Bridgerton as kate sharma
During the Regency era in England, eight close-knit siblings of the powerful Bridgerton family attempt to find love.
Sex Education as olivia
A teenage boy with a sex therapist mother teams up with a high school classmate to set up an underground sex therapy clinic at school.
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Filming wrapped on the second series of Netflix smash period drama Bridgerton over the weekend, with the show set to air next year.
Creator and showrunner Chris Van Dusen posted a photo of himself of himself hugging leads Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley, declaring a “wrap on season two.”
“So proud of this cast and crew who brought their A-games to work each and every day in this very challenging year,” he wrote. “And these two in this photo with me right here. Words are not enough. Coming in 2022.”
Bailey, who plays Anthony Bridgerton, also posted a photo of himself at the wrap party on Instagram, saying his “heart was full.”
The season two premiere has already aired for cast and crew, according to another of its stars, Nicola Coughlan, earlier this month.
The eight-part series will pick up with a fresh set of scandals following the conclusion of season one, which became Netflix’s most-watched show of all time and has only recently been eclipsed by Squid Game. A third and fourth series of Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland drama have already been commissioned.
Growth is something Ashley relishes about being an actress, which is good being that the British up-and-comer, who is of Indian heritage, is on the rise. A bit part in Warner Bros. feature Detective Pikachu and a cadre of episodes in U.K. series like Casualty and Broadchurch, predated a recurring role in Netflix’s Sex Education. The latter, which has been a recurring fixture in Netflix’s Top 10 over its three seasons, offered a “confidence boost,” says the actress. Next up is an almost assured breakout role as the female lead in the second season of the streamer’s global hit Bridgerton, an experience that Ashley says has her already feeling “like a different person.”
If I weren’t an actor, I’d be … “A marine biologist.”
If a superhero franchise was based on my life, my superpower would be … “Making brunch.”
If I had a theme song, it would be … “Dela” by Johnny Clegg
If I had to live in a world from a movie or TV show, I would choose … “Napa Valley, California, in The Parent Trap with Lindsay Lohan, or Barcelona in Vicky Cristina Barcelona.”
Written by Ashley Cullins & Mia Galuppo
When Simone Ashley received the script for the second season of Netflix’s Bridgerton, she was wrapping the final episodes of the comedy-drama series Sex Education in London. On the verge of being a “technically unemployed actress again,” Ashley, a native of Surrey, England, landed the lead role of Bridgerton’s Kate Sharma. Ashley describes Kate as an “independent, competitive rule breaker, who comes across as quite strong and brave and has that fighting exterior, but she is also incredibly vulnerable.” (“Kate is also really witty and I’m not really like that,” she adds.) Ashley says she developed “really, really great chemistry” with costar Jonathan Bailey, who plays her love interest, Anthony Bridgerton. “Kate really puts her family first,” Ashley teases of the new season. “When the stakes of love come with family as well—it’s very different.”
Written by Ariana Yaptangco
The Sex Education actress, one of PEOPLE’s Ones to Watch, shares the story of being cast as the new romantic lead on Bridgerton — including hearing from one of her favorite stars
Simone Ashley didn’t always see herself as a screen actress.
The British actress, 26, who will be the new romantic lead in season 2 of Bridgerton and is featured in PEOPLE’s 2021 Ones to Watch package in this week’s issue, initially had her heart set on musical theater.
“I grew up singing quite a lot and studied a lot of classical music, and then that kind of led into musical theater and I fell in love with musicals,” Ashley says. “Whilst I was studying musical theater, I actually started to watch a lot of movies, particularly [Quentin] Tarantino films.”
The Pulp Fiction and Inglourious Basterds director’s work shifted Ashley’s perspective on her career. “I was really inspired to maybe try screen more,” she says. “I started auditioning for more film and TV screen-based projects and never really continued with musical theater.”
While a return to the stage may be a goal for another time, Ashley soon booked her first big role on Netflix’s Sex Education, which premiered its third season earlier this month.
“I was a very classical actor with pennies left in my bank account,” she says of the game-changing moment she got the call for Sex Education. To celebrate, “I took myself out for sushi and tuna tacos and some sake.”
Upon being cast as the headstrong Kate Sharma, a love interest for Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), on the No. 1 show on Netflix (well, until Squid Game, that is) earlier this year, Ashley simply got down to business. “Before I knew it, I was going into the studios where we film for fittings,” she says. “It happened incredibly fast.”
While she says she’s really “trying to just focus” and not get too overwhelmed by her newfound fame or any sort of pressure that comes with Bridgerton’s sophomore season, Ashley says there have been “some pinch-me moments,” especially when she heard from one of her favorite stars.
“When Mindy Kaling messaged me, because I’m a super hardcore fan of hers, I grew up looking up to her and her work and still do, that was a bit of a pinch-me moment, because I never really thought I would ever interact with Mindy,” Ashley says. “She just said congratulations and was just really lovely.”
Of course, Ashley “messaged back with loads of emojis!”
As for the show itself, Ashley clearly connects to her character, Kate Sharma, whom she describes as “sporty and competitive” and “really smart.”
“She listens to her own instincts and she’s not easily swayed by what everyone else is doing,” Ashley continues. “We meet her in different vulnerable moments and discover her background a little bit more and the family trauma that she holds.”
Bridgerton season 2 is expected to arrive on Netflix in 2022.
Written by Breanne L. Heldman