Freddie Dennis is a fresh face in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, but the British actor is eager to make his mark.
Not every actor can say that his or her first lead role was for a predetermined Netflix hit. But Freddie Dennis can. The British actor only recently graduated from the Oxford School of Drama, where he gained much from his experience on the stage. Despite the fact that he self-describes as someone who “lacks a significant degree of confidence as a performer,” Freddie’s track record proves otherwise. He will make his television debut as Reynolds, King George’s seemingly cold and controlling right-hand man, in Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story.
Queen Charlotte is both a prequel and a sequel to Bridgerton proper. While bouncing back and forth between past and present timelines, it recounts a somewhat fictionalized tale of the ruling queen, how she came to power, and in so doing changed Britain forever. In the highly anticipated spinoff, Dennis is one of the few actors to portray a character that has not been introduced in the original world. Like many of the relationships in the series, Reynolds is not only valet to the ruling monarch but also his friend and confidant. Often the voice of harsh reason, Freddie depicts the necessary nuances beautifully to create a character that is as grounded, whole, and heartfelt, cementing himself as someone as the show at times needs and often requires.
Ahead of Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story premiere, Freddie chats with 1883 Magazine’s Sydney Bolen about his character’s journey, auditioning for the Bridgerton spin-off, the best thing he learned at the Oxford School of Drama, and more.
Congratulations on Queen Charlotte! I’m a massive Bridgerton fan and I thought it was great.
I’m still getting used to the idea of watching myself, so I definitely can’t watch it objectively. I’m glad you enjoyed it.
I loved your storyline and character. He was actually one of my favourite parts.
That means a lot because I loved playing him.
Being that Bridgerton is such a phenomenon what was the audition process like?
The audition process was strange, actually. My first audition was for King George. Thank god I didn’t get that role because it would have been a much worse show if I had.
When the audition for Reynolds came through only one episode had been written. In episode one, Reynolds has one line. So, the first audition was one line, “what have you done now, Brimsley?” Then, there were sides for Brimsley. The audition scene was Brimsey’s brilliant, “I will always be five steps behind.” Other than that, it was a normal audition process. I will say, when they gave me the offer, I had COVID for the first time, so I woke up that morning feeling terrible. Then my agent called me and I felt a lot better for about five minutes and then I went straight back to bed.
Oh. I have also had it. I can only imagine getting that kind of news in the midst of those symptoms. Reynolds is one of the characters that we haven’t seen yet in Bridgerton, leaving you with more freedom to create the character than some of the other actors had. Who is Reynolds to you?
That’s such a good question. He’s an incredibly rich character. I think the thing that defines him is his fierce loyalty. In my mind, when I was creating Reynold’s backstory, his parents would have grown up in the court and worked for George’s parents, so he grew up alongside the king. They formed this bond and are best friends. That, at least to me, explains his love of and for George which transcends his duty. Obviously, he’s bound by duty to the monarchy, but for me, it was all about love. When I was creating Reynolds, the thing that excited me most was playing with this idea of love, for George and for Brimsley because of the conflict that comes about in the wake of George’s affliction. Reynolds is deeply in love with Brimsley and wants to tell Brimsley all of those secrets and have a shoulder to cry on, but he’s not allowed to because of his love for George. It’s something that I loved exploring.
Those relationships throw Reynolds into a real moral dilemma around the middle of the show that only grows more complicated due to the power dynamics at play. What advice would you give Reynolds in regards to the situation?
In terms of the treatment of the king, I would say to trust your gut. I hope this is conveyed in my performance, but when the doctor first comes onto the scene, Reynolds inherently is suspicious of him. I would also advise him to share. Reynold should have shared what he was going through with Brimsley. One of the things that really resonated with me as the character, is that Reynolds is so alone for so much of the series. He’s trying to control everything. He can’t. He fundamentally can’t. I think Reynolds would be a happier man throughout the series if he learned to lean on Brimsley, but it also would have been a less interesting series if he’d done that.
