In an interview with Awards Daily, Claudia Jessie, most well known as Eloise on Netflix’s Bridgerton, details the conflicts of her character and where she wants Eloise to go as a character as the show progresses. She also reveals the importance of how a good corset can make or break a role!
Awards Daily: The show has moved away from the books, giving Eloise a lot more to do, but have you found the books helpful in getting into her headspace?
Claudia Jessie: I think I read two before I started filming, and worked my way through the rest during season one. I think what was most helpful was understanding the dynamic of the Bridgerton family and also the other family and friendships of the ton and the society and world that they existed in. I always was quite conscious of understanding this world. We have this incredible team of writers who are heavily inspired by the books (lovely Julia Quinn who gave us the foundation to start with). I was always quite aware you don’t want to get too embedded in something that most likely will change. But to understand the ton and the society and the world that it existed in, and the dynamic of the family was super helpful, absolutely!
AD: I read in an old interview you wanted nothing to do with corsets after being in Vanity Fair. So what made you change your mind for Bridgerton?
Claudia Jessie: You know, firstly, can you imagine if I turn that down over a corset! Kicking yourself would be the sentence most useful, which is hard to do in a corset ironically. I am lucky because I get one of the smaller ones, and it’s not like it’s a borrowed corset. They are tailor-made for our bodies. So it’s a completely different experience. The costumes are not uncomfortable, they’re beautiful and made for our bodies. So I am blessed but I better watch what I’m saying and be careful what I wish for.
AD: I talked with Nicola Coughlan last year and she mentioned that you guys are friends in real life and that helped you on screen. But how did that affect you in your huge fight this season?
Claudia Jessie: Yeah, we’re not talking anymore (both laughing); we are so method it’s wild! We send each other a bunch of abusive messages. Can you imagine? What we did during that scene, every time we finished it we would hug, and I remember when we left that scene we were literally walking arm-in-arm as if one. But what is similar about me and Nicola when we get on set is that we are both desperate to do a cracking job. So it’s great having the scene with Nic because I know we just want to do the best we can do. So that scene, even knowing how heartbreaking (and it was hard to do), we just wanted to nail it because we knew the more intense and real the fight was the more it invigorates the audience because it’s the last fight you want to see because they are so sweet. So yeah, it has helped us even more being friends to do that scene.
AD: Jumping ahead to when Eloise will be taking center stage for her season, have you and Chris Fulton started talking at all about your potential season?
Claudia Jessie: No, we met in season one and then our paths never crossed because whenever he’s on set I’m not. I don’t live in London either so I don’t see the gang all the time, so much like the characters we’ve never really crossed paths. Maybe that’s a good thing because if and when that season happens we can jump right in like the characters do. Very exciting of course if it does happen.
AD: Eloise’s main journey so far has been trying to figure out who Lady Whistledown is and finding her place as a member of the ton vs. not really liking being part of the ton. It goes through a really emotional moment about that last season. Where do you think her character is going, and should be going in the later seasons, having experienced two of these big things for her?
Claudia Jessie: What I think she should be doing is figuring out who she is. Because obviously she’s young–17, 18, 19–those are tricky years, so much is going on. She’s just lost this guy she really liked and she has lost her best mate who turned out to be the person she’s been on this massive quest for this whole time. So I think she’s going to feel pretty rock bottom and quite lonely. And I think Eloise feels love from her family but she also knows she has a loving eye roll from her family as well. Because they hear it all the time. But I think it’s an integral moment for both Eloise and Penelope for their friendship. I think hopefully it can only get better once they’ve had this time apart for Eloise to streamline her focus. She is such a sponge– she is reading, meeting new people, and learning things. At the moment it is just sponge, sponge, sponge, which is right for that age because you are learning so much. I am excited for her to really streamline it into something that means something for her. So she can move forward and recreate her own identity rather than be the girl who is trying to find Lady Whistledown and doesn’t like Society. It has to be more than that and now she has an excuse because she can’t live through anything anymore.
AD: I was curious about your scenes with Calam Lynch, the actor who plays Theo. He is trying to help Eloise get involved in the real world, but she has a bit of that isolation because of her upbringing. How did you try to get into that headspace of liking him? Their time together seemed like a very interesting, complex moment for your character.
Claudia Jessie: Yeah, I think there’s a lot going on there. She has got her best friend in the back of her mind saying: “Don’t get involved with that boy anymore.” “Stop this quest for Lady Whistledown.” “You are only going to get in trouble with these rumors.” Then as well the Queen is now on her back. So when she starts out at all with the awareness that the class difference between her and Theo would have an effect. Then Theo really alerts her to that, telling her, “You have the privilege of your birthright.” He doesn’t have that. I don’t think she understands it, I think they would have kissed if Penelope hadn’t said anything. I think Eloise would have become braver and I think she would have had the compassion to understand that yes, our lives are different, but she doesn’t give a crap what people think, really. So I think she would have continued to see this young man. I think that’s the battle, but I think she had her best friend’s voice in the back of her head telling her she was going to bring more scandal on to her family if she went any further down this path. Performance-wise it was easy because Calam was so dreamy to work with. He is such a great actor and so professional and we had a great time, which made things so easy. We both knew the push and pull that we had to do with each other. I really liked working with Calam a lot.
AD: I kind of regret knowing ahead of time in the books who Eloise is with because the chemistry between the two of you would have made for a great season.
Claudia Jessie: (Laughing) Yeah, I think so too.
AD: You also have a TV miniseries, Bali 2002, coming out this year. What can you tell us about that?
Claudia Jessie: It’s a four-part drama I filmed in Sydney, Australia, and it is to commemorate twenty years since the horrific terrorist attacks that happened in Bali. I play a British woman named Polly who went to Bali five weeks after her marriage, with her husband and a bunch of friends, and she was the only one to survive the attack. So a really unthinkable situation. The series is a story about the heroes who survived it and the heroes who died in the attack. It was an amazing experience with a beautiful crew. But so different after coming off something like Bridgerton. It was a real privilege, especially to play this amazing woman, Polly Miller in the script–but she’s not called that anymore, who I got to meet and speak to. The show is really about the capacity of human beings, the terrible things we can do but also the way we can move forward, and ultimately how all we have is each other. It’s a beautiful piece and I can’t wait for everyone to see it.
AD: Where will it be showing?
Claudia Jessie: In Australia on Stan and Channel 9; then we’ll be distributed worldwide. I don’t know exactly when but probably sometime this year.
AD: You have mainly done work in TV. Is TV a medium that you are particularly interested in or is it just what has been available to you?
Claudia Jessie: It’s just sort of what’s happened really. I know I’m very fortunate but I would bloody love to do some theater. I would absolutely love to. I can’t wait for the day I do get to do it and I hope it’s sooner than later. But it’s just sort of the way it has gone once I got one job. (I definitely struggled.) It just slowly started to snowball from there, which meant I was working and there’s never really been the time or the opportunity to do theater, which is a sad fact. But I am also very fortunate. I have been working pretty consistently for ten years with my amazing agent Michael Ford. (I love you so much.) That’s just the way the cookies crumpled, so to speak. I love it!
Bridgerton streams exclusively on Netflix.