Simone Ashley wears a red dress against a flower covered trellis. Her hair is dark and long, and smiles slightly.

Simone Ashley

Sex Education’s “untouchable” queen joins the cast for Bridgerton’s Season 2.

Art credit Edd Horder
24 September 20213 min read

That's Not Disney!

Sex Education fans will recognize Bridgerton’s newest “It Girl” when Simone Ashley shows up to complicate things for Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) in Season 2. Ashley established herself as a fan favorite on the naughty British comedy playing Olivia Hanan, one of the most untouchable of the school’s “untouchable” clique. She says she’s always been drawn to kick-ass roles: “I loved Kill Bill. I loved Uma Thurman’s role, and it was a pretty spiky storyline: a woman out to get revenge. After being raised on Disney films, I just remember watching this and being like, I don’t care if it’s acting, music, photography, or whatever else, I just want to be a part of this world.

Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley) and Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield) in Sex Education. The two characters sit in the abandoned toilets. Ashly wears a chic outfit and blows a massive bubble. Butterfield wears dark jeans and a buttoned down shirt.

Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley) and Otis Milburn (Asa Butterfield)

Becoming Olivia

Although she might not entirely relate to her Sex Education character, Ashley did help create Olivia during the audition process, working with executive producer Ben Taylor. “Olivia was kind of a blank canvas. She is categorically a mean girl, but I want to play the mean girl who is vulnerable.’” A surprise inspiration? Heather Graham’s Rollergirl from Boogie Nights. “I was like, We’ve got to give Olivia something. If not rollerblades, can we do bubble gum?

Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley), Anwar (Chaneil Kular), and Aimee Gibbs (Aimme Lou Wood) sit on a red bench together looking fabulous. Behind the bench is a row of green hedges and in the backdrop is Moordale Secondary School.

Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley), Anwar (Chaneil Kular), and Aimee Gibbs (Aimme Lou Wood)

London Calling

While filming Sex Education, Ashley got some unexpected messages. “I got a text from my manager: ‘There’s this role for Bridgerton, and they’re really interested in you.’ I didn’t get my hopes up, but I sent a few self-tapes in. Before I knew it, I was taking a PCR test to go to London for a chemistry read with Jonathan Bailey, who was so wonderful. Then I got a call from my agent being like, ‘Deadline has written about you getting the role.’ I was like, ‘Oh, okay. These things come out in like two months’ time, right?’ And they’re like, ‘No, it’s coming out in 45 minutes.’”

Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley) wears a flowered maroon jacket and heart-shaped earrings.

Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley)

Internet Famous

As soon as news of Ashley’s casting broke, her phone didn’t stop buzzing. “You usually just get a job, and you go and do the job, so I didn’t expect that kind of response, let alone from South Asian fans,” the 26-year-old actress born to Tamil Indian parents recalls. “I had Mindy Kaling messaging me, Freida Pinto, Tan France . . . ” Her Bridgerton family was quick to reach out as well. “Johnny Bailey called, and Phoebe [Dynevor], Nicola [Coughlan], Regé-Jean [Page], and others messaged me to say welcome and congratulations.”

Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley), and Anwar (Chaneil Kular) stand against the tan lockers look fierce and scary. Ashley blows a customary bubble.

Ruby Matthews (Mimi Keene), Olivia Hanan (Simone Ashley), and Anwar (Chaneil Kular)