Yeah, you need conflict. I also really love the scene where the king starts having tremors at the dining table and Reynolds puts his hand out. It’s such a testament to what George needs and their relationship and parallels Brimsley and Charlotte nicely because they have a similar moment.
That was the first scene Corey [Mylchreest] and I ever shot. That was my first day. I also love that moment because it’s one of the few moments where you go, “Okay, this relationship transcends duty. It’s about love. It’s about friendship.” It’s a tremendous risk that Reynolds takes in touching his monarch. That fundamentally wouldn’t be allowed, as far as I’m aware, in terms of history. But, he does it because he desperately wants George to be okay.
It’s a great scene. One thing I love about Bridgerton, and Queen Charlotte by extension, are the sets. I know most of them are practical, so how did they impact your experience with this character?
They’re immensely useful. Because this is my first job, I graduated from drama school about four months before I started filming, actually having everything there made me realize acting is a lot easier than I thought it was. Yes, you have to rely on your imagination, but having the physical objects around you was great. It was an extraordinary experience. For example, Blenheim Palace is magnificent. It’s an amazing building and that was the first place I ever filmed. You don’t have to think “Okay, where am I? What year is it?” You’re just there. You’re transported into that world. It makes my job a lot easier. However, it’s difficult not to get distracted by the majesty of it as well because you go, “oh my god, pinch me. This can’t be my life. Doing the thing that I love in this amazing building.”
The locations are just gorgeous. I love seeing them. Given that Queen Charlotte is a limited series, were there any situations or relationships that you wish you would have had time to explore?
I would have loved to delve more into every single relationship. Beneath what we see they were all very rich. I think they all deserve exploration. Obviously, Reynolds’ relationship with Brimsley. That’s a given. I would love to have the opportunity to explore them working as a team based on the conclusion of this series. The things that I was saying about George earlier, I would love to find out if what Corey and I talked about is true, if that’s what Shonda had in mind as well when she wrote those parts. Additionally, India [Amarteifio] is one of my best friends. I would love to work with India more because I only got two or three scenes in this show. She’s an amazing person and an amazing actress. I would love to explore that relationship.
You never know what could come about.
Let’s see how popular it is.
Exactly. You never know. I feel like there are still so many questions by the end of it, that it could definitely continue if the powers that be wanted it to. One of the things that is left up to interpretation is the reason your character is not in Bridgerton. What do you personally think happened to him?
I think he’s in the Maldives.
[laughter] I would like that answer, to be honest.
In all honesty, I really couldn’t say because that is entirely up to Shonda [Rhimes] and Julia [Quinn]. But I would love to see a future for Reynolds and Brimsley. I hope at some point, he does come back. All I can say is, wherever he is, whatever he’s doing, he’s still incredibly loyal to the King. And he’s still deeply in love with Brimsley.
Moving away from the world of Bridgerton, you attended the Oxford School of Drama. What is the best thing you learned there?
That is a very good question. I had an amazing mentor named Kristine Landon-Smith. who I’m still in regular contact with. She was an external director who came and she directed us in Chekhov’s The Seagull. She completely changed my life as an actor because she taught me the importance of being confident in who you are and how that has to be the foundation of all work that you do. I still lack a significant degree of confidence as a performer and I’m always striving to get better, but Kristine always said to me, “Freddie, you are enough. You are enough. Just remind yourself of that. Step on stage, do you and be confident that it is enough.” That is definitely the greatest lesson I learned.
And it can translate into other areas of life as well.
Finally, looking toward the future of your career. If you could pick anything to do next. What do you want to do? What roles do you want to play?
That is an impossible question. For the rest of my career, I want to play as many varied human beings as possible. I want to continue getting better. I want to continue learning. The only way to do that is to challenge myself. So, I do not mind what I do next. But, I really want to push myself and improve and have the opportunity to grow as a person and as an actor. I’m excited to see what’s around the corner.
Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story is streaming now on Netflix.
Interview Sydney Bolen
Photography David Reiss
Styling Emily Tighe
Grooming Amanda Grossman