Even from the first trailer of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, it was evident that co-stars India Amarteifio and Corey Mylchreest oozed on-screen chemistry as Queen Charlotte and King George III. And with the new Shondaland show now streaming worldwide on Netflix, that chemistry is even more evident throughout all six episodes of the limited series.
Queen Charlotte is an original prequel story to Bridgerton, written and executive produced by Shonda Rhimes, with Bridgerton director Tom Verica at the helm of (and also executive producing) the entire series. It’s the origin story of Queen Charlotte, a character created specifically by Rhimes for Bridgerton (and played by Golda Rosheuvel) who has become a beloved symbol of strength and honor, despite her penchant for very expensive shiny things. In Queen Charlotte, Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is forcibly taken from her aristocratic home in Germany and betrothed to King George III. To the relief of all involved, including both Charlotte and George, sparks fly, and the union seems destined to succeed. But this great love story is not without its challenges. Despite the emotional upheaval that both the king and queen experience, their bond is a pivotal moment for English aristocratic culture, one that eventually creates a world that encompasses the stories of Bridgerton.
“The story could be summed up as what happens when love dances with trauma,” says Mylchreest. “It’s very hard to separate the two because they inform each other; they dance with each other throughout the entire [series].”
Though Amarteifio and Mylchreest seem perfectly matched in the show, their careers up to this point have been entirely different. Amarteifio, 21, began her career as a child. She acted in a West End theater production of The Lion King as the young Nala and as part of the original cast of the musical Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Growing up in West London, she attended the Richmond Academy of Dance starting at age 11, where she landed an audition for the Sylvia Young Theatre School, which she attended with a scholarship. Two of her first television roles were in 2015 on The Interceptor and Doctor Who, and she also played Thandie Newton’s daughter in Line of Duty. You may have also seen her in a role in the film Military Wives, as well as a walk-on part in the first season of Sex Education.
Mylchreest, for his part, only graduated from the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in 2020. Other than the dozen or so plays he performed in throughout school, he’s done two short films and one episode of Netflix’s The Sandman. The 25-year-old Londoner would be the first to admit that he was extremely green going into Queen Charlotte. Though you’d never know it after watching the show.
Here, we talk to Amarteifio and Mylchreest about the weight and excitement of joining the Bridgerverse, about building that lush chemistry on-screen and off, and about filming those (many) steamy sex scenes.
(Light spoilers for Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story follow.)
VALENTINA VALENTINI: So, I’ve been on set, and I’ve seen your chemistry as friends. I’d love to know how building your friendship off-screen might have helped mimic the romantic chemistry you two have on-screen.
INDIA AMARTEIFIO: I feel like I say it all the time, but I just feel very lucky that Corey is who he is. This was such a mammoth job to take on, but it was such a shared responsibility between the two of us. I’m very aware of how lucky I am that I was paired with Corey because not only is he a fantastic actor — and that doesn’t even quantify my actual beliefs about his talent, but we’d probably be here all day just fluffing up Corey’s ego if I went into it — but his dedication to the work made me want to work harder.
COREY MYLCHREEST: Wow. Okay. Next question [both laugh]. I think friendship isn’t always necessary with your co-star, but whether you are playing enemies or you are at war or you are playing lovers or partners or friends, I think any level of friendship off-screen is always going to help the chemistry on-screen. It’s been an absolute privilege to not only meet but to work alongside India for about eight months.
VV: Aww. That is really sweet.
CM: I always think about our time together on set as a bit like a mosaic because every scene we had to film with each other is putting the spotlight on a very detailed element of our characters’ relationship. We worked in quite a similar way too, in that we were always wanting to ask questions and find out more — let’s get to the truth of this moment. If one of them is feeling insecure or the other one’s feeling conflicted, or bound to their duties, whatever it is, we would always talk about what our relationship was to those themes in real life. And if you do that with enough scenes, then not only do you get a greater understanding of these two people on-screen, but you also get a greater understanding of each other as people. And often, it was an intimate or vulnerable scene, or maybe a scene where you have to get your kit [clothing/costumes] off, which neither of us have ever done that really, but going through those things together builds a bond and a trust.
VV: Speaking of specific scenes, do you remember what the first scene was that you two filmed together?
IA: Can’t forget it! It was Blenheim Palace, the scene just after the wedding where he’s like, “Right, I’m just gonna drop you off at this house I bought for you, and I’m gonna go back to Kew.”
CM: It was a huge scene. I was so nervous.
IA: I remember texting you, “Make sure you bring snacks,” and you were like, “India! I can’t eat. That’s not what I’m thinking about!”
