Charithra Chandran was still a newcomer to the professional television and film acting community when she landed the plum “Bridgerton” role of Edwina Sharma, Diamond of Season 2, and the target of Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s marriage goals.
(Spoiler alert: This story contains major plot details from “Bridgerton” Season 2.)
Despite not having a lengthy TV resume, those who’ve finished bingeing “Bridgerton” Season 2, which is currently at the top of Netflix’s most-watched list, know Chandranacted her socks off. Across the show’s eight-episode arc, the character of Edwina faced many challenging and emotional moments, including the one at the altar, when she realized her groom Anthony had feelings for her sister Kate, or when she realized her sister had feelings for her groom, or when she was forced to realize that life isn’t always a fairytale.
And filming those scenes, which we’ll dive into specifics of in a moment, were impactful on Chandran personally.
“I’m so new to this, so it’s all really hard to compartmentalize,” Chandran told TheWrap. “I remember when we were filming Block 2, which is Episodes 3 and 4, and I would always spend all my time with Shelley (Conn), who plays my mum, and I kept telling Shelley, ‘I feel really uncomfortable. I feel really insecure. I feel really awkward.’ And then Episodes 5 and 6. I was like being weirdly distant with Johnny (Bailey, Anthony Bridgerton), who I’m very close to and he’s like a big brother to me. But I was sort of keeping him at arm’s length. … And then by Episodes 7 and 8, I was just like, ‘Whatever. I’m good. I’m done.’ Like, ‘This is whatever now,’ and Shelley just turned around near the end of filming going, ‘Babe, you’ve just absorbed all of Edwina’s emotions. You’ve just internalized them. That’s what’s going on here.’”
Not even readers of Julia Quinn’s second “Bridgerton” novel, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” were likely prepared for the journey Edwina went on in Season 2. As executive producer Chris Van Dusen recently told TheWrap, the version of Edwina in the series, “has her (own) wants and needs and desires.”
“I didn’t want to relegate her to being a mere prop in the Kate-Anthony relationship. I wanted her to have her own interests and thoughts and feelings,” he said.
In fact, in Season 2, Edwina truly fell for Viscount Bridgerton and even got all the way to the altar with him before a major revelation began after her maid of honor – her older sister Kate – dropped a bracelet she had on, and Edwina’s groom bent down to pick it up, just a moment after he found himself distracted from saying his vows. Even those rooting (which was everyone) for Season 2’s central romance – the enemies to lovers journey of Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) and Anthony Bridgerton – likely gasped at the wedding interruption. As for when Edwina knew something was wrong (as in her groom might be harboring deep-rooted feelings for her sister), that particular moment “when he’s looking at Kate and not looking at her,” as Chandran puts it, lit the spark.
“I think she’s like, ‘Whoa, this is weird. Why is he looking at her and not looking at me?’ So it’s like that’s the start of the thought,” Chandran told TheWrap. “And then, when the bracelet drops and she sees how they’re looking at each other while he hands her the bracelet, she remembers the conversation with Kate and Mary at the beginning of Episode 6 during Haldi, and then she’s like, ‘Oh, my God,’ and all of those moments that she thought were weird … are clicking into place.”
While some of the older women of the ton (basically Lady Danbury) knew something was up, the young, innocent and eager-to-fall in love Edwina did not.
“And I know that there are going to be people that are like, ‘It was so obvious. How did Edwina not realize?’ And it’s like I would never think to myself that my mom and dad would do anything to hurt me. The people that love me most and that have sacrificed most for me, it would not even be on my radar to think, ‘Oh, they would do something that would cause me pain,’” Chandran continued, explaining things from her character’s perspective. “So, of course, Edwina doesn’t recognize the connection between Kate and Anthony.”
Edwina decides to take a break from the wedding ceremony at that very moment and runs out of the church. While she’s deciding what to do next, she has two major conversations with her sister (at different times that afternoon). They were charged moments to film, and Chandran said she and Simone Ashley, who plays Kate, did several takes as they all landed on the truthful stages of what Edwina was going through.
