Queen Charlotte star Golda Rosheuvel teases Bridgerton Easter eggs in new series
The universe sort of swirls round within itself, so it will be fascinating to see whether the fans notice little nuances."
This interview was originally published in Radio Times magazine.
While filming the second season of Netflix hit Bridgerton (wig the size of a mature shrub, 20kg dress strapped on like a bomb disposal suit), actor Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte in the drama, received a text message.
“It said I needed to go to a meeting that evening with [Bridgerton creator] Shonda Rhimes. So I got on to Zoom, there were a few other faces on the screen, a few things were announced and then Shonda said, ‘Oh yeah… we’re going to see if we can do a spin-off about Queen Charlotte.'"
Rosheuvel, who’s speaking to Radio Times magazine via Zoom, does her own impression of the shocked emoji to illustrate the group reaction. But actually, she says, it makes total sense: an origin story for her character, the Queen of Great Britain from 1761, after her marriage to King George III, is an origin story for the hit series itself.
“It’s set in the same world as Bridgerton, with the same costumes and colours. We wanted to show how Charlotte came to be, the first steps of a 17-year-old young woman who came to this country from Germany and married George, a man she’d never met before. You see the first encounter of George and Charlotte, which is beautiful. And then you see how they live and how they interact with each other and how they get used to each other. Ultimately it is a love story.”
Rosheuvel also points out that in spite of the title, Queen Charlotte isn’t just about the young Charlotte, who’s played by India Amarteifio, the young King George (Corey Mylchreest), or the queen in her middle years, when Rosheuvel takes over the role again.
“Lady Danbury and Violet and the whole matriarchy are there, too, both young and as they are in Bridgerton. It’s about how these women came to be – how a woman of colour, in Danbury’s case, got into the court and then all of the emotional love, the relationships between the women and how they were built up. But throughout, it’s all kept under the umbrella of Bridgerton.”
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The mechanics that enable the older Queen Charlotte and her 17-year-old persona to exist in the same universe are described by Roshuevel as “a behind-the-scenes [version of] Bridgerton”.
The two series overlap in flash-forward and flashback. “...So where in Bridgerton I might have been at the Presentation Ball and then leave the room, in Queen Charlotte I walk straight into a scene that’s in the spin-off.”
This format functions like a series of elaborate footnotes. Queen Charlotte offers an explanation for Charlotte’s psychology and character in her later years – haughty, magisterial, aloof – by showing how minor German princess Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz was treated when she first came to England.
“Shonda has been really clever in connecting the worlds, connecting the two series together,” says Rosheuvel. “Lady Whistledown [the anonymous author of the weekly gossip pamphlet that scandalises society, known as ‘the Ton’] is there, the young and older Danbury [played as a young woman by Arsema Thomas and as an adult by Adjoa Andoh] are there.
"The universe sort of swirls round within itself, so it will be fascinating to see whether the fans notice little nuances and Easter eggs that we’ve put in both productions. It’s a fascinating way of telling the story.”
Rosheuvel is delighted with the story Queen Charlotte tells, too. Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz doesn’t appear in Julia Quinn’s source novels at all: her inclusion as a mixed-race queen in Bridgerton was Shonda Rhimes’s idea, placing race front and centre for the first time in a TV period drama.
“It’s great to see somebody like me in a wonderful, amazing, fantastical, beautiful, glitzy and glamorous period drama,” says Rosheuvel. “That’s really important to celebrate.”
And then there’s the serious stuff: Queen Charlotte gets all the best hairdos. “Yes, we have broken the record on Queen Charlotte for the heaviest wig! There are two that are my personal favourites. There’s a wig in an opera scene that is the tallest thing I’ve ever worn in my life. And then there’s the wig I wear when I’m talking to my children and they’re telling me what a terrible mother I am.”
