I recently had the pleasure of catching up with James Phoon, the newest member of the cast of Netflix’s hit period drama, Bridgerton. James takes on the role of Harry Dankworth in the third season of the beloved series, and his journey to this point is nothing short of inspirational.

Reflecting on his path to Bridgerton, James shared, “It was definitely a goal of mine. I’d spoken to my agent about wanting to work on Bridgerton, and a year to the day of having that chat, my first day on set arrived. It all came together really quickly once we solidified that goal, which was amazing. I’m still not sure quite how it happened, but I’m not questioning it.”

James was particularly impressed by the intricate sets and costumes of Bridgerton, remarking, “It’s the most stunningly designed show around. The costume really helps, actually, because everything is tailor-made for you. So it all fits really perfectly. The jackets hold you into shape, and the stock, which is the neck scarf, is a really chunky piece of fabric that wraps around your neck. It really does sort of hold you in place. So that definitely helps.”

We delved into the importance of on-screen representation and why it matters in shows like Bridgerton. James passionately explained, “I think it’s incredibly important. Even now, you see people being confused about why there are people of colour in this series. Although it is a contemporary fictionalised twist on Regency England, people of multiple ethnicities from all over the globe were living in Britain in 1815, which is when Bridgerton Season 3 is set. Because we haven’t seen that representation on screen in the past, people think that people of the global majority weren’t living in England at that time. So even though what we’re doing is not presenting exact facts, it actually is representing some facts that we probably haven’t seen in other things.”

 

Our conversation naturally led to future queer storylines in the series. James revealed, “Jess Brownell has teased that she wants to focus on more of a queer storyline. In Season 1, we had the artist Henry Granville, who had a bit of a gay storyline, and we saw that he was in an artificial marriage. He had a male lover at the time. So we’ve dipped our toes into that existing in the world of Bridgerton. But I think exploring those storylines more and seeing how they fit into this very regimented society will be really interesting.”

James also opened up about his career to date and the valuable advice he received along the way. Reflecting on a pivotal moment, he said, “Rakie Ayola, who played Hermione Granger when I was in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, taught me so much about doing your job well and being good to work with. She emphasised that it’s okay to have your boundaries and to say no to things that don’t feel right to you. It’s essential to hold on to your voice and opinion. Up until that point, as an actor, it can feel like you just have to say yes to everything and be super grateful to be there. But Rakie showed me the importance of having some autonomy and a voice.”

James’s love for live theatre is undeniable. “With live theatre, you’re telling the whole story start to finish every day, multiple times, with fresh audiences. In the age of streaming, where we’re all a bit isolated, theatre brings everyone together to watch the same piece of entertainment, which is quite special. It’s always nice to hear people’s reactions because I’m an actor because I love stories. I love theatre, TV, cinema, and the way it makes me feel when I’m watching it. The beauty of theatre is seeing the audience enjoy and respond to what you’re creating, which is the whole reason you’re doing it. It’s very rewarding.”

Bridgerton’s third season is now streaming on Netflix, and James Phoon’s performance as Harry Dankworth is one you won’t want to miss.

Listen to my full interview with James on Queerly’s Stage and Screen podcast below, or on your podcast platform of choice here.