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May 20 2024
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ELLE US Photoshoot & Interview
May 20, 2024
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Hannah Dodd gave an interview to the magazine ELLE US, you can read it right below. Two portraits of the actress have also been revealed by the magazine.

ELLE — Allow Hannah Dodd to Reintroduce Francesca Bridgerton

The actress talks taking over the role for season 3, her character’s search for a husband, and “getting thrown into the deep end” on set.

Hannah Dodd likes to say that she shares Francesca Bridgerton with Ruby Stokes. After Stokes originated the character in the first two seasons of the hit Regency-era romantic drama Bridgerton, Dodd has taken over the coveted role of the sixth Bridgerton sibling for the show’s highly anticipated third installment, the first half of which is now streaming on Netflix.

“Francesca is such a gorgeous character that it takes two people to get to tell her story, but I’m not trying to erase the fact that Ruby played her first,” Dodd tells ELLE.com on a recent video call from her flat in London. “I think we had a little chat when [my casting] announcement came out, and we were always liking each other’s stuff [on Instagram]. I congratulated her on her job; she congratulated me on my job. So it’s really lovely to share this with her.”

Dodd, by her own admission, was not expecting to audition again for Bridgerton. In the spring of 2022, Dodd—who had been in the running three years earlier to play Phoebe Dynevor’s character, Daphne Bridgerton—responded to a confidential casting call. The title and character name were clearly being kept a secret, but Dodd remembers self-taping a scene about a maiden at a ball.

It wasn’t until months later that Dodd learned, on the day of her Zoom meeting with Bridgerton producers, that she was a frontrunner to play Francesca. “I had no time to prepare in any way, so I just had to listen to what it was that they wanted and respond. It meant that I didn’t go in with any sort of preconceived ideas, which is a completely different way of working. Normally, I like to prep and really be ready,” she says, admitting that the experience was oddly “freeing,” if a little intimidating.

Dodd learned that she had landed the part at a family party, the day after her father’s wedding. “My agent had lied to me. He had said that I was going to go in again the week after because he knew that I was at a wedding, and I’d [otherwise] be thinking about it the whole time,” she recalls. Her agent decided to call only if there was even more cause for celebration—and indeed, there was. “I had loads of family and friends there, and it was the last day before my sister went back to Australia, so it meant that we got to have that moment [together], which was really nice.”

The middle of three children born in Colchester and raised between Essex and Suffolk in the U.K., Dodd began her career as a model and grew up as a classically trained dancer, graduating from the London Studio Centre in 2017. A lover of old musical films from the Golden Age of Hollywood, she was always drawn to the storytelling element of dancing—and discovered the same thing could be said of acting. “My first job was playing a ballet dancer for a TV show, so that kind of married the two and didn’t make it quite so terrifying,” Dodd says of her starring role in Hulu’s teen sci-fi fantasy Find Me in Paris. “I loved the dancing, but I was so into the research of the character and understanding the story arc, and I just never looked back.”

Dodd is no stranger to period pieces, having recurred in two seasons of Hulu’s 18th-century, London-set brothel drama Harlots, starred opposite Millie Bobby Brown in Netflix’s Enola Holmes 2, and played a young Sienna Miller in the Netflix miniseries Anatomy of a Scandal. But Bridgerton, which has been lauded for its sexually liberated and racially diverse reimagining of the British Regency era, has the kind of rare staying power that has transformed its main actors into global superstars—a prospect that, Dodd admits, makes her nervous. Until then, she insists that she remains focused on the work at hand.

After landing the role, Dodd dove headfirst into preparation, starting with Julia Quinn’s romance novels. While Stokes played Francesca more on the periphery in the first two seasons, Dodd joined the show just as the character was entering the ton, or London high society, for the first time. “That was an amazing surprise,” Dodd notes. “In the books, we don’t ever see how she actually does join society.”

Although Francesca’s book, When He Was Wicked, takes place at a later juncture of her life, Dodd wanted to capture little traits and behavioral tics that readers would recognize—her little half-smile, her sarcasm, her wit, her tendency to look upward—while taking account that the character is still more of an ingénueand has not yet been hardened by her lived experiences as an adult. “There’s a huge arc that happens before [her book], so I needed to work out where to start her and who she would be at this point of her life,” she says.

Like her onscreen counterpart, Dodd was learning to find her feet in a brand new environment. She jokes that, on her first day on set, she felt a little like the winner of a contest because she felt like she had stepped into her TV screen. Thanks to a last-minute scheduling change, she eased into filming with a one-on-one scene with Ruth Gemmell, who plays widowed matriarch Violet, Francesca’s mom. The next day, she filmed the opening scene in which most of the Bridgerton clan find Francesca playing Mozart’s “Funeral March” before leaving for Queen Charlotte’s (Golda Rosheuvel) annual debutante ceremony. (Book readers may sense a bit of foreshadowing there.)