CM: I remember India saying we were on the last setup, and I just replied, “Oh, okay. Great.” And inside my head, I was like, what is a setup?! What does that mean? I didn’t know anything because I’d only done theater and like a day on a film, but I didn’t know what a “setup” was. I had no idea what I was doing. I remember the first shot that we did was a drone shot, so it’s this massive drone in the air, and it’s making this loud whirring noise so you can’t hear anything. And we were in the carriage as it turns and pulls up to the house, and we walk up the steps, and I remember India doing something funny with her hands. What were you doing?
IA: I was trying to make up a secret handshake for us. I was trying to not bulk myself down with what we were actually doing — otherwise, I would’ve been a mess. I was just trying to keep the comedy, keep it light, do something fun.
CM: Well, I’ve always remembered that. It was very helpful because my mind was going crazy, and watching India be silly with her hands seemed to help. Oh, God! I just remembered — so, this drone captured so much area that Tom [Verica] and the entire crew had to be a hundred meters away. So, we finished the scene, and the assistant director comes up with a walkie-talkie and Tom’s voice on the other end [in an American accent]: “India. Great job. Just same again. And Corey …” Big pause, big silence. “Is that how you’re gonna do it?” I looked at you, and I was like, “Oh, my God.” And then he goes, “No, I’m just f--king with you, man! It was great.” That was really funny. But I remember thinking that this was all going to be okay because in that first take, I saw that India was going to be a great mate, and Tom knows how to have a laugh.
VV: How about the toughest scene you had to do? The most challenging, whatever that means to you.
CM: Maybe it’s because we watched episode six the other day, but there’s quite an emotional scene where Charlotte comes into the observatory to confront George. I had broken my ankle, so the reason that George is sat down and in the corner the entire time is because I could not move [laughs]. I had this big rehabilitation boot on. There’s this point where I go to hug you, and then you hug me back, and I can’t take the weight, and I wobble a bit. But it’s like he’s just really in the moment.
IA: Do you remember how Tom would make us all sing “Happy Birthday” every morning to Leo, our cameraman? Sometimes, it was a different person, but it was mainly Leo, and every day it was his birthday, so he must have aged, like, 30 years! It did boost morale quite a bit.
CM: It took me, like, six weeks to realize that was a joke [both laugh]. I always thought that it was someone’s actual birthday because in the first block of filming, I was only there every day for maybe one week, and then I wouldn’t be there at the beginning of the day or something.
IA: Did you ever have a birthday while we were filming?
CM: It was actually my birthday at one point, yes.
IA: Did they sing “Happy Birthday” to you?
CM: They sang “Happy Birthday” to someone else.
CM: They didn’t know it was my birthday, but it was all good. I’m all right.
IA: Are you sure? I never got a happy birthday.
CM: Well, your birthday wasn’t when we were filming.
IA: Neither was Leo’s! [Both laugh.]
VV: Not to be a Debby Downer after such a funny anecdote, but so much of your characters’ relationship is wrapped up in trauma. How do you think that the trauma informed their love for each other?
CM: It’s hard to separate the two. I don’t know if trauma is the right word, but let’s say that it is — I think trauma is such a big part of Charlotte’s relationship to her duty, and her role, and the oppression that she is subject to. For George, there’s the pressure of the crown, and his family, and the oppression that he feels through that. In their first meeting, these two people see each other for who they are, not their roles, but people that are fighting back against some sort of pressure and who are desperately trying to be normal. She’s trying to climb over a wall, and I’m trying to say I’m not the king, I’m just George, and it’s such an integral part of their initial connection.
IA: They both understand that they’re in positions of such great weight and responsibility that, really, only the two of them can recognize that they’re both two people trying to break free from something. She’s been shipped from another country and planted in one of the most powerful monarchies in the world. George is the monarchy. So, it’s understanding these now-pivotal positions of power in which they both don’t actually want to be in. Understanding that trauma, if we want to call it that, that is their way of bonding.
VV: Do you think there is a specific moment when they fall in love with each other?
CM: A lot of it happens in that first meeting and over that first day. Actually, and we spoke about this, I think there are loads of similarities with Romeo and Juliet in that we know where these characters end up — we know the tragedy of the end of their stories. And so much of that tragedy depends on the belief of their love. The journey of that is quite tempestuous, so you have to believe the first meeting in order for any of that to have any weight. And the only way that can happen is if there is some spark of, not magical, but true and spontaneous love that is formed in that first moment. And it deepens, of course, and becomes truer, and the bond is stronger.
IA: I don’t even have anything to add. That was really great.
VV: Bridgerton has set a pretty high bar for intimate scenes in the Bridgerverse. How did you two approach your own steamy love scenes? Of which there are many, and we know that the audience is very much here for that.
