James Phoon Talks Bridgerton Season 3

by | May 15, 2024

In this exclusive interview, James Phoon dives into his role as Dankworth in Bridgerton Season 3, detailing his experience with the Featherington family and the unique qualities he brings to the beloved series.
In a recent interview with our Talent and Features Editor, Sofia Deus, actor James Phoon shared his excitement about joining the highly anticipated third season of Bridgerton. Portraying the character Dankworth, Phoon brings a fresh dynamic to the Featherington family, a role he eagerly embraced.

 

@David Reiss

 

SD – Congratulations on joining the highly anticipated Season Three of Bridgerton, James! Your character, Dankworth, seems to bring a new dynamic to the Featherington family. What drew you to this role, and how do you envision Dankworth fitting into the vibrant world of Bridgerton?

JP – Bridgerton was at the top of my list of projects I wanted to work on. So, when the casting came in, I jumped on it. It was all very secretive at the beginning though. In the information I received, the characters and show title all had codenames – so I knew he was newly married, adored his wife and that, but I didn’t know that the other characters in the scenes were the Featheringtons! I felt the fun and naive sweetness of Dankworth straight away though, and really leant into that. He’s different to the other gentlemen of the ton, and I love that.

SD – From the opulent world of Bridgerton to the National Theatre stage, you’re embarking on quite a journey with your role in ‘Underdog: The Other Other Brontë’. How does the experience of performing in a theatre production like this compare to the screen, and what unique challenges and rewards does each medium offer you as an actor?

JP – I started out doing theatre, but I’ve been filming Wreck and Bridgerton back-to-back for the past couple of years, so this has been my first chance to get back to it! Theatre is an ongoing process, that you revisit with each performance. It’s always changing. No two audiences will see the same show, and in fact, no two people in the same audience will have the same experience. I love that. With filming, the amount of time you spend performing a scene is condensed and all of your ideas and explorations are captured in their microscopic detail and immortalised by the camera. The collaboration of creating the final product doesn’t stop when you stop, it continues in post-production long after you have wrapped on a project and you only know what you’ve created after all the pieces have slotted into place. When you watch something back, you are seeing the work and creativity of hundreds of people all melded together to create the thing you’re watching. I find that really special. Fundamentally, I love them both and although they are vastly different experiences, stage and screen are both about telling a story and connecting to an audience.

@David Reiss

 

SD – Playing Prudence Featherington’s new husband, Dankworth, in Bridgerton must have presented some fascinating character dynamics to explore. Can you share with us how you approached developing Dankworth’s character and building the chemistry with your fellow cast members, particularly Bessie Carter, who portrays Prudence?

JP – Dankworth is very different to the Featheringtons in that I think he’s come from a very happy, love-filled home. When we meet him, he is doing his best version of emulating how he thinks a loving husband behaves. But actually, he and Prudence haven’t had the time to get to know each other yet. I think his devotion, though well meant, is jarring for Prudence. She’s never been the centre of someone’s affection like that before, and so they have to figure out how to actually understand each other. Bessie is a fantastic actor and had been playing Prudence for two seasons already, so I knew I had to match her energy and really do our story justice. At the beginning, we didn’t know each other, so we could lean into that unfamiliarity when it came to things like physical touch between Prudence and Dankworth, and I think that created some really funny moments. Though the gang in real life are MUCH more warm, kind and welcoming than the Featheringtons!

SD – Bridgerton is known for its lavish sets, intricate costumes, and captivating storylines. As a newcomer to the series, what was your initial reaction when you stepped onto the set for the first time, and how did you immerse yourself in the Regency-era world of the Ton?

JP – Way before I even got to set, I had fittings with the costume team, who make virtually everything from scratch. It was my first time getting to see the whole process of this level of craftsmanship, from drawings and fabric all the way to finished garments. The amount of work that goes into each and every look is phenomenal! So when I got to my first day on set, wearing this suit that had been perfectly made for me as Harry Dankworth, my hair curled and styled to perfection, and as I stepped into the iconic Featherington drawing room, all that work from the teams around me made it impossible not to be immersed in the Bridgerton world. And then I saw a shot of myself on the monitor amongst it all… It was surreal.

@David Reiss

 

SD – ‘Underdog: The Other Other Brontë’ explores themes of resilience and identity within female-led families, echoing some of the struggles seen in Bridgerton’s Featherington household. How do you see your roles in both projects intersecting, and what insights have you gained from portraying characters navigating similar societal challenges in different historical contexts?

JP – I’ve been blessed getting to experience these two characters side by side. Because although neither of them fit into 19th century society’s expectations of a man, they both deal with their outsider status differently. Branwell Brontë is someone who deeply and painfully feels his otherness, and is desperate to make a success of himself. Whereas Harry Dankworth is blissfully unaware. He adores Prudence and looks at her with the same wide-eyed wonder as he does the rest of the world around him. If she’s okay, he’s okay. He just has to learn how to decipher her.

SD – The Featheringtons have a penchant for drama and intrigue in Bridgerton, and your character’s arrival promises to add an extra layer of excitement to the mix. Without giving too much away, what can viewers expect from Dankworth’s storyline this season, and how does he shake up the established dynamics within the Featherington family?

JP – Well the Featheringtons certainly do have a whole lot more drama coming their way this season. And Dankworth has his own key role in all of that. A big dynamic shift is that alongside Philippa and Finch, Prudence now has Dankworth. So, this season, without the need to find a match, they become their own little unit of four. As newly made brothers-in-law, Finch is almost like an older brother to Dankworth, and helps guide him on fitting into the Featherington family. Lorn Macdonald (who plays Finch) and I had a lot of fun finding little moments to explore this relationship. I think they have a very sweet energy together.

SD – As Bridgerton continues to captivate audiences worldwide, what do you hope viewers take away from your portrayal of Dankworth, and what do you personally find most compelling about the series’ exploration of love, scandal, and societal norms in the Regency era?

JP – This show is one of beautiful escapism, with a beating heart that shifts energy each season. I love that season three is about the people who have often felt othered, and shines a light on those people coming into their own and finding a place where they belong. I definitely relate to that. There’s a strength and power to embracing your own uniqueness and finding your tribe. And I’m so grateful to be a part of telling this story as a person of mixed British and East Asian heritage. To take up space on a huge platform like this means a lot. I hope people feel empowered and seen when they watch it.

@David Reiss

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