For Golda Rosheuvel, there’s a heavy weight that comes with playing Queen Charlotte in Netflix’s “Bridgerton.” A literal one. At least 30 lbs. of it.
“I measured it one time and it was a light day, so that means light costume, light wig and I gained 2 stone,” Rosheuvel told TheWrap, explaining what one of her character’s robust wigs and an extravagant gown adds (2 st. is about 28 lbs.).
So, when filming comes around, Rosheuvel puts in extra work behind the scenes to get, as she puts it, “match fit” (like a soccer match). That involves weight training, cycling, walking, healthy eating and hydration, all things needed to keep her strong and healthy. “Because it’s tough,” she adds across a Zoom connection from London. “It really is tough on the body. And if I’m match fit, then my recovery … is better.”
“Bridgerton” Season 2, which dropped last Friday on Netflix, brought the additional weight of emotionally rich storylines for her much-beloved character. Across its eight-episode run, there was the queen’s increasing obsession with unmasking Lady Whistledown, which sunk to new lows (like when she threatened Eloise Bridgerton), struggles when her latest Diamond, Edwina Sharma, ran from the altar after learning the groom, Anthony Bridgerton, had feelings for Kate Sharma, and vulnerability like when Charlotte witnessed her husband, the mad King George, wander into one of her receiving rooms and grow agitated in front of strangers.
It was an epic season for the Queen, and Rosheuvel dove into her character’s biggest moments with TheWrap.
TheWrap: One of the greatest scenes you have this season is during the wedding that didn’t happen and we see the madness of King George. It’s a major acting moment. Tell me about working on that scene since she has to go from shock to horror to anger, before Edwina steps in.
Golda Rosheuvel: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. It’s really beautiful to be able to play those roles, to be able to play a rounded character because it would be easy to just be one dimensional. That she just goes to the balls, she gossips … [she] wears fabulous clothes, fabulous wigs. And yeah, I’m really, really grateful for Chris [Van Dusen, ‘Bridgerton’s’ executive producer and showrunner] and the writers room for giving her vulnerability. And that scene is a really interesting one because I think you have so much going on for the queen. You’ve got her best mates – Lady Danbury and Violet — in the room, and then you’ve got people that she doesn’t know. And then the king comes in and how do you deal with that? How do you react to those – how in control are you? And the way I work as an actress is through, like instincts. So, nothing is really planned.
I love to work off the hook in the moment. I love being surprised by my own emotions as I’m feeling them. So … I worked out before ‘OK, [I’ve got my] mates in the room. I’ve got this unknown entity. Let’s see what happens. He walks in.’ So, one take … yeah, ready, he walks in and what happens? I have no idea. I play off the hook. So, then the next take, I’m like, ‘OK, let’s just concentrate on my mates and see what happens. Let’s just focus the emotion on them.’ So, he walks in and so there’s a lot of, ‘Oh my God, my mates are seeing this. Yes, obviously, they know about it because we talk over tea, we get together. What are they thinking? Of course, they’re in pain for me.’ … And then the next take will be, ‘Let’s look at the emotion that she’s going through with these strangers.’ Sort of be like, ‘OK, that used to be my Diamond [Lady Mary], this is now my Diamond [Edwina]. These people haven’t been with me for a number of years. They probably have heard about the king going mad. Do they understand?’ So, it’s always play, play, play, play, but I never ever have anything set in stone.
That’s amazing. So, after the Edwina speech, the Queen sees her in a different light. I think that’s a huge moment between the two of them, and obviously it leads to a very big speech from you later, but can you talk a little bit about what it means to Queen Charlotte that Edwina does that (and calms the king down)?
I think it’s really beautiful and very clever, because, you know, I was talking to somebody earlier and they were talking about the line, ‘The Diamond will have to do more than sparkle,’ that line. And I think there’s two sides to that line. There’s sparkle as in the plotting and finding out about Lady Whistledown, but also, there’s the sparkle in coming of age, in empowerment. And I think when Edwina does the speech and is so graceful and so kind and generous and has so much empathy with the king at that moment, that’s the sparkle of her empowerment. … And I think Charlotte is very much a woman of grace, is very much a woman of empathy, and a woman of openness, and to see a young woman be brave and be courageous in that moment, I think there’s a lot of respect there, which then gets taken into the scene that we do together
With the crown.
With the crown and all that kind of stuff. I spoke to [director] Tom Verica about it and I always wanted it to be not a motherly, mothering kind of scene or even a teaching kind of scene. That was more of Sensei.
I actually think that that scene (in the crown and jewels room) changes the course of the season. Like that’s a pivotal point in both Edwina’s journey and the journey that will happen to Anthony and Kate. Did you see it that way to what she said what she says?
Your lines there are just about true love and–
Yeah, about true love and the weight that that has for a woman. We’re talking female energy. We’re talking the strength of Earth, Mother Earth, I think. And, yeah, those two scenes for me are the ones that stand out most for Queen Charlotte as being yeah, real connected to her as a character.
She also gives Edwina something back in that second scene, not the jewels, she gives her her future back. I know what you said about reacting in the moment, but did you and Charithra get to talk much about that at all? That’s a heavy moment. And beautiful.
