IN CONVERSATION WITH CHARITHRA CHANDRAN
Charithra Chandran is quickly establishing herself as an internationally renowned actor, showcasing her range of disciplines both on-screen and theatrically. She can be currently seen as one of the leads in the second season of Netflix’s acclaimed series ‘Bridgerton’, which was released on March 25. Charithra stars in ‘Bridgerton’ as newcomer Edwina Sharma, whom the Viscount sets his sights on as his ‘perfect’ match.
‘Bridgerton’ is Netflix’s series that glued viewers to their TV screens. You are a newcomer in the second season, starring as Edwina Sharma. How would you describe your character Edwina?
Edwina very much represents that moment where a woman is turning from a girl to a woman. She is in that transition phase. At the beginning of the series, she starts off sort of innocent, naive, willing to be quite submissive, just because she doesn’t trust her judgment as well as the people that she loves. But by the end, you see her transform into this confident self-effacing woman who is willing to take her life into her own hands.
The series is set against the backdrop of Regency era London, but unlike the novels it is based in alternate history with racial integrity. Why do you believe this alternate integrity with people of color is such an important change in this series?
For me, as a woman of color, it’s as simple as it’s just really nice to see people that look like me on screen. I think everybody wants to feel seen, everybody wants to feel heard. I think it’s just so lovely and such a wonderful fantasy to think of this multiracial society where skin color is simply something that adds to your character and your beauty. And it isn’t something that people hold prejudice against.
And I think what makes it work so well in Britain is that it’s not a big deal. It’s a matter of fact that this is such a multiracial society and it isn’t alluded to it, it isn’t pointed out. It’s just allowing people to exist and the color of their skin being an important aspect of their life, but then being able to be so many other things as well.
What was the most fun part of the filming ‘Bridgerton’?
I would honestly say getting to know the other cast. We really are very close. We very much behave like a family, we really take care of one another. And while I’ve loved all of the filming, actually getting to meet the cast and crew is the best part.
You started performing at a young age, touring the productions of West End musicals. What made you go from theatre to onscreen?
They’re different mediums obviously, but I actually think they’re very similar. If you are a theater actor, you can be a screen actor and vice versa. It’s just about bigger and smaller. Of course there are elements of technique that are different, but for me there is actually minimal difference. And I really look forward to getting back on the stage soon.
Do you prefer being on stage where you have the live audience right in front of you and you get to see their excitement, their expressions, their feedback while they’re seeing this playing out, or is it more or exciting to film something without the audience and behind the camera?
I think both have such different benefits, pros and cons. I think that there is nothing more electric than a live audience and that kind of immediate feedback that you get with theater. I think that’s such a big pro of theater, but then I also think with screen you have the ability to try to perfect your performance. You have the time to kind of reflect, improve each take, which for an actor and a perfectionist is also really great.
In December 2021 we were able to watch you as Sabina in the second season of Amazon Prime Video and IMDb TV’s ‘Alex Rider’, based on the fourth novel in the series Eagle Strike by Anthony Horowitz. How was it starring in a spy thriller series, which is so completely different than ‘Bridgerton’?
I loved it. It’s so exciting and I would love to do more stunts. I got to do some at the end and it’s so exhilarating, I really like the genre. ‘Alex Rider’ and ‘Bridgeton’ are both genre based pieces, like espionage and regency and it’s just so fun, because it’s so not real life. You could only live out these fantasies on screen, so I feel very lucky.
Would you say you prefer the ‘Bridgerton’ genre of acting or more thrilling and exciting acting with stunts?
I couldn’t compare, I genuinely love both. And that’s kind of what I look for in my career. There isn’t one thing that I like doing, it’s just things that challenge me, things that excite me and both of those do in different ways.
You are a graduate of Oxford University, where you pursued your Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics. This is a very interesting combination of subjects. Why did these three spark your interest so much?
At Oxford, Philosophy, Politics and Economics are always offered together. You actually can’t do any one individually, you have to do it all together. And it’s like the most famous degree at Oxford, so it’s a very traditional one. Since I was little, and I think it’s the same reason why I love acting, I’ve just been interested in people and politics, philosophy and economics. They’re all about people and human functioning and human society. Especially the specific modules I took, I think really reflect that. And it makes sense why I’m an actor now. I loved my degree. I would a hundred percent recommend everyone to do it and I would do it again if I could.
We heard that you really love fashion. What is it about fashion that you love so much? What can you tell us about your style?
What I love about fashion is that it’s such a creative expression of one’s self. And it’s super accessible to everyone, everyone wears clothes. We can tell so much with fashion, it’s such a great way for people to show who they are. For me, the artistic playfulness of it is fun.
My style, I really like to think that I try to combine sort of colorful prints, colorful patterns with really classic shapes and tailoring. You might see me wearing something that’s like a really bright, bold color, but it will have a very feminine, traditional shape. So I’d say my personal style and taste combines those two elements.
As we’re speaking of fashion, let’s get back to ‘Bridgerton’ for a second. The costumes in the series are phenomenal. How was this fashion experience for you?
