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Life according to… James Phoon: Newest member of Bridgerton’s cast on making dreams a reality

© David ReissBridgerton star James Phoon.
Bridgerton star James Phoon.

We caught up with the newest member of the cast of hit Netflix period drama Bridgerton, James Phoon, as he makes his dreams a reality in the new third series.

Who do you play in series three of Bridgerton?

I’m Harry Dankworth, who isn’t the brightest bulb. He’s a very sweet guy who has a lot of love to give, and he approaches the world with wide-eyed wonder and is in awe of things. I don’t think he’s used to attending these fancy Ton events.

He comes from a good family but maybe not as wealthy as most of the Tons. He got married in between seasons to Prudence Featherington, who’s now Prudence Dankworth. He’s doing his best to be the perfect husband for her. It takes them a little while to get to know each other and figure out how to be in a relationship and understand what each other needs.

You were a fan of the show before joining, so what was it like becoming part of that world?

So surreal. They’re my friends now, but these were actors I had watched on screen. My first day was with the entire Featherington gang. Nicola Coughlan was there, who I’d also loved in Derry Girls. It was a lot to process in a short period of time.

My first day on set was in the Featherington drawing room, which was something I’d watched on TV, so it felt weird. It was only when I saw myself on the monitor that I realised, ‘Wow, I’m actually here’.

Is there a lot of attention to detail in the costumes?

The craftsmanship is insane. When I started, I wondered if it wasn’t going to be as impressive in real life, but it’s immaculate. The outfits are made from scratch. All of the gentlemen of the Ton have watch fobs, where there is a pocket watch in their trousers and a little strip of fabric that dangles down. On the fabric, there are all sorts of little trinkets and attachments.

I spoke with the assistant costume designer about what sort of trinkets might be right for my character and that’s how we managed to incorporate my Chinese heritage into the character, by attaching a little stone symbol of the character fu, which means good fortune and blessing. It’s the sort of tiny detail that probably no one will ever see, but if they do, it’s there.

Viewers will also have seen you in BBC’s Wreck?

That’s the only other TV show I’ve done. It’s very, very different to Bridgerton, which is fun. It has a cult following and takes time for word to spread. Season two came out in March and we’ve noticed a lot more reaction online to it, with people saying they didn’t know about the show and they’ve gone back and watched the first series.

It’s a really cool show. It’s filled with queer characters of every kind from across the community. It means there is no pressure on any one character to represent all gay people, or all trans people.

Everyone is fully fledged and entirely different from one another, even though many of them are part of the community, which is cool and important. It’s a slasher, but I’m terrified of horror. It was unexpected for my first TV job to be horror. It’s playful, but not afraid to be gory.

You’re also a theatre actor, currently appearing in Underdog: The Other Other Bronte with The National?

I love the variety of this industry – I also do voiceover work for video games and animations. Getting to be part of all these jobs is like a dream. We’re coming to the end of our run but it’s been nice to go back and do live performances.

Your first job in the West End was Harry Potter And The Cursed Child?

I was a fan of Harry Potter as a child and I was a similar age to the kids in the films as the movies came out. I didn’t want to know how anything was done when I got there because I was such a fan, I sort of wanted to experience the magic, but they were like, ‘No, James, you’re going to have to learn how to do this, so we have to tell you!’

Bridgerton series three is on Netflix now. Wreck series one and two are available on BBC iPlayer.