7 Questions with… Bridgerton star Martins Imhangbe: 'Bridgerton is so refreshing. You see black excellence'

Shondaland’s Bridgerton comes to Netflix on Christmas Day with a new take on period drama that brings the genre into the 21st century.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 24 December 2020 - 10.04am

Netflix’s epic new period drama Bridgerton looks likely to dominate TV screens around the world this Christmas.

Julie Andrews, Jonathan Bailey, Adjoah Andoh, Ben Miller, Julian Ovenden, Polly Walker and Phoebe Dynevor are among the cast in Shondaland’s take on the historical romance novels of Julia Quinn.

Full of romance, melodrama and glamour, it’s perfect escapism for Christmas 2020.

Among the diverse cast is TV newcomer Martin Imhangbe, who plays Will Mondrich. Based on real-life boxer Bill Richmond, Will has a close friendship with the Duke (Regé-Jean Page) and has aspirations for his own family.

We caught up with Martins to get the lowdown on the new series…

1. How would you describe Bridgerton?

Martins Imhangbe in Netflix's Bridgerton Netflix

I would describe Bridgerton as a delicious banquet with everything for everyone. Everyone who watches it will find a piece of themselves in it, which is great for a period drama show. Normally with period drama you can feel quite removed, but this show brings it forward with the music and people you see. It’s very relatable.

Normally with period dramas, black characters are seen in an oppressive light. They are slaves or the help, they are the lowest of the low in society. It’s so refreshing to have black Dukes, a black Queen, aspiring entrepreneurs or characters like myself who are proud to be working class. It’s really cool.

Bridgerton - Polly Walker interview: 'The show is a feast for the eyes'

2. Who is Will Mondrich?

Martins Imhangbe in Netflix's Bridgerton with Rege-Jean Page Netflix

So my character Will is a boxer. Or a pugilist as they call it. They see him as a prize-fighter and he’s using his position to move up in the world, to provide for his wife and children. He and his wife are very entrepreneurial and ambitious, but they take pride in being working class at the same time.

3. Have you done any boxing before?

I enjoy boxing. I’m a boxing enthusiast. I did a play called The Royale as a boxer which was set in the 1900s. So it was interesting to do this in the 1800s and see how boxing as evolved over time. In the 1800s it was bare-knuckled and no fancy footwork. It was very raw. They would just punch each other until someone was knocked out. That’s what people paid to see. I had a personal trainer, a guy called Cuong Hua. He trained me at a place called Commando Temple two or three days a week and he conditioned me and showed me the basics of throwing a punch and dodging.

It really set me up for the choreography of the show. The choreography of the show was quite intense, especially doing lots of takes. It really set me up with my stamina and balance. It was intense.

Boost BT TV with Netflix

Sign up to enjoy The Crown season 4, The Queen's Gambit, The Umbrella Academy, Stranger Things and more.

4. What are the themes of Bridgerton?

Will Mondrich trains the Duke in Bridgerton Netflix

I’ve never seen anything like it or experienced anything like it. Walking onto his life-sized set it was quite overwhelming. You have to remember to get on with the work and not be dazzled by everything around you. The costumes made you just go, ‘wow’. How did you put them together? How do you get into it? That was a challenge. How do you stay focused and not be in awe of the whole thing.

5. The show looks spectacular. What was the set like?

I’ve never seen anything like it or experienced anything like it. Walking onto his life-sized set it was quite overwhelming. You have to remember to get on with the work and not be dazzled by everything around you. The costumes made you just go, ‘wow’. How did you put them together? How do you get into it? That was a challenge. How do you stay focused and not be in awe of the whole thing.

6. Will you be binging the series on Christmas Day?

PHOEBE DYNEVOR as DAPHNE BRIDGERTON and REGÉ-JEAN PAGE as SIMON BASSET Netflix

I think it’s a bingeable show, especially over Christmas. I think people will have their Christmas dinners and then just sit and watch. It goes really fast, in a good way. You could easily end up watching all eight. I’m not sure about me watching it. My family are very excited about it, but I don’t think I’ll sit down and watch it. My friends are all very excited, so I’m expecting a lot of messages about it. It should be fun.

I hope we get to do more. There are eight novels, so there’s so much material. I guess time will tell.

7. The Black Lives Matter movement made 2020 a reflective year for the TV and movie industry. Have you seen any progress?

First look at Bridgerton on Netflix Netflix

I feel like things have changed, but not as quickly as we hoped. It feels like a slow burner. I feel like the reason things erupted recently is because of that build-up over years. People feeling under-represented and unseen. It’s about visibility and not just seeing yourself, but seeing yourself in a positive light. Not just seeing things though a white lens and always seeing oppression.

I think that’s why Bridgerton is so refreshing. You see black excellence, you see black people where you don’t normally see them. That’s a positive way to move forward and it impacts on the next generation. If the next generation see themselves represented in a positive light, there will be less need for a backlash. Things are happening, but I do think we’ve still got some way to go. 

Watch Bridgerton on Christmas Day on Netflix.

Boost BT TV with Netflix

Sign up to enjoy The Crown season 4, The Queen's Gambit, The Umbrella Academy, Stranger Things and more.