It was one of my favorite parts of it for sure. The first time that I got really emotional was when I put on my costume. These outfits are Couture, so they’re handmade for us and it takes 40 days to make one dress. And some of those dresses you see me in for maybe 20 seconds. It’s a lot of work and because I love fashion so much, I wanted to learn not only about the design side, but the tailoring side as well. We have so many talented tailors and Sophie Canale, our costume designer, was so collaborative because she knew that I was so interested in it. She always asked my opinion, my input and I really appreciated that. The costumes are insane, they’re brilliant. Sophie really outdid herself.
Traveling is something that was very impacted in the last few years. Which is your favorite destination that you have been to so far and which are some of destinations still on your bucket list?
My favorite place on earth other than the UK, cause it’s my home, is India because that’s where my family is. I would choose to go to India all the time if I could. It’s such a beautiful place with so much to offer and it’s amazing. Other than that, I really loved Bologna in Italy, I really enjoyed going to Cuba as a philosophy, politics and economic student. It was a fascinating trip for me, so interesting. And I really enjoy going to the US, because I have family there.
I’m not nearly as spontaneous as I’d love to be. I’m definitely not that person who could book a trip tomorrow and go. But I really wanna try to travel more in the next few years. I really want to go to South America, Lebanon, New Zealand, so many places. And I love learning about different people’s cultures and about different food. I’m such a foodie and I love to cook, so hopefully I can travel more.
You have Indian origins. What is your favorite Indian tradition that you and your family celebrate?
I think our biggest holiday, as a festival from South India that we celebrate, is Pongal, which is like the biggest festival of the year. It happens for three days and it’s essentially our harvest festival. We pray to the earth, the sun, our animals and it also overlaps with my birthday, which is nice. So I’d say celebrating that festival is kind of the one thing we always do, no matter what.
You already mentioned that you like cooking, but what are some of the other things that you enjoy most in your free time?
Cooking is a big one. I really, really love dancing, which is why I liked getting to do the Waltzes and the Quadrilles on the show. They were some of my favorite parts. I really want to take dance classes, but with schedule and everything, it’s hard to be consistent. And I love playing racket sports, like tennis, squash, badminton. I also love doing things like boxing. Other than that, just hanging out with friends. We love to eat out, go for walks, go to museums. I really love art. There are so many things, I just don’t have time for all of them.
Would you say Covid and all the restrictions made a huge impact on your everyday life?
Yes, but there was the element of FOMO – Fear of missing out. You can only have FOMO if someone else is enjoying something and you are not, but we were all stuck inside, we were all in the same position. So my friends and I, we really adapted. We would do quizzes over Zoom and birthday parties over Zoom and things like that. Because we were all in the same position, I never struggled as much as I guess I could have if it was just me. But I will say, the only reason that I’m in ‘Bridgerton’ is because of Covid and that’s kind of a weird thing to sort of understand. Something that has caused so much pain and suffering to millions of people across the world, is the very reason that my life has changed, which is insane.
How did Covid impact you getting cast on ‘Bridgerton’?
I had a corporate job out of university and it was only because of Covid that my start date for that corporate job got pushed to later on. I had the time to really sit down with myself and think about what made me happy, what was my purpose in life. And it was the push I needed to pursue this career, otherwise I’d be working a corporate job in the city.
So did you decide on the spot to join the series or was there anything in particular that drew you to the script?
The process was a very long one for me, it wasn’t straightforward at all. I initially auditioned for Kate before the first season even came out and that process went on for a while and then they decided I just didn’t look the part, which they’re totally right. Simone is brilliant as Kate. A few months went by and I started filming ‘Alex Rider’, so I was just like “You know what, it wasn’t meant to be”. And then months later, they asked me to read for Edwina and I got the part.
The first season was such a hit. It was so successful and loved by so many people that you of course feel proud. You want to make people feel proud and you want to make as good a show as season one. I mean, the series is based off the books and every book is on a different sibling. I think it just keeps the show interesting when you can focus on a different story, a different drama. It stops it being one note.
With ‘Alex Rider’ and ‘Bridgerton’ your career in acting has just started. Are there already any new, exciting projects on your horizon?
There are things in the works, but this industry is so precarious that I believe until things are finalized, it’s better to just sort of play my cards close to the chest. All my life I’ll always think ahead, I’m always thinking what’s next, what’s happening five years down the line. And trust me, it’s really hard for me, but I’m really trying to just enjoy this moment.
In the future, I would be really open to doing another degree. I love studying, I love academia, I have so many academic interests. But for now, acting is the love, it is the passion. I’m breaking away from my normal behavior and just seeing how I feel every day.
Interview by JANA LETONJA @janaletonja
Talent: Charithra Chandran @charithra17
Photographer: Clara Casas Bonilla – Daziell @daziell
Photography assistants: Alex Retnik, Keala @retnik_ , @kealarodwell
Stylist: Ryan Wohlgemut @ryanwohlgemut
Styling assistant: Naomi Phillips @_naomi_phillips
Hair: Patrick Wilson @patrickwilson
Make-up: Alex Babsky @babskymakeup
Nails: Veronica Butenko @vb_nails
Producer: Catriona McCormick @catrionamccormick
Editor: Timi Letonja @timiletonja