When openly gay “Bridgerton” star Golda Rosheuvel —who plays the wigtastic gossip-loving Queen Charlotte on the Netflix series — was starting her acting career, she was told by a lesbian director that she should stay in the closet.
“We were talking about being out and proud and representation and whether I should say I was gay in interviews,” Rosheuvel tells me on this week’s episode of the “Just for Variety” podcast. “And it was an absolute no: ‘You absolutely shouldn’t do that. It could or it would ruin your career as an actor.’ I would rather lose a job than not be true to who I am. I’d rather not work in an industry that doesn’t accept me. …It just wasn’t how I was raised. And then her being out as a female director, as a lesbian director, I was like, ‘I don’t understand this advice.’ It blew my mind.”
Rosheuvel, who was known mostly as a theater actor in the U.K. before “Bridgerton” gave her star a royal boost, will be in New York City on Saturday night at the Human Rights Campaign gala, where the LGBTQ civil rights organization will honor her with this year’s Equality Award. “I’m out and proud,” she says. “My sexuality is really important to me in terms of existing, knowing that I’m important. I’m as important as anyone on the planet. Do you know what I mean? My partner [writer Shireen Mula] always says, ‘The mere fact that you’re on the screen. The mere fact that you’re in ‘Bridgerton’ as a Black, biracial, cis-gender, lesbian playing the first Black queen of England. The fact that you’re there is immense.’”
I talked to Rosheuvel over Zoom video from the U.K. when she returned home after spending the day shooting the Queen Charlotte origin story series: “It’s important for me to be out and proud and to normalize things for that one person, that one young boy or girl or transgender or non-binary [person] to be able to say, ‘I’m not alone.’”
What do you think when the Human Rights Campaign puts out a press release and they call you a role model?
I’m proud of it. I’ve worked hard in my life. It hasn’t always been easy. I’m really proud of who I am and what I stand for in my heart, in my soul. So for other people to see that and take from that an empowerment, a sense of belief in themselves, is great, is wonderful.
Let’s talk “Bridgerton.” Have they ever come to you with one of your outfits and you’re like, “WTF? How am I going to wear that? How is that going to sit on my head?”
There was only one moment where [hairstylist] Erica [Ökvist] was like — I think it was for one of the balls — “I see this boat.” And I was like, “Okay …” And then she made it and it was so big, Marc. It was ridiculous. And we had talked about really pushing as far as we could, do you know what I mean? Like with every look, we were like, “Can we push it far?” And we got away with it with a lot of them, but this one I was like, “I think we pushed it a little bit too hard. That’s impossible to wear.”
Those wigs look like they’re really heavy. Are they?
The ball ones are quite heavy because they have to be quite established and not move, but it’s better this year round, definitely, because I was in dialogue this time round. It was a bigger collaboration with the new team, so we were able to discuss what was helping, what was not helping, and I had lots of fittings and was able to say, “We need to look at this in a different way because it’s pretty heavy.”
Does your contract say you get neck massages?
I’m keeping myself fit. The body strength is really important because you’re holding yourself in a different way than you do naturally. And to do that for long periods for filming, it can take its toll on the body so. I check up on my spine, my neck, all of that kind of stuff. I train a few times a week and eat healthily before filming. And also, the corsets, as well. To be pushed into a small little space for long periods of time, our bodies aren’t used to that kind of stuff. I don’t know how they did it back in the 18th century. I have no idea how they did it.
When did you find out that there was going to be your own spin-off?
We were filming Season 2 and I got an email about a big meeting that afternoon. I was like, “Oh, god. Are we all fired?” And then I got the call saying that Shonda [Rhimes] was going to be on there, Betsy [Beers] was going to be on there and the whole cast. We were told several things at the same time. That was one of them that we were told. It took a little while to go, “Oh, okay. That’s interesting. Right. Okay. Am I in it? Who’s doing what? Shonda’s writing it? Oh my god. Okay. Netflix has approved it.” And then we’ve started filming it.
There is a younger me, there’s a younger Danbury, there’s a younger Brimsley, there’s a younger king. And Hugh [Sachs], who plays Brimsley, and I, we were on set the other day and India [Amareifio] and Sam [Clemmett]– India plays Queen Charlotte, Sam plays Brimsley — and we were standing in the doorway and they were just finishing off and Sam was standing exactly the same way on my right side, on India’s right side, and I was standing on the left. And Hugh and I looked at [eachother] and just was like, “This is extraordinary. This is just such a beautiful moment.” Like a passing on to the next generation of actors and to the next storylines of these characters. It was a really empowering moment for us as the veteran actors. You just see these wonderful, beautiful young human beings just stepping into these roles. I was really proud. It was a really proud moment.
If you could have a real royal on “Bridgerton,” who would you want to see pop up in a cameo?
I think the queen would be quite sensational. The actual, living queen. Who else? I think William would be quite good, actually. I think he’d be up for a good time.
I think William would be good, but I think Harry would do Queen Charlotte drag.
Oh, yeah! He’d be great. Definitely.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity. You can listen to full interview on “Just for Variety” above, at Apple Podcasts or wherever you find your favorite podcasts.