"You see them reverting back to their culture."
Bridgerton has always pitched itself as a diverse period drama, but Netflix is really leaning into true representation with the Indian-born Sharma sisters in Season 2 — and both actresses say it was a thrill to be part of it.
Simone Ashley plays Kate Sharma, the leading love interest of Anthony Bridgerton in Season 2, while Charithra Chandran plays her older sister Edwina Sharma. The actresses say they're proud to be part of the show, especially since it includes so many authentic depictions of South Asian women and customs.
"I think it's incredibly important. We are representing a minority of women in particular seen on television screens, and I think it's wonderful that more South Asian women can identify themselves within these characters," said Ashley at a Netflix press conference to promote Season 2.
It's rare to see an Indian character playing a central role in a Western series these days. There are a few exceptions of course, but they often lean into the same stereotype: a nerd with glasses who gets straight As in school. It's a very explicitly packaged character, and let's be honest, it's way too overplayed and predictable at this point.
Bridgerton doesn't do any of that with the Sharmas. Instead, the sisters are portrayed as headstrong Indian characters who get wrapped up in all the drama, scandal and sex we've come to expect from the show.
"What's really fascinating about the Sharmas is that essentially, they're immigrants," added Chandran at the press conference. "They're different not because of their skin colour [but] because they come from a different background. They have different customs."
One of those customs is showcased early in the show when the Sharmas take part in an Indian wedding custom called a haldi ceremony.
"I never really imagined we'd ever be on a set one day performing a scene like that," said Ashley.
A scene of a haldi ceremony from Bridgerton Season 2.Netflix | YouTube
The ceremony is a traditional event that usually takes place before a wedding. The bride's closest female friends and family members slather her skin with a turmeric paste, then she washes it off. It's a very sacred ritual in Indian culture, and it's done to bless the bride before her big day.
The scene shows Kate applying the haldi paste onto the arms of her older sister Edwina. Both sisters are wearing yellow dresses as per Indian tradition.
Chandran said she loved how Indian customs were incorporated into the show, including a scene where Kate applies oil to Edwina's hair to make her feel better. That, she pointed out, is a very culturally-appropriate thing to do.
"What I love about the show is that in moments of deep sadness, and in moments of jubilation, you see them reverting back to their culture," said Chandran.
"I think we're from a particular generation where there was often a lot of shame attached to being different, and you would want to assimilate to whatever the popular culture is at the time," she added.
"By having this representation, I hope that young girls and everyone that looks like us feels like they don't need to do that, and they can own that part of themselves."
Season 2 of Bridgerton drops Friday, March 25 on Netflix.
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