Golda Rosheuvel is a queen. Both literally as Queen Charlotte on Netflix’s break-out, bodice-ripping hit Bridgerton, and in the way she moves through life — exuding a regal gravitas paired with a knowing twinkle in her eye. She has a natural charisma that feels akin to a gravitational force, and when you speak to her the rest of the world fades into the background. It’s the gift of a true storyteller, and you feel it whether she’s imparting tales of romantic entanglements and intrigue in Regency-era Britain, or the story of her own “joyously” queer life.
To look at Rosheuvel on screen now, it’s hard to believe there was a time she felt destined for something else: athletics. It was a chance injury, a sprained ankle, that changed the trajectory of Rosheuvel’s life. “From very early on, I was very sporty,” she says, explaining that she played hockey, netball, swam for her county, and broke records in javelin. But when she was sidelined by her injury, drama and singing quickly took center stage. “I remember my mum and dad took me to [a career day] at school,” Rosheuvel recalls. “There was this guy sitting behind one of those white tables. And it had ‘drama’ on a sign and I was like, ‘I want to do that.’ And the rest is history.”
That her acting career is partially due to a twist of fate (and ankle) makes sense, as fate and the arts are a bit of a family legacy. She comes from, as she describes it, a very musical lineage. Rosheuvel was born in Guyana, where she lived until she immigrated to the U.K. at age 5. Her Guyanese father met her British mother while the two were in Barbados singing in choir together. “They were those people who lived their lives to the fullest and wanted that for their children,” she shares.
The same attitude held true when Rosheuvel came out to her family as a lesbian. “My brother, he was like, ‘Cool. What do you want for lunch?’ Amazing, literally, those were his words,” she recalls with a laugh. Both her parents were similarly accepting of her sexuality.
“You would think that [my father, being a priest] would be like, ‘hellfire, you’re gonna go to hell.’ Absolutely nothing like that at all,” she says. “They had dear, dear friends who are gay...and they worked in the community with Indigenous people, with refugees, with gays and lesbians, transgender [people], [everyone] came through our household.”
Her parents were not only role models for acceptance, but of healthy romantic relationships as well. “They’re your first port of call for love and connection and relationships,” says Rosheuvel. “Seeing my parents, my white mother and my Black father, navigate the world they lived in at the time with so much joy and positivity, even in the tough, tough times — and there were tough times — there was always joy and laughter and music and conversation and discussion about the world and about the times we were having. I feel very blessed,” she shares.
It’s a legacy that she’s brought into her own nearly decade-long relationship with playwright Shireen Mula. “It’s very, very important that we have joy, even in the tough times,” Rosheuvel says. The key to their long-time love? Communication and vulnerability, she reveals. “In the nine years that Shireen and I have been together, that has been the core element of us sticking together and working things out,” she says. “I’m so grateful for Shireen. Because from day one, she’s been strong enough to do that.”
It helps that Rosheuvel has never had to hide their relationship and has always been out publicly, despite warnings to stay closeted. “I remember being told...that [it] was going to ruin my career. I mean, it’s bullshit,” she recalls. “It was so weird because it was told to me by a gay [actor] who I thought was out and proud. It revealed a lot about her and her insecurities and what she was going through. But I think it really empowered me; it really made me look at myself and go, How do I want to be? How do I want to represent myself in the world?” Her answer: authentic and out.
Rosheuvel was clearly on the right path, as the actor is heading into her second season of the massively popular Bridgerton, where once again she’ll rule the social scene from her throne. As correct as it feels to see her there, it’s still a revolutionary choice to have a Black queen of England in any show, and it’s one that resonates with audiences.
“I would get some really beautiful messages...just saying, ‘Thank you, I see myself now, it is possible,’” she says. That was precisely what showrunner Chris Van Dusen had in mind. “He talks about the moment that decision was made. And the two words that they said were: ‘What if?’” Rosheuvel recounts. “What if we had this queen at the top? How could that push the boundaries that we have in this industry? To a point where it doesn’t matter To the point where Black and brown artists can be celebrated. Yes, it’s a period drama. It’s fantasy. But the reality of these characters connects with the reality of the people who are watching it.”
Rosheuvel is excited to be back in Charlotte’s shoes, though maybe not literally. “We weighed the wig last season, and the costume. When I had it on and everything, I’d gained [28 pounds] — and that was a light one,” she remembers with a laugh. Underneath all that formidable finery is a character Rosheuvel modeled after her mother, so it means the world to her that audiences share an admiration for Charlotte too. “Sometimes I have to pinch myself. I feel very, very blessed. Queen Charlotte is a complex, beautiful, wicked, joyous character,” she says.
As for what Regency period antics Charlotte is up to this time around, Rosheuvel remains tight-lipped, saying only that audiences can look forward to “lots of fun, lots of getting into trouble, lots of intimate moments” for our favorite gossip-loving monarch. Though when asked if there’s a possibility Charlotte could be queer, Rosheuvel looks thoughtful. “I’m gonna say yes. Definitely. I think she would be fascinated about everything,” she says.
“It’s great to talk about being gay,” she concludes. “That’s something that you never see, is it? You know the color of my skin when I walk into a room, but my sexuality — and the joys of that — one never sees until you get to know me. So to be able to talk about that is really joyous,” Rosheuvel shares with a grin. “Makes life worth living.”
Photography The Masons @themasonsofficial
This article is part of Out's March/April 2022 issue, appearing on newsstands April 5. Support queer media and subscribe — or download the issue through Amazon, Kindle, Nook, or Apple News.