Fabric Magazine

Dancing to her own tune

May 05, 2024   |   Written by Liz Skone James

Hannah Dodd on being Bridgerton’s new girl, ahead of the show’s highly-anticipated third season.

Ahead of the premiere of Bridgerton’s much-anticipated third season, as she takes on the role of Francesca Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd tells us how it felt stepping into the ‘ton’.

The wait for Bridgerton fans is very nearly over; rumour has it that Lady Whistledown’s next epistle will be published on 16 May, when the first four episodes of the third season will premiere on Netflix. Though they will have to wait until 13 June for the next four episodes.

For Hannah Dodd, finding herself amidst the Shondaland spectacular this season has been very strange indeed. The rising star is perhaps best known for her role as Sarah Chapman in Enola Holmes 2 and she also recently appeared in the hugely popular Anatomy of a Scandal, starring as the younger version of Sienna Miller’s character, Sophie. Series three of Bridgerton sees her playing Francesca Bridgerton, taking over from Ruby Stokes, who had to pull out due to other work commitments. “I’d watched both series before and loved the show, so it was quite surreal stepping into a world that you’re already so familiar with,” she tells me, when we sit down to chat about the role. “I felt like a competition winner wandering around those sets, a massive fan girl,” she adds, with a laugh.

Recalling the audition, Hannah reveals that she did not initially know what she was reading for. “It was all kept quite secret, so I had no idea that it was actually Bridgerton that I was going in for until the day of my meeting with the Shondaland team,” she tells me. “They let me know just before, which was kind of terrifying, but also good, because it meant that I just had to kind of go in, and be present, and respond to what they were asking for. I’ve never not known what I was going in for before – I think it’s just because this is such a big show, lots of secrecy around storylines and stuff like that. I love prep, I love to really go into that room and feel like I know the character, and that I’ve done everything I can do, so it was definitely a different way of working for me.”

Clearly the lack of preparation wasn’t a problem: within a week the news came through that she had been offered the job. “It was all very, very quick. And I was just so excited; it really did feel like a proud moment, and a very exciting one,” she tells me, happily.

Of course, the preparation came later. “I obviously read Francesca’s book, I did it out of order, I read Francesca’s book first – because I needed to know what I’d got myself in for!” Hannah tells me. “And then I read the rest of the books, as well. I also did a lot of research into the Regency era, and what it would have been like for women in those days. And we have an incredible dialect coach who we work with… so, there was lots of bits and pieces when it came to prepping for the role. And then, also, I just spent time watching the other actors on set, which was super helpful for. There’s definitely a rhythm and a sort of quality to Bridgerton that I needed to absorb.”

Quality is certainly a word that springs to mind when it comes to Bridgerton; the show’s production values are, famously, exceptionally high – after the first season it was revealed that each episode had cost a staggering £5 million to make, much of this budget being spent on the making of sets and costumes. “It’s magical to step onto those sets – they are so beautifully designed, and they really do half the work for you,” Hannah agrees. “The costumes do so much work, too. We are lucky with our costumes because they are stunning. Every single one of them.”

Though the Bridgerton family are at the heart of the show, Francesca is not a character we have so far seen much of – so what’s she like? “She’s kind of a slightly different Bridgerton to her siblings,” Hannah tells me. “Her personality is slightly more introverted. She’s a shyer character, and she enjoys spending time on her own. She enjoys her studies, and she enjoys playing music, and reading her books, whereas a lot of the other Bridgertons are extroverted characters who are very charismatic and can hold a room. That’s something that Francesca enjoys watching, as opposed to doing herself. She has a deep love for her family, and I think hopefully this season everybody will start to get to know her a little bit more. And I think, also, she’s going to start getting to know herself a bit more…” she concludes, revealing tantalisingly little about just what that might mean.

That love of music did present something of a problem – Francesca loves to play the piano, a skill that Hannah had not hitherto possessed. “That was a big old hurdle I had to jump over,” she exclaims, with a laugh. “I’m really grateful that they took the time and gave me the lessons, because I think it really helped me to understand the character a bit more, the type of person who can be that dedicated… But no, I didn’t play, and we just had such limited time that I didn’t really have enough time to learn properly. I’m hoping that next season I’ll be able to put a little bit more time aside, but for now I had to just learn the pieces that I was going to have to play, without the context.

So, I was just learning the hand and finger shapes. I don’t read music, so I had to learn these minute-two-minute pieces off by heart, and just drill them over and over and over again. One of my favourite things about being an actor is getting to learn different skills, somebody tells you you’ve got to learn piano, and you’re like, ‘why not?’.”