Ultimately, however, in a show with two queens playing revolving doors, the main requirement is that they need to be believably the same person. Rosheuvel says that, because of the way the story is told, she and Amarteifio were essentially filming separate series – they had no scenes together, but they did cross paths.
“India and I met very briefly, and we discussed the fact that it was her role – I don’t have ownership of it. Yes, I created it but I’m a champion for the younger generation, the younger storytellers coming up in the world and embodying these characters for themselves. I hope she’s had the best time, because I have. India would do a scene in the morning, and I’d do a scene in the afternoon, and we’d pass each other, and I’d be like, ‘Oh, nice wig, girl!’”
But she must have had a doppelgänger moment when first presented with an actor meant to be her 30-years-younger self?
“Ha! Well, we don’t think that we look alike, but people say she’s the spitting image of the younger me. Although I have these two moles here and here,” she says, pointing to her face, “that India doesn’t have. So they made her these two prosthetic moles to complete the picture! It’s a bit weird… but it’s great.”
India Amarteifio on playing the young Queen Charlotte
Your first thoughts on getting the part…
"The immediate response was terror. Golda’s Charlotte is such a beloved character in the Bridgerton world. This was my first lead, I’m 20, it was a lot of pressure. But I read an interview that Golda did in which she said that the Queen Charlotte in Bridgerton isn’t based on facts. She’s a historical figure, but this isn’t a documentary, it’s a fantasy world in which real people exist."
On the plus side, you get the cutest little dog, Pom Pom. What was she like?
"She was great. Her name was Vicki and she was bought specifically for the show by an animal trainer who also has monkeys and cats and supplies a lot of the animals for Bridgerton and for Queen Charlotte. Vicki was very pampered. She had this little area on set that was hers and hers alone."
There’s plenty of formal dancing for you and your co-star Corey Mylchreest to learn. How were your ballroom skills before this role?
"I’m actually a trained dancer and singer! But then, as I got older, I went to the Sylvia Young Theatre School and I started to really love movies. Then, as I kept injuring myself all the time with dance, I thought I can’t be abusing my body like this any more. Why don’t I go down another route?"
As a woman of mixed heritage, what has the success of Bridgerton meant to you?
"[Showrunner] Shonda Rhimes is at the forefront of this movement of including people in genres where they didn’t exist before — people just weren’t writing shows for people of colour to be in period costumes. I completely relate to this — I never used to watch period dramas. I’m half Black and white. My family looks like lots of different people. I didn’t see myself represented so I didn’t ever feel a need to watch them. But now? Now I love period pieces."
By Toby Earle
Corey Mylchreest on playing the young King George III
What did you know about George III before you came to this part?
"If I wasn’t acting, I’d want to be a historian, so I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t know anything about George! We look at The Madness of King George or [the musical] Hamilton, which are all in their own style great representations, but they’re not necessarily the most accurate.
"In 2015, 20,000 pages of George’s diaries and letters were released and they fed into Andrew Roberts’s biography, which I did read. What I learnt is that whoever met George never saw him as a real person. He was first and foremost “the King”. That is incredibly tragic — how can he work out who he is when his entire waking existence is in service of this version of himself? What’s beautiful about this story is that George finds himself in his love for Charlotte."
We know about the so-called “madness” — does Queen Charlotte address that?
"The series and George as a character definitely explore mental health. But for the audience, for the story and to pay homage to the man that I researched, it’s important that we don’t explicitly diagnose what it was he was dealing with. He’s just trying to be a normal young man, but he has this affliction and it’s incredibly painful."
Whose costumes were harder work, yours or India’s?
"The women had it worse. I had heels, stockings (which I changed to tights because they wouldn’t stay up), breeches that go up to your belly button and lovely linen shirts. No, I didn’t get to keep one. I’m still a bit angry about that…"
By Toby Earle
- Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story review – Unlike Bridgerton in the best way
- Queen Charlotte stars reveal how prequel is different to Bridgerton
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story will land on Netflix on Thursday 4th May 2023.