Heavy is the head that wears the crown in “Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story,” but the actors who star in the show carry the responsibility together.
As the title indicates, “Queen Charlotte” is a spinoff of Netflix’s wildly popular 19th-century period drama created by Shonda Rhimes. The prequel series was under a lot of pressure to follow up the more or less colorblind society established in “Bridgerton” — in addition to living up to the steaminess synonymous with the Regency-era show that’s based on Julia Quinn’s books.
It’s the story of how teenage Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz married King George of England and rose mightily to her royal position. She is played by India Amarteifio, alongside Corey Mylchreest as George (who struggles with mental illness) and Arsema Thomas as Lady Agatha Danbury, a young, recently widowed aristocrat who befriends Charlotte.
Unlike “Bridgerton,” which has not openly acknowledged the multi-ethnic society in which the show takes place, “Queen Charlotte” does. Charlotte’s arrival in England leads to the Great Experiment, whereby the aristocracy becomes integrated. Before Charlotte married George, Thomas said that Lady Danbury “probably thought of George like she thinks of every aristocratic white boy, which is like, ‘Oh, look at you with your tough problems. Doesn’t that suck?’ She probably looks at him with no pity or empathy whatsoever. I think that’s why she warns Charlotte initially, ‘Keep an eye out.’”
Mylchreest, who plays the white boy in question, turned to Thomas. “You know that first moment in Episode 1 where Agatha is like, “Hey, if you need me, I will call [on you]?” he asked. “Is that just a general thing of, like, ‘We’re together in this society that doesn’t respect us as we should be?’”
“I think it’s: ‘You are now entering into a space where you probably don’t recognize how this all works,’” said Thomas.
Lady Danbury was promised to a man in marriage at the age of three and experienced motherhood the way plenty of aristocrats did in the 19th century: at a certain remove from her children. “She’s just not maternal,” Thomas said. “I think she’s a really good example of a woman who is the poster child of duty. All three of us are different poster children for duty, but hers comes out in a way that her body was used to make babies that she has no emotional connection with until she needs them to secure the longevity and stability of her family, which I think is her number one priority.”
Amarteifio, Mylchreest and Thomas all formed deep bonds while shooting the series. And they also found that they picked up a few new habits while hanging out in the “Bridgerton” universe.
“Sometimes I feel like I spoke a little bit better, which is actually not a bad thing,” Amarteifio said. “It’s quite a good thing. I think that’s probably it. You guys?”
“I always had the need to do something when somebody enters a room,” Thomas said. “So now whenever somebody comes into the room, I stand. I feel strange just sitting. [I don’t do] a full-on curtsy, but a part of me is like, something has to be done to initiate the contact.”
“Wow,” Mylchreest said. “I need to come into rooms more often and just leave and enter, leave and enter. My thing is that Reynolds [Freddie Dennis] is my butler and I got him to do loads of things for me in the show. He would wait on me and serve my every whim. And we now live together [as roommates] and I think I’ve done well in continuing that relationship exactly the way that it should continue, which is the status that we hold in the show.”
Amarteifio and Mylchreest developed an intense chemistry, working with intimacy coordinators Elizabeth Talbot and Lucy Fennell for the sex scenes. The intimate scenes of the two of them were more challenging than the sex scene that took place in view of others in the royal dining room, when Charlotte and George start going at it with Brimsley (Sam Clemmett) and waitstaff still in the room.
“There’s comedy in that scene. And also, Sam, who plays Brimsley wasn’t there. That’s greenscreened in,” Mylchreest said. “Freddie was there, and then obviously, there’s all those extras that are there. When there’s so many people there, there’s no way that you can connect to the vulnerability of that moment.”
One of the most touching scenes in “Queen Charlotte” takes place when George hides under the bed after failing to address Parliament the way a king should. “The heavens, they cannot find me under here,” he says, before Charlotte comforts him, offers him her love and gives him some savvy political advice. The scene then goes on to show George and Charlotte in their older years, as played by James Fleet and Golda Rosheuvel.
“I found it really emotional because it’s the only point, for me anyway, that I can watch the show and the story of George and Charlotte hits me,” Mylchreest said. “Otherwise I’m going, ‘Why did I make that choice? I could have done that better.’ That bit, it’s other actors so it just hits me all at once.”
“It’s really rare to work on a show where you can see how the character you’re portraying ends up,” Amarteifio added. “And then to watch Golda and James do the scene — their way of going about it was so different to ours. Their understanding and their portrayals of the characters are just very different. They’re in different places in their life. It was really special to watch. A real treat.”
And if “Queen Charlotte” gets a second season, have they thought about what they’d like to see happen? “I think maybe just a rebrand of the name,” Mylchreest deadpanned. “I think ‘Queen Charlotte’ is a bit boring now. Look, just off the top of my head: ‘Cool, Cool George’ or ‘Really Nice Georgie.’ Rolls off the tongue.” He turned to Amarteifio and Thomas and grinned. “How about you guys?”
“I’m going to leave it at that,” Amarteifio groaned.
“I’m not!” said Thomas, laughing. “I want more of the other ‘Bridgerton’ characters to come in and start to make their way. It would be cool to see the Danbury’s and the Hastings — I want to know where that friendship comes from.” She’d also love to get the backstory of the secret room Lady Danbury shows off in Season 1, where women are playing cards. “I’m obsessed with the moment where Lady Danbury brings Daphne [Phoebe Dynevor] in and she says, ‘Welcome to my den of iniquity.’ I was like, how the hell? I want to see that.”