“It was really fun and actually we recorded it so many different ways. So the first scene, as soon as we [leave] the altar was when she asked, ‘Do you love him?’ The first few times I was doing it I was crying excessively because I was feeling those emotions,” Chandran said. “We tried it where Edwina is just breaking down and crying and then we realized that actually, in order to be in tears like that, it requires a level of processing of what’s happened and she’s not at that stage yet. As soon as she comes out [of the church] and she has that conversation with Mary and Kate, she’s still in shock. You don’t see her feeling sadness or anger as such. You see her feeling shocked. And it’s just like, ‘Oh my God, what is happening?’
“And then equally, the second scene with Simone about betrayal and pity, we tried that more angry, we tried that more distant, we tried so many different ways. And we realized again, actually the most potent way and the way that was most true to Edwina, which is why that tape was chosen, was where it’s disappointment and it’s detachment and it’s shut down,” she continued. “Because anger shows that you’re still invested, sadness shows that you’re still invested.”
There was another person to speak to on the day – Edwina’s fiancé, Anthony, who eventually goes to find his bride to tell her all the reasons they should get married — and mostly those reasons being their roles in life are the same. For that scene, where Edwina was in terms of processing the situation, was much simpler.
“But with the scene with Anthony, I think we were so clear about what we wanted, which was, this is like a negotiation. This is almost like a trade negotiation, right? Of what Anthony’s bringing to the table and what Edwina’s willing to offer. And I think if you’re acting with Johnny, you can’t help but feel it every single time,” Chandran said of the brutal scene where Anthony can’t say the one thing Edwina wants to hear – that he’s marrying her because he loves her.
And before the disastrous wedding day has ended, Edwina confronts both her sister and her ex-groom in an empty church.
“It was almost like her epilogue in a way, of her saying, ‘This is my story. And I’m taking control of the situation. And this is what you’ve done, and this is what you’ve done and both of you are wrong. And I don’t want anything to do with this,’” Chandran explained. “So, it’s like her closing the chapter, her going, ‘This is how it is and I’m done. And this is not up to discussion. This is not a two-way conversation. This is about me.’
“And what’s interesting was – and I hope people pick up on this although it is quite subtle – halfway through Episode 6 and then in Episode 7 and 8, Edwina’s voice gets lower and her accent, her Indian accent, gets stronger, because for the first five episodes, when she’s with Anthony, her voice is so much higher, and it’s so much more English because she’s putting on a performance,” Chandran revealed, noting that by the end of Episode 6, Edwina is “over it.”
Before that final confrontation with Anthony and Kate, though, Edwina had a conversation with Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) that resonated deeply. It came after Edwina helped to calm the mad King George, while Queen Charlotte was stunned after he was left to wander the palace. In the royal jewelry room, clearly grateful and amazed by the young woman’s poise moments before, Queen Charlotte delivered a speech about true love, and how “only you” can decide what path to go down.
“That scene, we played it so many different ways, because it’s such a pivotal scene. … We had a discussion about how many different ways we could play that. But honestly, for me, I think I’m so close to Golda in real life and I really took inspiration from our real-life relationship because she is kind of like a mentor, a guiding light for me in the industry,” Chandran said. “I’m so new to this. She is so talented and has amazing experiences, that I think we brought kind of our real lives to that.”
In fact, as the season closes out for the ton, Queen Charlotte has Edwina at her side (“in matching dresses,” Chandran points out) and mentions she has a cousin, who is a prince, and who is “available.”
But for Chandran, her happily ever after for Edwina doesn’t need to be tied up in a romantic package.
“I hope Edwina does find love in the future, but more than anything, what I want for Edwina is excitement and adventure,” she said. “I wanted Edwina to be able to figure out who she truly is.
“I see it as the beginning of her journey of self-exploration, not the end,” Chandran added.
“Bridgerton” Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming now on Netflix.