actually just written for me and James, and Tom [Verica, the director] made India and Corey learn the lines. So it's Tom's vision that brings that beautiful ending and unites us all as a foursome. It was such fun to play.
MC: In that final moment of the show everything clicks, and you see yes, the sacrifices and the difficulties, but also just the years-long love. And that's what everything has been about for this entire time. So it was really lovely to see both of the generations in that scene.
GR: The thing that struck me was I wanted to stand up and go, ‘That's what I've been thinking in Bridgerton.’ That's my journey when I'm sitting at a ball at the top of the food chain on my throne with Brimsley beside me. I'm thinking of George and my children. It all came together in this really wonderful moment of, Wow. You get it. You get why she's the person that she is. It is really cool.
MC: Watching Bridgerton season three is going to be so fun with this context.
GR: And that was really interesting because I was filming Charlotte and season three [of Bridgerton] at the same time. So it was a journey of discovery. I was taking things that I'd learned in Charlotte to Bridgeton the next day, and really trying to marry those two worlds as one, and align Charlotte's universe by filming those two series together.
MC: I have to at least try to ask about season three. I was very surprised that Whistledown is in Queen Charlotte, but she's more of a traditional narrator. I imagine that Charlotte’s mission to unveil Whistledown’s identity is going to rise to a whole new level going forward.
GR: I can tell you that we have finished filming [season 3]. My lips are sealed. There's a man at my hotel door standing ready, listening to see if I give you any spoilers.
MC: And, oh my gosh, the wigs. I feel like the wigs got taller in Queen Charlotte.
GR: They did! That one when she goes to the opera, and it's got the two love doves on the top of it. That was one of the days where I was like, What on earth is going on? This is too much. This is extraordinary. They made me a neck brace and I have pictures of me wearing that wig with the brace on.
MC: Do you have a favorite Queen Charlotte look?
GR: I think some of the ones in season one of Bridgeton would probably be my favorite just because they were the first. But I have to be very careful because they are all my children, and one should never have a favorite.
Quinci LeGardye is a Contributing Culture Editor who covers TV, movies, Korean entertainment, books, and pop culture. When she isn’t writing or checking Twitter, she’s probably watching the latest K-drama or giving a concert performance in her car.
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