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Photo by David Reiss, courtesy of James Phoon.

James Phoon Talks Going from Watching Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ to Being on Season 3

There aren’t many bigger television sensations these days than Bridgerton, so it’s a pretty big deal for an actor to snag a role on the show. Especially one who’s looking for that big break. For English actor James Phoon, being cast in the upcoming season is sweet. A native of Brighton, in the south of England, Phoon has built a solid career doing voiceover work and has spent two seasons on the BBC Three series Wreck. Now, he’s going international with one of Netflix’s biggest series.

The third season of Bridgerton is broken up into two four-episode parts, the first of which dropped on Netflix on May 16th. He spoke to us from his home in London.

How did you start acting?

Well, I loved movies growing up. I would watch the same movies over and over and over again. 

Which ones?

I love the X-Men franchise, all the fantasy-ish superhero magic stuff. I know that’s not a cool thing to say, but I love them. The X-Men films, Harry Potter, the Twilight movies, all of those fantasy world escapism-type things I loved.

I sort of realized quite early that I wanted to be an actor, so my mum would suggest that I join a theater club or something, but the thought of that was just terrifying because I knew it was just so outside of my world and anything that I knew. I knew that I wanted to do it, but it took me until my late teens when I joined a theater club and sort of committed to it to start performing. 

What was it that helped you overcome this shyness?

I think it was that natural turning point in my life when you start to decide what you might want to do at college. Having to make a choice.

There was a bit of me that was like, “I can’t let this go. I’m gonna have to force myself to do it.” I think it was that turning point of reaching adulthood, where you’re like, “I have to decide where my life is going to go.”

What was it like getting on stage that first time?

I was sort of thrown into the deep end of my first proper show at school. It was our final year of school. There was a production of Aladdin in my very small school, and I got cast as Aladdin. I think I was just ready at that point. I mean, it’s terrifying, but I was just raring to go.

I’m someone who, once I make a decision, I am very front-footed about it. I am all in and I have to go for it.

I’m assuming that you crushed it.

Well, I mean, there’s a DVD that might disagree, but I will tell everyone, “Yeah, it was amazing. It’s really good.” (Laughs)

Actor James Phoon sitting in a chair with one foot on the seat. Photo by David Reiss, courtesy of James Phoon.

All of a sudden, the guy who loves franchises is getting a big break in one of the biggest shows on TV.

I love big, glossy things. I was a huge fan of Bridgerton beforehand. It was a goal that I set for myself and spoke to my agent about, that Bridgerton was one of those projects on the horizon. It was just really surreal. Like, my first day was on a set that I have seen a lot in seasons one and two, and then to find myself in the room, I was like, “Oh, wow, I’m here. This actually is Bridgerton.”

I bet it got real pretty quickly.

It did. I’d find myself settling in and thinking it was ordinary. I’d be like, “Oh, I’m just at work again. I’m waking up at half-three in the morning and getting in the car, I’m going to sit with Alice in the makeup chair and she’ll do my hair and it was very normal.” But then you have these wild experiences —especially in block two, episodes three and four.

We were directed by Andrew Ahn, who directed this amazing queer romcom Fire Island. I love this movie, then I saw his name on the scripts. I love this guy’s work, and now I’m getting to work with him.

What can you say about the character playing?

He’s called Harry Dankworth. We’ve been describing him as a “himbo.” He’s just a sweet guy. He comes across as quite dimwitted, but he just has his areas of expertise and things that he loves.

He loves fashion, he loves to look good, he loves his hair being perfect, but he’s always looking outwards. He’s very curious and full of wonder, and has a lot of love to give people. He’s also very happy and sort of appreciative to be in the places that he finds himself. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body and is a cheerleader for everyone. He’s just a really nice person to play.

Aside from the dimwitted part, it seems like that’s not too far off from you.

No, the dimwitted stuff, too. When I got the part, my boyfriend was like, “Oh, typecast again.” (Laughs)

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