Bridgerton’s Adjoa Andoh: ‘We need to be better at celebrating the women who got us to where we are’
“Brixton Market is full of traders who may not have originally come from the UK, or they’d be local working-class people, who have always had to look beyond the standard ways of operating to survive,” says the 60-year-old actress, best known for her role as Lady Danbury in the hit Shondaland and Netflix series Bridgerton. “They find a way, just like water. And I think Lady Danbury is like [that] too. She finds a way.
“From watching [Bridgerton prequel show] Queen Charlotte, we now know that she was brought from the higher echelons of a West African traditional society to the higher echelons of society in this country,” Andoh continues. “She had to be strategic, learn from past experiences, and then make the decision to share the wisdom with those coming up after her. Those were the things I wanted to highlight in her.”
It’s far from the first time Bristol-born Andoh – whose TV credits also include Doctor Who and The Witcher, alongside a successful stage career – has taken strides to highlight the roles of women. When she and her good friend, playwright Lynette Linton, directed the first-ever company of women of colour in a Shakespeare play – Richard II, which showed at The Globe Theatre a few years ago – she made a conscious decision about the portraits displayed around the set. Instead of kings and queens, black and white portraits of the casts’ mothers, aunties, grandmas and other women who’d been carers in their lives, were selected. “Women are amazing. But that doesn’t mean I’m saying men aren’t fantastic,” Andoh says today. “I just think we need to be better at celebrating all of the women in our lives, who have got us to where we are.”
When we speak, she is just about to go onto a busy set to record a new ITV special called Breaking Through, which coincides with October’s Black History Month, created by ITV senior creative producer Joel Duncan. With Zeze Millz as the host, it sees Andoh join her Bridgerton co-star Leeds-based Ruby Barker — who reportedly won’t be returning for season three — and Coronation Street’s Channique Sterling-Brown, in a deep dive about the highs and lows of the industry and their real and honest experiences of being black women on screen.
“The generosity of some black women became fundamental for me in my career, after throwing away my law degree. I discovered literature I didn’t know existed, and had [friends that became] sisters, who told me about auditions that would put me in direct contact with them, at a time when there were scarce parts for black women,” Andoh reflects. “You don’t pull up the ladder behind you. You open the door wider, network, encourage and bring people along. We need to share our histories, so we know what’s gone before us and can then build on it. Instead of starting something from scratch.”
Watch Breaking Through on ITVX.