SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

All Hail India Amarteifio

The star of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story insists that mental health should be addressed on TV.

As a young Black actress, India Amarteifio never envisioned herself playing a woman of power, let alone the queen of England. That is, until Bridgerton reimagined the landscape of period pieces and representation on television. Now, Amarteifio is living out a dream she never even knew she had in Netflix’s Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which hits the streaming giant on May 4.

“It's a massive honor and such a special moment as a young Black woman, but also as an actor, to get to see it all happen and all come to life,” says Amarteifio, who plays the series’ leading lady.

At the young age of 21, Amarteifio already has an impressively stacked résumé that includes projects like Sex Education (in which she plays Lizzie), Doctor Who, and Line of Duty. Though signing onto a Bridgerton show (or any Shonda Rhimes production, for that matter) comes with a whole new level of fame and prestige, seen by Amarteifio's predecessors Regé-Jean Page, Phoebe Dynevor, Simone Ashley, Nicola Coughlan, and Jonathan Bailey, who have all gone on to book high-profile gigs following their stints on the regency era romance (Barbie, The Little Mermaid, The Gray Man, and Wicked — just to name a few).

“You hear about the Bridgerton world and the sphere, and it's quite daunting, but I was excited,” Amarteifio says. “I'm always up for a challenge.”

Amarteifio may be new to the Bridgerton universe, but viewers and fans are already familiar with a version of her character. In Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, which premieres on May 4, Amarteifio portrays a 17-year-old Queen Charlotte as she navigates marriage, her ascension to power, and her husband’s debilitating mental illness (which plays a key role in the couple’s relationship). The show also follows a young Lady Danbury and Violet Bridgerton (played by Arsema Thomas and Connie Jenkins-Greig, respectively) and bounces between the earlier era and a later time period with the adult versions of the characters (played by Rosheuvel, Adjoa Andoh, and Ruth Gemmell).

SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

Courtesy of Netflix

Season 1 and 2 of Bridgerton hints at the tumultuous relationship of Queen Charlotte and King George (young George is played by Corey Mylchreest), though the spin-off dives much deeper into the genesis of their love story and the king’s inner demons, which create a push-and-pull effect in their marriage from the very beginning (joining the series’s lineup of romance tropes that include the enemies-to-lovers narrative in season 1 and the anticipation of a slow burn in season 2). 

Just as the franchise has become known for breaking barriers with its diverse cast, Queen Charlotte aims to destigmatize mental illness, as well as challenge gender constructs and normalize LGBTQ storylines in period dramas. While it is a work of fiction, Bridgerton addresses King George’s very real and infamous mental health struggles, which have often been trivialized in many other depictions.

“It's incredibly important, and it's a real privilege to be a part of a show that does it in a way that's so caring and doesn't make light of the situation, actually shows things for how they are,” Amarteifio explains. “A lot of works of fiction turn King George’s mental health into a bit of a joke. You've got things like Hamilton or the Madness of King George, the Shakespeare play, which is obviously not a comedy at all. It's good to play the severity of the situation.”

It’s not long before Amarteifio becomes a household name along with her fellow Bridgerton alums, but for now, the young actress is just proud to be a part of something blazing a trail of representation on the screen for generations to come. “We don't often get to see people of different ethnic backgrounds being presented in powerful and regal roles, unfortunately, because of slave trade, segregation, and race relations in early history,” she says. “To have that representation is everything.”

SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

Courtesy of Netflix

Read on for India’s thoughts on working with Rhimes, her palpable chemistry with co-star  Mylchreest, and which regencycore trend she has a strong disdain for.

What was it like joining a show with such a huge following already? Have you gotten any advice from the show’s veterans?
I'm always up for a challenge. I obviously spoke to Golda [Rosheuvel, who plays the adult version of Queen Charlotte]. She gave me really good advice: take the role as your own, feel welcomed into this crazy experience, and really go through it and live through it. Basically, to enjoy myself and to keep my eyes open to the possibilities. I think when we're filming for so long, sometimes, you can get caught up in tiredness — just remember that what we're doing is really, really cool.

