Golda Rosheuvel/ Liam Daniel Netflix photo
Growing up, my favorite shows on the Disney channel by default were those with white casts and that one black friend. Watching Golda Rosheuvel in the role of Queen Charlotte in Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton made me swell with pride at seeing a Caribbean woman in such a powerful role on the small screen.
Long-time theatre actress, Golda Rosheuvel was born in Guyana in 1970 to British mom, Judith Evans and Guyanese dad, Siegfried Rosheuvel. Her parents met in the 1960s at a music event in Barbados where they sang in a choir and began courting shortly after. Rosheuvel’s mother was the niece of the then Bishop of Barbados and her father was a priest. They got married and settled in Guyana where Siegfried's family lived.
In 1975, the family moved to the UK where Rosheuvel has lived ever since. However, she notes that she still retains her connection with her Guyanese roots. “We’d have our pepper-pot. Our garlic pork, at Christmas. I still have my cook-up rice, my chicken-curry. And then we’d have our afternoon teas, with the scones with our clotted cream and jam.”
Golda Rosheuvel’s Early Career
Though Rosheuvel sang and performed in school plays, becoming an actress was not what she had dreamed for herself. Rosheuvel wanted to be a track and field athlete. In secondary school she trained hard for the Olympics with the hopes of becoming a medalist. It was not until an ‘injury of fate’, as Naomi Campbell called it, hindered her plans. A sprained ankle had caused Rosheuvel to miss months of training. During that time, she shifted her focus to music and performance and soon traded in her cleats for scripts.
Roshuevel appeared in a number of iconic theatre productions before her screen-stealing role as Queen Charlotte. Rosheuvel starred in Othello, played Lady Macbeth in Macbeth and appeared in numerous works such as Romeo and Juliet, The Winter’s Tale, Porgy and Bess, and Angels In America.
Roshuevel has long been dazzling audiences with her theatre performances. Theatre critic Lyn Gardener regarded her as “the best Paulina” he’d ever seen in Simon Godwin’s 2019 production of The Winter’s Tale. However, as a black, gay, immigrant in theatre, it was not an easy road for Golda. She achieved most of her precedented works in the latter part of her career with her first lead role in 2018 at age 47 as lesbian Othello in Othello. In a 2018 interview with The Guardian when asked what she had to give up to be where she is, she replied, “My ego...You have to keep it in check or as an actor you are constantly saying ‘why not me?’. I’ve learned to say: ‘Just relax, your time will come.’” And it sure did.
Playing TV’s First Black Queen on Bridgerton
According to many historians, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz, had African ancestry. However, until now, she has been portrayed by white actresses. Rosheuvel noted how moving it was for her to not only appear on but to play the queen in Netflix’s most-watched series.
Rosheuvel’s role as Queen Charlotte also allowed her the opportunity to honour her late mother. In an interview with Essence magazine, she explained, “I’m biracial and my mother was white from England. This is the first time that I wasn’t playing a role that didn’t completely revolve around me being Black. So for me, this is the first time I have been able to tap into my mother’s side. Do you know what I mean? That side of me that loves afternoon tea and scones with clotted cream and jam, that loves horse riding through the countryside. So, when channelling Queen Charlotte, I thought about my mom.”
Rosheuvel describes her overall experience playing Queen Charlotte as riveting and empowering and jokes that the only downside to playing Bridgerton’s matriarch was that she was sick of eating the bonbons.
Representation and Inclusivity Matters
Being the first Black queen to appear on television in a period drama series, Rosheuvel received international attention and praise for the role but also encountered harsh criticism. The actress, however, was not bothered by the pushback. She believes Bridgerton showed the world that diversity in period productions indeed could be done.
She went on to explained, “Discussion is always positive, even when it’s negative. Without those discussions, without those beliefs and thought processes, we won’t move forward. It’s always worth engaging in the debate of representation and inclusivity...whether you win the debate or not, it’s important to engage a subject.”
As a gay, bi-racial, Caribbean woman, Rosheuvel hopes she can be a “symbol of encouragement” for the Guyanese people and the LGBT community in Guyana. She underscores that “the journey [for representation] is not over but it is definitely going in the right direction.”