With Netflix series Queen Charlotte, a prequel to Bridgerton, released this week, Televisual spoke with casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry about finding faces for the much-anticipated series.
The series is created by Shonda Rhimes and her production company Shondaland which was also behind Bridgerton. As well as being a stand-out hit for Netflix, the period drama made waves with its bold casting.
The prequel looks at the life of the young Charlotte years before the period in which Bridgerton’s first two seasons are set. The plot involves King George III’s mother seeing that his contracted bride is black and inviting several prominent people of colour to the wedding and granting them titles on her son’s behalf, effectively desegregating society.
Hendry worked with Cole Edwards as joint casting directors. Hendry heads up KVHCasting, which has worked on shows from Broadchurch, through Gangs of London and also the casting for Bridgerton.
Queen Charlotte sees the appearance of characters from Bridgerton, but also newcomer 21- year old India Amarteifio as Young Charlotte. The actress had previously played supporting characters in Line Of Duty, Sex Education and Doctor Who. (See further cast members below.)
Q and A with casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry CDG
Bridgerton has been celebrated for its colour-conscious casting. How did this decision come about and – with the drama’s success now firmly established – how convinced are you that it was the right decision?
When you work on a project from Shonda Rhimes and the team at Shondaland it goes without saying that the casting will be inclusive. I am so honoured that they trust me with that process. One of the great things about working on Bridgerton and Queen Charlotte is that we are all on the same page naturally about this. We are a re imagined history – and everyone should see themselves in that.
How closely were you involved with decisions about casting generally.
We work as a team. We are incredibly supported by everyone at Shondaland and Netflix. We are given clear briefs and we talk at length about the qualities they are looking for. Then myself and the co casting director Cole Edwards and my team are unleashed to the world and we go hunting for the best person for the job as per their brief. And we love to show curve balls and the great thing about this team – they are so open to ideas. Ultimately it is not my decision but we do not stop until we think that we have shown the best.
Have you cast other productions in such a diverse way, could you mention one or two examples.
I love our casting on Gangs of London and Wheel of Time. We go to great lengths to make sure we have a lot of representation and intersectional inclusivity too.
How much easier/ more challenging does colour conscious casting make the job of casting director?
This IS my job. I also have to remember that I am not a person of colour either and my lens is one of a middle aged, white gay woman. My office is inclusive and I respect and need their input every day. We have to constantly try and see things through other people’s eyes.
Can you talk a bit about cast members who might not have normally been cast in these roles, especially where historical fiction has been slow to cast diverse actors.
The fact that people were correctly pushing for more representation on our screens and stages in the last few years has meant that we have an exciting, and I’m delighted to say, large pool of young talent available.Young people started seeing themselves on screen. That has a double win – not only could people start seeing themselves in positions of power, characters that were respected and adored, they also thought they could also have careers as actors. So more people went to drama school. More people had the confidence to apply for scholarships. More people wrote to casting directors, persuaded their parents to let them try to act. The knock on effect is what you see in Queen Charlotte and Bridgerton. Great actors of colour who deserve their long over due place at the table.
Golda Rosheuvel (pronouns: she/her) plays Queen Charlotte (Regency Era)
Adjoa Andoh (pronouns: she/her) plays Lady Danbury (Regency Era)
Ruth Gemmell (pronouns: she/her) plays Lady Violet Bridgerton (Regency Era)
India Amarteifio (pronouns: she/her) plays Young Charlotte
Arsema Thomas (pronouns: she/her/they/them) plays Young Agatha Danbury
Michelle Fairley (pronouns: she/her) plays Princess Augusta
Corey Mylchreest (pronouns: he/him) plays Young King George
Sam Clemmett (pronouns: he/him) is Young Brimsley.
Freddie Dennis (pronouns: he/him) is Reynolds. The King’s Man.
Hugh Sachs (pronouns: he/him) is Brimsley (Regency Era).
Cyril Nri (pronouns: he/him) is Lord Danbury.
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