We did. We talked with Tom about it. I think it’s important to talk about it in terms of the kind of — the weight of it, and I wanted to know where Charithra was coming from and how she saw it and it was beautiful and exactly where I was coming from. But it wasn’t an in-depth conversation. For me, it was more, ‘I really want to clarify that this is not a mother-daughter moment. This is not. It’s something bigger. And yes, it’s bigger for them, but it’s about the world being bigger as well.’ … It’s funny, isn’t it, because it’s intimate, but yet, globally resonating. I think that that’s what was really exciting about doing that with Charithra. And we both were really into that kind of Sensei/world intimacy/resonating sisterhood, all of that kind of stuff.
And, of course, we wrap up that storyline with a sweet moment in the finale, where Queen Charlotte mentions to Edwina that she has a cousin who is a prince. She really sees her as someone she’s going to take under her wing. Like, you did me a solid in a very difficult moment in my life … I’m going to do a solid for you.
Yeah, exactly. They’re great. I think that’s a great comedy moment as well. ‘Don’t worry, baby. We got somebody for you.’
I’m curious how you calibrate your comedy moments? Because obviously they’re very serious for Charlotte, but say for example, the line you say when Edwina runs out of the wedding, Charlotte is like, ‘What happened to my wedding?’ Is it, again, about trying it in the moment?
Yeah, absolutely. But comedy has to come from truth. You cannot fake comedy. In my opinion. So that’s where the laugh comes in. The audience is going, ‘Oh my God. She actually believes that this is her wedding.’ …. And I think Charlotte believes that it’s hers. She has ownership on it. And I’ll say it again, you have to be truthful. You cannot be faking comedy because it just doesn’t work. It has to be real.
Here’s something I’d love for you to explain. Since you are in the mind of Queen Charlotte, what does she hope to gain from Lady Whistledown, especially when she finds Eloise and she threatens her and says, ‘You could be helpful to the Crown.’ What does she want Lady Whistledown to do for her?
Yeah, that’s an interesting question. I have no idea and I leave that up to the writers. Somebody asked me, ‘Do you speak to the writers? Have you spoken to Chris?’ I haven’t with Queen Charlotte because I haven’t felt the need to because I trust them so much to deliver the storyline the way that they want to deliver it that I wait in anticipation, I wait [with] excited, bated breath. And when it comes, I will play it wholeheartedly. I’ve never felt with this role I need to know. Like Nikola [Coughlan] likes to know, who pays Penelope. She likes to know her arc and the journey of the character. I’m really cool being surprised.
You got to spend a little more time with Jonathan Bailey (Anthony) this season. You didn’t have a ton of scenes together in the first season. He was in scenes with you, but not interacting with you. Finally getting to work together must have been fun, right?
It was so great. He’s so great. He’s a really great collaborator. … He’s really receptive to stuff. … And he’s exquisite in this role, I think. And I can’t wait for people to really see what he’s done with the role and how and where Anthony’s come from. I’ve always said that an actor’s superpower is their empathy, and I think you really empathize with Johnny and because he has empathy for the character. And he is one of those actors that really taps into his empathy for characterization and storytelling. Yeah, it’s really great. And yeah, we have a lot of fun. A lot of fun.
So, let’s go to the scene with Eloise where Queen Charlotte threatens her in the carriage. We haven’t seen the queen threaten anyone like that. That was brutal.
Were you shocked when you read it? Did you get on the phone with Chris?
No, I was like, ‘Yes! Woooooooo! This is fantastic.’ And there’s a fine line [with Charlotte] … because it could tip over to caricature, very, very easily. We could tip over into the fakeness of it all. I mean, the one-liners and so on and so forth. So, to keep her right on the edge of all of that, of honesty and trickery I think I’ll call it, it really played out in the scene for me when I was rehearsing the scene, you know, learning the lines and stuff. Because she could be, ‘Ah ha ha ha ha.’ That kind of villain. … I think it’s a really lovely [take the editors have] chosen, because there’s a sense of, ‘Oh, my God, I had no idea that this woman — this is terrifying that this woman can be like that.’ But I think there’s an air of awe in a way maybe, that she’s got it in her and oh, my God can’t wait to see more of this.
The response to your performance in this … people love Queen Charlotte. We’re getting a spin off series of young Queen Charlotte. So, clearly the world fell in love with Queen Charlotte in Season 1 and I’d love to hear how that response affected you. I mean there’s going to be a Queen Charlotte’s spinoff.
Yeah, I know. It’s great and I’m thrilled to be in the spinoff as well, which is lovely. You know, I never think anybody’s going to like what I do. I put it out and I hope for the best. I think that’s all you can hope for. And we have all been very blessed with the reaction to the show. … She’s a great character to play. I know the world really well; I know the character really well. It’s a joy — I’ve said this in interviews before — to celebrate my mum’s side. I’m a biracial actress, so to be able to celebrate that side is really great. You know, I’ve had wonderful journey of celebrating both of my parents, and this one just happens to be you know, something my mum, I’m tapping into. I’m very grateful. Very, very grateful.
“Bridgerton” Season 2 is streaming on Netflix now.