EXCLUSIVE: Bridgerton has found its Kate. Simone Ashley (Sex Education, Because the Night) has been tapped as the female lead opposite Jonathan Bailey in Season 2 of Netflix and Shondaland’s hugely popular Regency-era period drama series based on Julia Quinn’s romance novels.
The second season will chronicle the pursuit of a suitable marriage for the eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony (Bailey), as chronicled in the second book of Quinn’s Bridgerton series, The Viscount Who Loved Me.
Ashley will play Anthony’s romantic interest, Kate Sharma. Newly arrived in London, Kate is a smart, headstrong young woman who suffers no fools — Anthony Bridgerton very much included.
In Season 2, Bridgerton continues to break conventions on race. Anthony’s love interest (named Kate Sheffield in Quinn’s novel) and her family were conceived by the series’ producing team as being of Indian descent in a continuation of the reimagined, multi-racial world of early 1800s London high society created in Season 1, which included several major Black characters, including the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page), Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) and Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel).
As Season 2 leads, Bailey and Ahsley will succeed Page and Phoebe Dynevor, who became global stars as Simon and Daphne, the couple whose sweeping romance was at the center of Season 1. (Page is hosting Saturday Night Live this weekend.)
British actress Ashley was already on Netflix’s radar; she is probably best known for her role as Olivia Hanan on the streamer’s popular series Sex Education. She is one of several cast additions for Season 2 of Bridgerton, which will start filming this spring in London.
“We have a bunch of new characters we are going to be introducing,” creator and showrunner Chris Van Dusen said in announcing the Season 2 renewal on Today with Hoda & Jenna last month. “Anthony is going to have a love interest next season, and I think it’s going to be as sweeping and moving and as beautiful as viewers of the first season have come to expect from the show.”
The focal point of Season 2 was teased in the final minutes of the Season 1 finale when Anthony revealed to Daphne and Simon his plans of “finding and promptly declaring my intentions to my new viscountess” after the heartbreaking end of his relationship with opera singer Siena.
“We left him at the end of the first season at a bit of a crossroads, so I’m looking forward to jumping in and discovering how he fares on the marriage market,” Van Dusen said in the interview, noting that his hope is for Page and Dynevor to return.
With its vibrant mix of Jane Austen-meets-Gossip Girl and its contemporary storytelling redefining the period drama and romance genres, Bridgerton has captivated audiences around the world to shatter Netflix’s viewership records. It became the streamer’s biggest series ever as 82 million households globally watched the first season (partially or in its entirety) in the first four weeks.
The series also stars Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Claudia Jessie (Eloise Bridgerton), Ruby Barker (Marina Thompson), Luke Thompson (Benedict Bridgerton), Luke Newton (Colin Bridgerton), Ruby Stokes (Francesca Bridgerton), Will Tilston (Gregory Bridgerton), Florence Hunt (Hyacinth Bridgerton), Ruth Gemmell (Lady Violet Bridgerton), Bessie Carter (Prudence Featherington), Harriet Cains (Philipa Featherington), Polly Walker (Lady Portia Featherington), Ben Miller (Lord Featherington), Sabrina Bartlett (Siena Rosso), Martins Imhangbe (Will Mondrich), Kathryn Drysdale (Madame Genevieve Delacroix) and Lorraine Ashbourne (Mrs. Varley).
Van Dusen executive produces with Shondaland’s Shonda Rhimes and Betsy Beers.
Ashley had a major recurring role on Neil Cross’ 2020 ITV limited series The Sister. Her resume also includes an arc on Season 3 of Broadchurch. Ashley is repped by Gersh, Identity Agency Group in the UK and attorney Derek Kroeger at Myman Greenspan Fox.