What else does Hannah love about her job? “Honestly, just the people,” she tells me. “That’s such a big part of it. It’s such a huge team that go into making everything, and so many skill sets – everybody is trained to do what they do, whether it’s costume design, whether it’s set building… you know, all of these jobs go into creating something that people watch. I think that’s such a nice thing. And the types of people that you get to work with – the Bridgerton cast and crew are such a gorgeous group of people. Everyone was so, so welcoming. I was obviously absolutely petrified joining, and you know I’d met quite a few of them during prep, but there were a few that I still hadn’t met until we were on set, so I knew that I needed to kind of keep up with the chemistry that they had. They’d known each other for years at that point, so I needed to kind of get in there, but also be really respectful, and focus on my job, as well. So yeah, they were just the best and there is not a day that you’re on that set that you are not crying with laughter – it’s the funniest place to work.”

A career highlight then, I suggest. “Definitely a highlight; I’d be lying if I didn’t say that” Hannah agrees with a nod. “I’m still at the point where I’m very grateful that anybody wants to work with me, but I have been so lucky – all of my characters I’ve loved playing, and they’ve all taught me something else. I think it is important to be passionate about the story that you’re telling, whether you’re going to have fun, whether you’re going to learn something from it, I think there has to be a reason, that’s why we get into this industry. I think there’s got to be a lot of love and joy there.”

What would the dream role be? “I would love, love, love, love, love to be in some kind of musical film,” Hannah tells me, enthusiastically. “Kind of like an old school Hollywood, Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Busby Berkeley vibe. I mean, I don’t want any of them to be remade, because they’re all stunning and perfect as they are, but something like that… I’ve trained as a dancer, so I would love to get to use those skills at some point. Yeah, that would be the ultimate dream.”

Indeed, dancing was what brought Hannah to acting. “I was a dancer and that was all I ever wanted to do,” she tells me, when I ask how she came to do what she does. “When I was at school I was doing ballet, tap, and contemporary dance, and then I kind of went into musical theatre. And through that I started acting, but it was still always that I was going to be a dancer. Then I got a role in a Burberry campaign, dancing, but also acting, and I got my acting agent through that, when I was like 18 or 19. I was still at dance college at the time, but I kept auditioning, and just kind of fell in love with acting. I think I realised that the thing I loved so much about dance and movement was the storytelling element, and I think initially I just didn’t have the confidence to believe that I could do that myself, without using choreography. When I got my first job I was playing a dancer, so that was kind of the two worlds coming together. And I just never really looked back… It wasn’t a conscious decision to move away from dancing, but that’s just the way my career went, and I’m very happy and grateful that it did.”

Of course, Hannah’s dance background means that her roots are in live performance. I wonder whether she still hankers for the stage. “I love screen work; I love being part of a crew and going to set every day. There’s something that makes me really, really feel at home in that environment. But I grew up on stage, and I would so love to get back on stage,” she nods. “It kind of terrifies me now, which is wild, because I just used to love it so much. But yeah, I would absolutely love to do a play, or a musical, at some point. It would be pretty amazing.” Any dream roles? “I mean, itreally depends… I don’t think I’d say no to a lot. Anything… I’m available!” She laughs.

Although, that’s not quite true, Hannah currently has quite a bit on her plate when it comes to work. “I don’t know that I’m really allowed to mention what they are, but I’ve just finished filming on a couple of projects, so I’ve got a few more things coming out after Bridgerton, too, which is really exciting,” she reveals. “And we are obviously in the midst of Bridgerton press at the moment. I might be hopping on to another project at some point, so it’s all very busy, but in a really, really lovely way. Really nice and manageable. And then, yeah, hopefully we’ll be back to film the next season of Bridgerton at some point…”

So, what would she do with an elusive day off here in the Capital? “I love London; it is home. There’s always something to do, and there’s always someone to see,” she exclaims. “I would probably have a little bit of a sleep in, because sleep’s very important! Then, because I went to dance school, I’ve got a lot of friends who teach dance classes or who are personal trainers, so I’d go to one of my friends’ classes, then go and grab brunch, and then go for a walk along the river, and end up in a pub and have some proper pub grub and a wine. Sounds dreamy, doesn’t it?” It really does. Almost as dreamy as the prospect of becoming embroiled once more in the audacious lives and loves of the residents of the ton. Not long to wait now…