Catch her if you can

Catch her if you can

By Michael Pickard
July 9, 2024


From starring in Sex Education and Bridgerton to launching her production company Good Catch Entertainment, Simone Ashley is building a name for herself on and off screen. She reflects on her career so far, discusses her producing ambitions and reveals what drives her to succeed.

By the time Simone Ashley auditioned for Netflix period drama phenomenon Bridgerton, she was already a familiar face on television thanks to her role in another of the streamer’s original smash hits, Sex Education.

But the move catapulted her from series regular to leading actor, with Ashley portraying one of the central characters in Bridgerton’s second season as her character Kate Sharma and Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) went on a journey from enemies to lovers.

Now she’s back in Bridgerton for the show’s recently released third season, while she is also stepping behind the camera after launching her own production company, Good Catch Entertainment. For an actor who wasn’t able to follow the traditional drama school route into the industry, now that she’s here, she’s not hanging around.

“Bridgerton truly fell in my lap,” Ashley says of joining the Shonda Rhimes-produced series. It was in early 2021 that she landed an audition, at a time when she was taking on series-regular roles or joining ensemble casts. “I was learning from my peers quite a lot in Sex Education, so it did feel quite like [going from] 0 to 100. I’d just been in lockdown as well as the rest of the world, so to suddenly be thrown into it, I didn’t really understand emotionally what it meant to be a part of a show that big.

Simone Ashley with Jonathan Bailey in Netflix hit Bridgerton

“I was just focused on the work. I was so drawn to the character, and I loved her. I love Kate Sharma and her character and her story with Anthony so much that I was just really focused on that. I was quite oblivious to the scale of this show and what it meant. It’s something you can only really understand emotionally once you experience it. People could have told me a million times, ‘This show is going to be huge. It’s going to change your life,’ but it doesn’t resonate until you actually go through it. I hope I keep that focus to just stay focused on my work and to not get distracted by everything that comes with it.”

It was on her latest project, Prime Video’s upcoming romcom Picture This, that Ashley got her first taste of working behind the camera as a producer. She was involved in numerous aspects, from casting to the kind of story it is and how it should be told.

Produced by 42 and due to debut this summer, the film follows Pia (Ashley), who is told by a spiritual guru that she will meet the love of her life on one of her next five dates. After her family intervene, she is then sent on a series of increasingly desperate blind dates in her quest for true love.

“I grew up watching romcoms and I never really found many where there were women like me, who looked like me, leading them and playing the love interest,” she says. “I wanted to do that. I wanted to make a movie where I was the heroine in that sense of a romcom, the Bridget Jones. So it meant a lot to me to do it. We had the most amazing crew and cast involved, and I’m just really excited to share it with the world.”

Ashley and Charithra Chandran (right) were cast following a suggestion to creator Chris Van Dusen that a pair of sisters joining in season two should be of South Asian descent

It was never the star’s dream to produce, however. That ambition has emerged organically as she has become more exposed to the way television and films are made through her own acting work.

“I definitely always wanted to pursue being a performer,” says the actor, who recently received the Monte Carlo TV Festival’s International Golden Nymph award for most promising talent. “The more experience I have in my work and in this industry, the more I’m learning that producing your own work is really important. That’s how you can make a change and tell the stories that may not usually have a chance to see the light of day.”

Ashley credits watching Kill Bill and other films by Quentin Tarantino with fuelling her aspirations to become an actor. “I was really inspired by his work, and especially the music in his movies,” she says. “I guess it touched something in me that maybe I couldn’t quite articulate when I was younger. I really admired Uma Thurman’s performance in that.”

However, she recognises that she didn’t come from a background with “the same privileges or opportunities as maybe some of my peers to get into this industry.” For example, no one in her family was involved in the arts, or acting, but that led her to develop a “survival instinct” that would drive her will to succeed. “I really wanted this so much, and I wasn’t going to let anything stop me.”

Ashley previously starred in another major Netflix hit, Sex Education

Subsequently, her path into the industry was “much scrappier than the traditional route my peers have had with theatre training and going to theatre school,” she notes. “But what I was privileged with was an incredibly supportive mum and friends around me. I like to think that I get what I want, so I just try to follow that as much as possible.”

Ashley’s background also led to changes at Bridgerton. She recalls the suggestion made to series creator and former showrunner Chris Van Dusen that a pair of sisters joining in season two should be of South Asian descent – resulting in her and on-screen sibling Charithra Chandran (as Edwina) being cast.

“It meant a lot to me,” she says, “and it’s a ripple effect. What happens is that brings opportunities for different people, from all different backgrounds.”

It’s just one example of how Bridgerton has sought to upend traditional television conventions around period dramas. Another recent change from Julia Quinn’s books, on which the series is based, was gender-swapping Francesca Bridgerton (Hannah Dodd)’s love interest from Michael Stirling to Michaela, played on screen at the end of season three by Masali Baduza.

Having been through a similar process where a book character was changed for television, Ashley encourages Baduza to “just be deeply proud of what you’re representing and that many people are going to feel so seen by the story that you’re going to be telling.” She adds: “We’re all here with open arms, and so excited, and I think this is what the world needs more of, more representation.”

While each season of Bridgerton focuses on a new couple at the centre of the main love story, Ashley reprised her role as Kate in the final episodes of season three. So could she be back for season four?

“I really hope so,” she says. “Both Jonathan and I, we adore our characters, Kate and Anthony, so much and their relationship and what they mean for the show. We will do all we can with our schedules to make it work so that we can hopefully make a return.”

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