Bridgerton actress says diversity key to success

Banita Sandhu as Miss Malhotra
Banita Sandhu played Miss Malhotra in the Netflix period drama [Netflix]

The key to hit TV show Bridgerton’s success is that people from "every country can watch the show and see themselves in it," an actress on the show has said.

Banita Sandhu, who plays Miss Malhotra in the Netflix period drama, said characters with different ethnicities had significant storylines and were not just "ornamental".

Bridgerton, now on its third series, is set in early 19th Century high society in London and has been described as a "Regency-era Gossip Girl".

Banita, 26, grew up in Caerleon, Newport, after her grandparents moved to Britain from Punjab, northern India, shortly after World War Two, with both her parents born in the UK.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales, she said the so-called "colour blind" casting in Bridgerton made it a very "warm and inviting" set to be on.

She said it was common on British productions for her to be the only actress of south Asian heritage.

“It’s already a struggle being an actor, but being an actor of colour is another struggle,” she said.

“I’m hoping this has paved the way for those stories finally to be told, so that we have a better understanding of our history and our place in the United Kingdom,” she said.

She added that the reason the show is so popular worldwide is “because every person from every country can watch the show and see themselves in it, and see themselves with a significant storyline, and not just as something ornamental”.

“And I think that's the most wonderful part about the show, and especially for me as an Indian actress to be on that set with so many different people of colour, and to have very shared experiences,” she said.

But she was keen to point out that Bridgerton’s diverse casting is not just a creative liberty, and that there were Indian families in British high society at the time, including a royal family from Punjab, as well as the Indian godchild of Queen Victoria.

Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton
The latest series of Bridgerton focuses on a blossoming romance between Lady Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton [Netflix]

The first four episodes of series three of Bridgerton were released earlier this month, with the final episodes out on Netflix on 13 June.

The series has already notched up more than 25 million views in the UK, according to the streamer.

The latest series focuses on a blossoming romance between Lady Penelope Featherington (played by Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton).

It continues to be narrated by the mysterious Lady Whistledown, who writes newsletters full of tittle-tattle about the dating exploits of high society. At the end of season one, her identity was revealed to be Lady Penelope.

As Miss Malhotra, on the hunt for a husband, Banita attended the balls that appeared in the series, dressed in the costume department’s lavish finery.

“Every week the costume team would surprise me and bring even bigger stuff,” she said, adding that she loved the detail put into them, as well that many of the costumes were recycled.

“It was just such craftsmanship – it was amazing. I think my favourite was the pink one that I wear when Lady [Whistledown] was speaking about me,” she said.

However, she acknowledged that some of the costumes were difficult to wear, including a headdress that included an enormous white feather.

"I felt like I was 7ft tall. It was amazing," she said.

"You have to bow and you’re trying to balance the feather and not fall and look graceful at the time same time.

"But I can say I’ve worn a feather on my head that’s that big now."