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Emma Naomi

Following the release of Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix, 1883 sits down with Emma Naomi to chat about the shift of ordinary woman to a Lady in society, the weight of her first ball scene, and what she hopes for Alice in future seasons. 

Emma Naomi is the breath of fresh air that the Bridgerton universe has always needed. She’s no stranger to Netflix’s crazed period drama series, but her character, Alice Mondrich, steps into a new light in season 3. Alice, who is actually not in the original books by Julia Quinn, is from an ordinary family and is in a steady, loving marriage with her husband Will (played by Martins Imhangbe). In season 3, she finds herself leaving her quaint, typical life behind and stepping into society after her great Aunt leaves her estate to the couple’s infant son Nicholas. 

The opportunity to portray Alice Mondrich in Bridgerton came at an interesting time for Emma. She had just left London to pursue a potential side career in Manchester when she got the call that the role was hers. Initially, she didn’t hold out much hope of getting the role, especially with the character of Alice being a white Cockney woman in her 30s. Knowing this, it’s difficult to imagine any other actor in Alice’s shoes. Down to Alice’s wit, strength, and undeniable love for her husband, Emma’s delivery makes Alice one of Bridgertons’s most underrated characters, and the newest lady in society– on her own terms. 

Following the release of Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix, 1883 sits down with Emma Naomi to chat about the shift of ordinary woman to a Lady in society, the weight of her first ball scene, and what she hopes for Alice in future seasons. 

Hi Emma! Now that Bridgerton season 3 is out, how does it feel? 

I’m so happy that we’ve been able to share the work that we’ve done. We all work really really hard, and it’s been a while since we wrapped. It’s nice to have had a break, and then come back to really enjoy it for the show that it is, to see it edited and hear the music and everything!

Going back a bit – you’ve obviously been a part of this series since the first season, but how did this opportunity come about? What were the steps that led you to auditioning for Bridgerton?

It came to me via self tape. At the time, Alice Mondrich was in her mid-thirties, she was cockney and she was white! It was one of many tapes I had at the time, and because it was so different, I obviously didn’t think I was going to get it. I did the tape in maybe 10 or 20 minutes, and I was actually in the middle of moving to Manchester at the time to maybe pursue a side career, so I thought nothing more of it. And then a few weeks later, after I had already moved out of London to Manchester, I got the call that I got the job!

Wow – such interesting timing being you were considering pursuing a side career! It was meant to be. 

Yeah! I think it was the universe calling me back – telling me to not give up just yet. 

You’ve always played Alice with quiet confidence and curiosity, and your character has a much bigger part this season than previously. How has that shift been for you? 

I want to say that it was scary, but I think that might not actually be true. It was definitely a shock to find out that both Will and Alive were going to be elevated in this season, but I’m glad it didn’t happen very quickly, because I do feel that I’m actually much more comfortable on set now, being the third season. It was a little bit scary to know that we had to step up and meet the demands of this story. It’s just been really fun. 

At what moment did you realize this was happening, that you were playing a much bigger part this season?

Well, it was pretty obvious in the first episode. We get two episodes at a time, so you can’t even tell or read the entire arch and know that you’ve got a big part. But it is quite exciting when you see that the family’s been elevated and we’re moving into a big new house, and we have all these servants, and they don’t really know how they’re going to handle it. It was a bit of a shock really– we’re not in the books, so there was no way of reading ahead or knowing what was going to happen. But it was good news! It’s fantastic. 

I can imagine this new title would mean there’s a lot of self discovery happening in the Mondrich household. How did you approach your character morphing from a working class woman, to a lady in society?

I have always felt in reading the scenes that Alice finds it very difficult because of the way that they’ve inherited the title. I don’t think she likes this auntie. I don’t even think she really knew this auntie. I have it in my head that she’s, if not horrible, very distant and quite cold. And this was not in her expectations whatsoever. And like you said, Alice is a very confident person, and had no qualms in telling people what she thought pre inheritance, and I think that there’s pressure now. Pressure to keep the title for her children, pressure to appear a certain way– she doesn’t want to mess it up for her family or bring any shame upon them. She wants them to do well, that’s always what she’s wanted, it’s just always been more on her terms. 

Will and Alice are arguably one of the most consistent and stable relationships throughout all seasons of Bridgerton. How does it feel to finally have a spotlight on their love this season?

I would agree with you, I do think they’re very stable. I think that it’s great to share that part of our story in the Bridgerton universe. What I really love about them is it’s not to do with titles, it’s not to do with land or observing what a person could maybe give you or how you can raise your family, which is an element of what Bridgertons have to deal with. We see that with Anthony and the very beginning, and I think that has to do with class. I think that Will and Alice are a representation of how you don’t really need that, and maybe they might be able to give some advice about relationships to some of the other characters in the series. 