How did you work to develop your younger version of Queen Charlotte? Did you study Golda at all in the first two seasons of Bridgerton?
Tom Verica, our director and producer, and Shonda [Rhimes], were very clear that they didn't want me to emulate her. They actually kind of advised me against watching it. I'd already seen Bridgerton, but they really didn't want me copying her at all. They didn't want me to try and portray anything that she had chosen, because those were her choices. It was all my own character building, and I think the writing just aids performance, in the sense that Golda is just portraying the same character. I think it's great that people can kind of draw similarities, but it's nice for me as well, because I did this by myself.

What was the audition process like?
It was quite lengthy. It [was] about a four-month period of an audition, and it was all over Zoom, because I'm based in the U.K. and they're all based in L.A., in New York. A lot of it was over Zoom and tapes, which is really weird, because we're so used to performing in front of a crowd or having to talk to people in an audition. You're kind of sat there in a room by yourself, doing this really important self tape. Then you kind of switch off your camera and just go back to watching, I don't know, Love Island or whatever. It's so mundane and normal.

Throughout the show, we see King George struggle with his mental health. Why do you think it's important to normalize mental health and spread awareness about it?
I think what's beautiful about our show is that we get to delve into really important topics that are not spoken about, maybe a bit more taboo. Mental health, sexuality, race, gender, and lots of pressing issues from society nowadays. I think whatever takes over George, obviously, and is very real to him but is an invisible kind of affliction, [which] is very important at the moment, especially for young men, talking about issues. I think Corey [Mylchreest] does an amazing job in portraying him.

SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

Courtesy of Netflix

How much of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is rooted in real history?
It's not historically accurate. It's not a work of nonfiction. We're not taking verbatim of anything. Shonda has kind of taken the real life characters of Queen Charlotte and King George and has kind of Bridgerton-ified ... there are moments of truthfulness. We get to see some of their kids. But a lot of it is of fantasy elements, and it's really cool because it gives us a lot more freedom to play around and don't have to stick to the facts.

Why do you think it's so important to have representation on TV, especially in a period piece?
It's so important. Not only just for actors to have more strings to their bow in the sense of the genres that they can tap into and they can play with, but just for little girls and boys to see themselves represented in any way, shape, or form, especially for young Black children. Period pieces [were] never really a genre that was open for me. I never saw myself in a regal crown, or I never saw myself [portrayed] in a positive light.

Why is it so meaningful for you to play such a strong, powerful Black woman?
Before Bridgerton, it was never even something I considered, because I just didn't think people would make a show with people like me. I think that is what is great about Shonda, as well. She consciously makes the effort to involve everyone in her projects, which, hopefully, in years to come, won't have to be such a big deal.

In Bridgerton, Queen Charlotte has so many incredible, over-the-top wigs in every episode. But young Queen Charlotte wears her hair natural — was that a choice?
It's a wig based off of my hair. My hair is very similar to how I have it in the show. It was more the ease of every day, having to put all the products in, it's quite a lot. A lot of the problem with her coming from Germany to England is that she has to conform and that means making her hair straighter, putting it up, or making it neater. But for it to just exist in her natural kind of way and to be accepted and fully loved by someone else is the cherry on top. To be loved unconditionally for who you are exactly is, I'm sure, basically the root of what Charlotte wants and the root of what a lot of us want. The fact that they re-imagined how our hair would look back in the day, I think, is just so cool. 

SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

Courtesy of Netflix

Tell me about the opulent gowns and costumes. 
It was crazy. I think that was the moment: When I put on my first dress and I looked at myself, I was like, ‘OK, I'm taking on this role.’ It was the first time I saw myself as the queen. I'd been doing all the script research and learning my lines, but until you're actually in the costume, you don't really feel it. It was amazing. And the journey was from day one all the way up until the end, I was having costume fittings. Shonda kind of writes as we go along.

