Bridgerton actress reveals she thought playing non-white character in Vanity Fair was her only chance to be in a period drama

Helena Horton
·2-min read
Kathryn Drysdale, middle, said period dramas are her favourite, but there are few opportunities for non-white actors -  LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
Kathryn Drysdale, middle, said period dramas are her favourite, but there are few opportunities for non-white actors - LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

A mixed-race Bridgerton actress said she feared Vanity Fair was her only chance of playing a period role, as there are few opportunities for non-white stars in that genre.

Kathryn Drysdale spoke to Anita Rani, the new Woman's Hour host, on her first show presenting the programme.

The actress, who found success opposite Reese Witherspoon in the 2004 adaptation of Vanity Fair, now plays Genevive Delacroix, a dressmaker, on Netflix hit Bridgerton.

The Regency drama has been a hit over lockdown, with 63 million viewers, and has fans young and old enjoying the colourful and scandalous escapist show.

Ms Drysdale told the presenter she was excited the show became such a hit, explaining: "I would describe it as a Regency Romance, it's soapy fiction, it's scandal, it's sexy, it's beautiful to look at, lots of colour, beautiful, escapism, it's diverse."

She said she always wanted to play a part in a period drama, and had long harboured hopes of playing mixed-race heiress Rhoda Swartz, one of the only obviously non-white characters in work from the era.

The actress added: "I am obsessed with Regency romance but there aren't many opportunities. "When I was younger, I read the novel Vanity Fair and I knew that was the only literary figure around that time that was mixed race, so when I was younger I thought I play this when I become an actress I have to play this role, as it's my only shot at doing a historical period drama.

"When I got that I was just squealing as you knew there was an actual chance of being part of something that a Caucasian actress may take for granted."

Rani, a familiar face on BBC television, joined Emma Barnett on the flagship programme.

Together they are the youngest presenting duo in the show’s history: Rani is 43 and Barnett is 35.

The Radio 4 controller, Mohit Bakaya, is keen to widen the audience for the station and bring in younger listeners. The average listener age is 56.

Rani will present the show on Fridays and Saturdays, while Barnett is the main Monday-Thursday host.