Queue: What was your first role, and can you tell us about that experience?
Adjoa Andoh: My first role was in a play called Where Do I Go From Here? It was written by a woman who was in the San Francisco Mime Troupe; her name was Deb’bora John Wilson. And I met her because when I bailed on my law degree, I was in a Black women’s group with her, and she said, “Come and do my class.” So I went, and then she got funded to do a show in London — we were living at Bristol at the time, which is in the Southwest of England — and she said, “You should come and audition.” So I went and auditioned, and I got the job. And I thought I’d be in London for two months and then I’d go back to the Legal Aid Center where I worked, and I just never went back. So, that was my first job, and it was a five Black woman ensemble, and we sang, we told stories, and we played instruments. I think I played Leaf Woman Number Four, and I’ve still got my costume trousers from 1984.
Who or what inspires you the most?
AA: I am inspired by people who get up every morning and go and do thankless jobs. In my neighborhood it’s the people who do the street cleaning and the rubbish collection, because, you know, we like to have clean streets to walk down, and we don’t want our rubbish piling up outside. It’s not glamorous and it’s hard work; they have to get up really early, and it can be unpleasant at times. And they do it with great, good grace.
If you could play any other character on Bridgerton, who would it be?
AA: I like Penelope. I say that because I like the idea of that person who is overlooked and not quite “the thing,” who’s quietly gathering themselves to live their best life. I always find those characters really intriguing and very moving, very touching.
What’s the one thing you always bring on set?
AA: I always have my Ugg boots on set — other boots are available — but I always have Ugg boots because what you want is comfy feet. If I can have something to make my feet comfortable throughout the day, I will grab it. A pair of cozy Ugg boots is my number one thing.
What inspired you to pursue a career in acting? Is there a film or a television show that made you fall in love with acting?
AA: I always liked telling stories, from when I was really tiny, so I don’t think there was a particular film that made me go, Gosh, I want to be an actress; I always loved it. But I went to the theater when I was 16, and I saw a play by a playwright called David Hare. The play was called Plenty, and there’s an actress in it called Kate Nelligan. And it was the story of a young woman during the Second World War in London who gets taken out of her secretarial, rather dreary job, and ends up doing special ops in France. She’s really good at it, then the war ends, and she comes back to London and she is brokenhearted because she found the thing she was really good at, and now she’s being pushed back into being a secretary. And the play’s so much better than the way I’ve described it. Forgive me, David Hare.
But I saw that as a quite depressed teenage girl, and the character made me weep. I understood that although she had nothing to do with my life — she wasn’t me or anybody I knew — there was something about her story that resonated with me. And I understood the power of storytelling in that moment, and I wanted to spend my life doing it.
What is your dream role to play?
AA: I love Bette Davis and I love Katharine Hepburn. Bette Davis in Now, Voyager: I love that film, love, love, love that film. So yeah, I'll say that, Bette Davis in Now, Voyager.
If you could play anyone in history, who would that be and why?
AA: I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. I love her historically. She was a queen in her own right, in France. She married Henry II and came to England, and her eldest son was Richard Coeur de Lion, Richard the Lionheart. If you remember your Robin Hood from Disney, his younger brother was Prince John, who was not a very good person. But, I love Eleanor of Aquitaine. And I think there was a film with Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn called The Lion in Winter, from years ago, and I loved Hepburn’s portrayal of Eleanor of Aquitaine.
What was the last thing you watched on Netflix?
AA: Oh my goodness. The last thing that I watched and just loved, loved, loved, like everybody else, was The Queen’s Gambit— just loved it. Just smart, smart, smart storytelling, and so many layers. Everything about it was beautiful.