CM: No, they hate it.
IA: Yeah, I think I’ve heard they want less. No, seriously now. They — they being the creative team of Tom and our intimacy coordinators, Lucy Fennell, who was there during filming, and Lizzy Talbot, who handled a lot remotely because she was in the States — were incredibly accommodating and very patient with us. It was our first time, metaphorically, and also having intimate scenes for a show. I was really appreciative of how, at times, it almost became quite clinical. It was a choreographed routine and very well crafted. So, that took away any intensity, I guess, of how it can feel sometimes, how exposing it can be and vulnerable. I felt very well protected considering we were doing something so vulnerable, to use that word again. We basically bare all, and to feel empowered and to feel confident in that is something that I not only thank them for, but I also want to say thank you to you, Corey …
CM: Oh, vice versa. And those intimate scenes, although I hope that they are, for the audience, powerful in terms of story, to film, they were kind of like stunt scenes. We really go at each other, and everything is choreographed. It’s like a dance or a fight. And Tom was very clear about this, and it was very clear in Shonda’s writing too that they made sure that every intimate moment was never gratuitous in any way; there was always something that progressed the story, or something that had changed with the characters. They never were like, whack that in there for no reason.
VV: If you two were interviewing each other about your characters, is there anything you would want to ask?
IA: Ah, that’s such a good question! We would do this all the time to prep for scenes. You’ve got something, Corey?
CM: Yes. Where do you get the strength? That last episode sort of broke me a little bit. I think because it finishes with the older guys playing our characters, and there was something about that being the only time that I’m able to look at the storyline objectively, but I’ve also got the memories of doing it and all the feelings of doing it. So, it all just sort of hit me in that moment. And I looked at Charlotte and thought, “What a painful journey for her.” I mean, it’s really painful for him, but more and more so, he’s not there. She’s there, though. So, my question to India is where do you get that stamina?
IA: It’s unconditional love. I don’t think I’ve ever had unconditional love in the romantic sense, so in a platonic sense, it’s with my friends and my family. I would do anything for them because I just want them to be okay. You do as much as you can in a situation where you are so out of control. So, as Queen Charlotte, I just had to think, “How would I love someone who was in that situation?” And as India, I would do anything for the people in my life I love unconditionally.
VV: I know you didn’t get much time with Shonda Rhimes on set, but was there anything about working with her that you can tell us about?
CM: Before the table read, I had been really ill. We weren’t sure if it was Covid, but I was quarantined and had been ill for about two weeks. I had cabin fever bad. I got the all clear to go to the read-through, and I found out that Shonda was going to be there about 40 minutes before in the car on the way there. I have never been so nervous in my life. First job, first read-through, producers galore, Shonda galore, director galore, cast all around you; Michelle Fairley [Princess Augusta], acting icon playing my mom. And at that point, I haven’t met anyone, and I’ve been on my own in a dark, dingy room. I’ve never been so nervous. When I got there, Tom had introduced me to Shonda, and I don’t know how, but without crawling, I crawled towards her.
IA: I was an onlooker to this, and he looked very calm.
CM: I looked very calm.
IA: Corey doesn’t realize that in situations where he’s nervous that he doesn’t come across that way. He is always super-cool. Super-chill.
CM: I wasn’t chill. I stuttered. It felt very bad. Freddie [Dennis] actually came up to me afterward and went, “Oh, man. I could tell you were really nervous.”
IA: That is the worst thing you can say to anyone! For the record, I don’t think he came across that way.
CM: It was like meeting the queen [both laugh].
IA: I don’t know what I was expecting her to be. I don’t know. Like a far-reach person because she is so kind of ethereal in a sense that, for us as actors, and especially coming from Britain, Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal are huge programs. The viewership that they have and the following, that’s unparalleled. So, for her to be so normal and just sitting there in her jeans and a T-shirt, and it all being as cool to her as it was to us, was really humbling. It set the bar and set the tone as to how the rest of the shoot was going to go. I thought I would come on to the set and be incredibly overwhelmed by it all, but actually, it was very chill. And I think that is due to Shonda and her “no asshole” policy — basically, if you’re difficult to work with and make other people’s work difficult. That was a current throughout the whole of filming, even if she wasn’t there. But when we did meet her, she was just very normal, very cool, and very talented. Which is what we want.
This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Valentina Valentini is a London-based entertainment, travel, and food writer and is also a senior contributor to Shondaland. Elsewhere, she has written for Vanity Fair, Vulture, Variety, Thrillist, Heated, and The Washington Post. Her personal essays can be read in the Los Angeles Times and Longreads, and her tangents and general complaints can be seen on Twitter at @ByValentinaV.
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