Lyn Paolo, who was in costume design, gave me so much creative freedom, which is just beautiful. The costumes tell their own story, and they're so important and crucial to Bridgerton and to why so many people love it. Not only do they look beautiful, but they help me, the actor, create these beautiful stories.

Let’s talk about the chemistry you have with your co-star Corey…
We both just got on very, very easily from the beginning, not really coming from any similar background at all, I just think that we both put so much work and love into our work, and it gives me a massive [amount of] respect towards him. And I think vice-versa, he would probably say the same. You just spend so much time with someone. I spent from February 'till September with him, every single day. You get to know someone really well and what makes them tick and laugh and cry. I think that's something that I didn't expect to come out of the show: to have such great friends. I've made really good friends for life.

SMALL TALK: India Amarteifio Has the Power

Courtesy of Netflix

What was it like working with Shonda? Did she share any advice or words of wisdom?
I've met her a couple of times. She is wonderful and just so giving of her time and everything that she bestows. She's very happy to share, which is amazing. But she does work quite a lot in her own world, as well. She's there writing. And she's on the other end of the phone if we ever needed. She's just a really lovely woman, very down to earth. I'm sure a lot of people would let this power get to their head and start telling young actors how they should behave and what they should do. But no, she was just really supportive of us. 

How does Bridgerton differ from other projects that you've worked on? 
Bridgerton
is its own thing. Everyone that I've met who has worked on different projects before said this is the best job [they’ve] ever been on. You're looked after so well, by cast, by crew, the people that are working around you look like you. It's so uncommon to be on a set where I'm working with people who are Black and working on lighting. It's just so weird for it to be not a common thing to see, but it's true.

I just think Netflix and Shonda have a really good understanding of how to look after people and also understand what people want. People want the drama, they want the period pieces, they want the costumes, and Netflix and Shonda provide that. We can just see by the viewers and the numbers how well it does and how much it's loved. Even the writing, everything is so subtle and considered. I think a lot of people and places make excuses to say it would be really difficult to do X, Y, and Z, but [Shonda has] shown it's not. And I understand that she's got the budget, which is half the problem a lot of the time, but it is doable and it's not difficult at all. I think we should all be moving in that trajectory.

Small Talk

Who was your first celebrity crush?
Jeremy Sumpter, from Peter Pan. I used to have a massive crush on him.

Are you into Astrology? What’s your sign?
Oh, I wish I was. I think Corey actually learned a bit for the job, and I just went along with it. But I'm a Virgo, and I think I'm quite similar to my star sign. I'm very meticulous, a perfectionist.

What's your favorite item of clothing you own?
I love jumpers. I'm in one right now. Any sweatshirt or a zip-up. They're my favorite.

What's your favorite Regencycore trend? 
I would not say corsets — not my favorite. Maybe the little cute afternoon tea, cakes, chocolates, and things like that.

What's one book you could read over and over again?
Where The Crawdads Sing
by Delia Owens. I love that book. I think I've read it twice now.

What was your last binge-watch?
I don't know if you can call it a binge-watch, because I'm watching it as it comes out, but The Last of Us. It's just so good. Another project I'd love to be a part of.

What is one beauty product that you cannot live without?
RevitaLash
. I use that stuff all the time. And I don't really wear any makeup, but I like to naturally enhance my features. Yeah, RevitaLash is really cool, because it just makes everything grow really fast.

What is your favorite genre to watch and then your favorite to film?
Actually, when we were filming I really got into regency, Pride and Prejudice and Marie Antoinette. Charlotte and Marie Antoinette were supposed to be like pen pals. I quite like watching that in the summer, when I’m feeling cute [or] I want to watch something really fun and flirty. But to film, I quite like a thriller or crime drama. I filmed a crime drama called The Tunnel. And they're really fun, because you get to do stunts and you get special effects. I like the story plots, as well. They're always a bit crazy.

Related Articles