Ever since Netflix and Shondaland announced the renewal of Bridgerton – the world’s new favorite show – fans have been wanting to know one thing. Who is going to be our Kate? For those who haven’t read the books, Kate Sheffield is the lead and love interest of Anthony Bridgerton in the second book of the series by Julia Quinn – The Viscount Who Loved Me. And today we have our answer! Simone Ashley, who plays Olivia in Sex Education, has been officially cast to play Kate Sharma!
Simone Ashley is Miss Kate Sharma.
— shondaland tv (@shondaland) February 15, 2021
There are so many things to be excited for; I have always been an Anthony stan, and it makes me happy to see his love interest. I expected Kate would be badass, beautiful, and able to hold against the sometimes brick headed Viscount. But what I didn’t expect? For the future Kate Bridgerton to be a dark-skinned South Asian woman. And now that I know it, my life will never be the same.
And no I don’t mean that as an exaggeration. As a dark-skinned Sri Lankan girl who literally never saw myself or an actress like me be portrayed as beautiful or in a love story of this proportions, Simone Ashley’s casting is a gamechanger. Now I am going to see a woman who shares my skin color, who will get to wear pretty clothes and be thoroughly loved and cherished on-screen. I am emotional, I am ecstatic, and I am so so excited.
Simone Ashley has been a trailblazer in many ways when it comes to representing South Asian girls as sexually aware, desirable, and removed from stereotypical ideas of what and who a brown girl should be. Her character in Sex Education was such a breath of fresh air – she is a mean girl, comfortable in her sexuality, and is willing to go for what she wants. When I saw her on-screen, I finally saw a brown girl take control of her sexuality in a way that didn’t feel merely rebellious or taboo. It felt normal. And I didn’t know how much I had wanted to see that until that moment. And now she’s Kate. I imagine the strong, bold, and self-assured Kate I have loved in the book as a beautiful brown woman who laughs, banters, and loves so freely and gloriously on screen. I can’t wait.
In the midst of my cloud of happiness, I have also seen a couple of comments about her changed surname. The announcement refers to her as Kate Sharma which has confused and irked fans for some reason. If you are in that boat, here me out. What significance does the surname Sheffield have? What emotional connection or meaning? I’ll tell you what Sharma is. Sharma is unarguably one of the most recognizable Indian surnames (thanks to the whole “sharmaji ka beta” meme) and we are reminded that Kate is proudly and visibly South Asian. I am also going to assume that her race is going to play some part in the narrative arc, contrary to the first season which never really addressed the race dynamics between the characters.
But wouldn’t a colorblind show be better? Probably not, when we are dealing with a time period that is against the backdrop of colonization. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms the first season received was the way it swept race completely under the rug, and I am going to assume that the makers would be attempting to address the dynamics of race, colonization, and power in this season (especially because now we are talking about a white aristocratic man with a title and a South Asian woman).
All of that is my nice way of saying: don’t be a racist and cry over a surname or because Kate now looks different than you probably pictured her. For so many brown girls like me who dreamed and sighed over Jane Austen growing up, and continued to watch lighter and fairer girls as leading ladies, this moment is huge. Let us have our Kate, and let us have this moment. The brown girls are winning, and I am here for it.
Get The Tempest in your inbox. Read more exclusives like this in our weekly newsletter!