I read in another interview that you compared the physical weight of your Aunt’s gown you wore to the first ball in season 3 to the emotional weight it carries. That’s a very real and relatable analogy. Can you tell me what it was like to film that scene, keeping that thought in mind?

I didn’t have to keep it in mind, the dress was so heavy [laughs]! They had to carry it on a trolley so that the dress wouldn’t rip with the weight of the sequins on a hanger, that’s how heavy it was. What I really liked about it is that it made me really uncomfortable and out of place, and hot. And on that day, I think it was the hottest day of the year so far, and so I was physically already very uncomfortable, and I just used that for Alice. She’s never been to a ball where she’s ever looked at, and she walks in and the queen is looking at her immediately. So it was very useful! 

Speaking of the wardrobe, your character definitely had a wardrobe glow up this season! Can you tell me a bit about some of your favorite looks this season?

So, my favorite look is in one of the new episodes, and what I can say is that it does give a nod to Breakfast at Tiffany’s. I feel like Alice has arrived when you see her in this dress. 

Have you kept any costume or jewelry pieces from your character?

Oh no! Noooo. There’s a jeweler called Lorenzo who makes all of those things from scratch. All of the pieces. I feel that they are going to be very very useful one day, for who knows! I think they should be with him or in the studio somewhere. It’s the same for the dresses, those are all handmade. When we go to the fitting, they are just yarn. Yards and yards of silk and fabric, and they make something very beautiful with it. They are incredibly precious. 

What does a day on set look like for you? How long are you in hair and makeup before you’re ready to step on set? And what do you do to wind down after a day playing a Lady in the regency era?

Ohhhh! It’s a very good question, and it really depends on the scene. I am going to go with a ball for now because I think those are the most interesting. A ball scene can take anywhere from maybe 4 days and 10 days to film. Everybody, especially the women, are up by 4am. As in, you get up, you travel, you get to set for 6am, you are in hair and makeup for at least 2 hours, and then you get into costume which is maybe half an hour. And then, depending on how many lines you have, there’s a lot of waiting, which isn’t very glamorous. But when you’re on set, you are just with everybody that you know and love, and it’s quite fun. You don’t hear any music, you just pretend that you do. The dancers have these little ear pieces, so that they can hear the music, but I haven’t had the chance to wear one of those yet because Alice and Will don’t dance. And then to end the day, I just go home and have a bath, that’s about it really! Get ready to wake up at 4am the next day! 

This season has an underlying theme – embrace your individuality and step into the light. Don’t be afraid to show people who you are. I feel like with the rise of social media, we all struggle with individuality a bit. How does it feel to be a part of a show that doesn’t shy away from this type of messaging? 

I think it’s great and it’s the inclusivity of people, and I think that does encourage people to be brave in sharing who they are. I think that’s very beautiful. And I think that with every season that passes, Shondaland and Bridgerton are really trying to expand who they want to represent, and I think that is so wonderful and needed. Whether that is ethnicity, your sexuality, or the way that you identify yourself, I think that is really really important. Visibility is important. I’m proud to be on a show that is celebratory of everybody. 

Yes, I think this show has done such a beautiful job at celebrating all types of people!

Something that is really beautiful this year – there’s a debutant that is speaking sign language to her mother, and I think there’s going to be a lot of people that are going to be very appreciative of that. 

I think Alice has taught us a lot about staying true to ourselves and handling difficult situations with grace. What specifically has Alice taught you over the last several years of playing her? 

Alice does say what she feels, and she means what she says. She is quite unapologetic about that. I think that she goes for a little moment of doubt in season 3, but generally as a person she really does say it as it is, and I really appreciated that about Alice. I could do with a little more of that I think. 

What do you hope fans take away from Alice and Will at the end of this season?

I think that they have a lot to offer. They are at least 9 years deep into a marriage, and so far they are the couple that has had the most long-lasting, stable relationship. And I would like people to see that they have something to give and something to show in that respect, whether that’s for the audience, or helping the Bridgertons along the way. They’ve obviously been together so long for a reason. 

What do you hope for Alice in future seasons?

That’s a really good question! The exciting thing is, we really don’t know, because we’re not in the books. I’m happy to just see what Shondaland and the team come up with for us. It’s actually quite nice not knowing. You can’t prepare at all, so you have to accept everything that comes your way. That is terrifying but also thrilling, so we’ll just have to see. 

Bridgerton season 3 is streaming now on Netflix.

Interview Rachel Martin

Studio Photos
Photography David Reiss
Hair and Make-Up Alice Man
Styling Luci Ellis

Hotel Photos
Photography Domizia Salusest represented by Loo How
Hair and Make-up Alice Man
Styling Cher Coulter

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