The New Belle Of Bridgerton: Meet Charithra Chandran

'As Lady Edwina Sharma, actor Charithra Chandran dazzled as the diamond of the social season in Bridgerton. Now superstardom awaits, says Shannon Mahanty

Charithra Chandran, Bridgerton, Lady Edwina Sharma

by Shannon Mahanty |

Photographs: Brian Dally

Just two years ago, acting was simply a hobby for Charithra Chandran. A passion, yes. But more pastime than career. Now, she finds herself the breakout star of the new season of Bridgerton, aka one of the biggest TV shows of the last decade. ‘It was like finding true love!’ she says, wide-eyed and even wider-smiled from her west London flat.

The Shonda Rhimes-produced Regency drama – adapted for Netflix from the much-loved series of novels by Julia Quinn – launched the careers of season one leads Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page. And it’s set to do the same for 25-year-old Charithra, who’s been universally praised for her portrayal of Lady Edwina Sharma, the perfectly poised ‘diamond of the season’ who becomes embroiled in a messy love triangle with Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Edwina’s older sister Kate (Simone Ashley).

Compared to Simone’s feisty Kate, ‘Edwina could have easily come across as quite saccharine,’ says Charithra. ‘But I thought, no, she’s smart, there’s something else that I want to inject into her. As an actor, I always think the best roles are the ones where you don’t know if you’re going to pull it off or not.’ She certainly succeeded, imbuing Edwina with a steely dignity and emotional maturity in the face of the public scandal and personal betrayal that unfolds.

Charithra landed the role at the end of 2020. Having graduated from Oxford University the previous year with a degree in philosophy, politics and economics, she had a job lined up at a top management consultancy firm, which offered new recruits a year out before starting. ‘So I decided to take the year off to get over my acting bug.’

That ‘bug’ had been with her a long time. Growing up in Oxford, she appeared in school plays and with local theatre groups, even landing professional parts in West End shows as a child – but she never considered it a viable career path. ‘I ended up focusing on academia; I never thought acting was a possibility, mainly because I would never see anyone who looked like me on screen. I had a lack of knowledge. All of my family are doctors or in IT. So it was like, how would one even become an actor?’

During what was supposed to be her final year of freedom before a corporate career, Charithra performed as much as she could in local theatre productions and plays put on by friends. As the start date for her job drew closer, she looked back at what she’d been doing. ‘I’d just had the best six months of my life. I felt like I’d found the thing I was supposed to be doing. I realised if I was ever going to take a risk on myself, I had to do it then.’ And so she cobbled together a showreel and an ‘amateurish CV’ and sent them to as many agents as she could. A few offered her representation, she signed to her favourite and, within months, she found herself auditioning for Prime Video’s Alex Rider adaptation and Bridgerton; she would go on to be cast in both.

She says she was instantly drawn to the part of Edwina. ‘Her life circumstance is one that, as an Indian, I can say many Indian women also face – which is being brought up to be the perfect daughter, mother, wife, sister,’ says Charithra. ‘All of those things are, of course, so important, family is always number one. But, often, that means there’s very little room for the self, for one’s own desires.’

Due to Covid restrictions, her Bridgerton auditions took place over Zoom, and she didn’t meet the rest of the cast in real life until her first day of filming, but she is brimming with positive memories from the experience. ‘It was just such a loving set,’ she says. ‘I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but I’m very close with Shelley [Conn], who plays Edwina’s mother, Lady Mary Sharma, and she told me it’s the nicest set she’s ever been on. When you see the Bridgertons interact when the camera’s not rolling, they still act like siblings.’

Production on season two was halted several times due to Covid outbreaks on set, but the cast still found ways to socialise, with Nicola Coughlan (who plays Penelope Featherington) and Claudia Jessie (Penelope’s BFF Eloise Bridgerton) creating a Bridgerton-themed Zoom quiz. ‘One round was fan art, another was about the cast… I won by the way,’ adds Charithra.

Feeling so at home with everyone on set helped her get her head around joining a blockbuster series as a newcomer, but she still felt pressure ‘to do a good job’.

‘When you are brown, there are so few opportunities available – that’s changing rapidly – but I was stressed that if I didn’t do a good job… what if I messed it up for future Indian actors? Which is such an extreme thought process, I know, but it didn’t stop me feeling that way.’

She’s proud to be part of a landmark series that is setting a new benchmark for representation with its blind casting. ‘I remember when I first watched The Mindy Project, where Mindy Kaling is killing it as a romantic lead and she’s also producing and writing the show; it was barrier-breaking for so many reasons. I think Bridgerton has done that for a whole generation as well. It’s one of a kind, it’s very revolutionary. I think it’s done for TV what Hamilton did for theatre.’

Playing a lead role in Bridgerton has a tendency to propel careers to stratospheric levels (Regé-Jean Page is rumoured to be the next James Bond), something that Charithra is well aware of. ‘I’ve been told that things might change, that I need to have my comfort blankets in place, but I’m just like, “Easy dude!” I know the show is huge, but you have to be a bit of a dickhead to believe it before it happens. You don’t walk around going, I’m like, pre-famous.’

She has, however, enjoyed dressing the part on red carpets. Working with the same stylist as Vanessa Kirby and Zawe Ashton, Charithra stepped out in striking pieces by Carolina Herrera, Paco Rabanne and Versace on the Bridgerton promo tour.

‘My style, ideally, is a combination of two people: the colour, prints and boldness of Tracee Ellis Ross with the shapes and lines of Audrey Hepburn. They’re also great women, incredible women.’

Charithra says her family is helping to keep her feet firmly on the ground. She speaks to her parents daily and goes back to Oxford to visit every other weekend. ‘They are proud of me. But you know, when you’re an immigrant, your mentality is to survive. There are many wonderful things about this career, but stability and security is not one; so they’re happy for me, but they’re scared!’

For her part, Charithra is approaching her next steps with caution. ‘With any success there’s an element of luck. Obviously, I worked hard, but I did get really lucky to get two big jobs so early on,’ she says. ‘Now I need to get better at accepting the rejection that also comes with being an actor.’ With a winning performance in one of the biggest shows on the planet already under her belt, we don’t think she has too much to worry about.

Styling: Molly Haylor. Coat, £1,120, top, £90, and skirt, £295, all Max Mara. Body, £675, and trousers, £895, both Stella McCartney. Make-up: Kenneth Soh at The Wall Group using Pat McGrath Labs. Hair: Patrick Wilson at The Wall Group using ORIBE. Nails: Michelle Class using Sally Hansen. Fashion assistant: Remy Farrell. Photographer assistants: Keir Laird, Aurellie Lagoutte. Shot on the rooftop of The Stafford Park Suite (prices from £495), The Stafford London, 16-18 St James’s Place, London, SW1A 1NJ 020 7493 0111.

‘Bridgerton’ season two is on Netflix now.

Just so you know, whilst we may receive a commission or other compensation from the links on this website, we never allow this to influence product selections - read why you should trust us