If you are a fan of Sex Education, you probably already know her as Olivia Hanan, the Indian girl from Moordale Secondary School. And now, she’s back on our screens as Kate Sharma from Bridgerton Season 2.
Simone Ashwini Pillai, or Simone Ashley, as she is professionally known is a British actress of Indian origin. She was born in Camberley, Surrey, England, to parents, Latha and Gunasekharan and attended the ArtsEd school in Chiswick to hone her skills.
Being someone of Indian origin and someone with a dark skin tone, Ashley is very aware of colourism and racism in the industry. But she doesn’t let it stop her from pursuing her ambitions.
She spoke about it in an interview as well:
Yes, colourism is an ongoing issue. As is being type cast, being looked over because of the colour of your skin, losing roles to girls that are more ‘relatable’ to target audiences and markets. But if I surrender to all of that, where would I be going? Nowhere! Fuck that.
She is also quite optimistic about the situation and believes that it won’t be a problem for much longer as the world is changing.
So I try not to even think twice about any challenges that might come along due to my heritage. I say ‘Yes I can’ and see what happens. And usually, that mentality breeds positive, bright, and beaming opportunities. It won’t be a ‘challenge’ for very long, the world is changing.
Ashley comes from a family of academics. As a matter of fact, she’s the only one in the family who isn’t one. And while that has been a matter of concern for her parents, they firmly support her and her career choices, especially given how uncertain her line of work can be.
They still find it quite scary and unsettling… There is no crystal ball, no security, no guarantee. Which can be a parent’s worst nightmare. But they know I’m a smart lady. You can’t spend your life going with what your parents want, or your friends, teachers, lovers, want. You have to be your own hero and just go with your gut. My parents are incredibly protective over me, and sometimes I found it quite stifling. It made me want to escape and do things my own way.
And courtesy of her parents, especially her father, she was always surrounded by classic music and good films. Her father would play his favourite music, which was rock and roll, Bob Marley, and more stuff like that. BTW, that is a household that loves Tarantino, it seems, given their love for Kill Bill.
My mother would always play Phil Collins too.
Given that Sex Education was her first big role, she is quite grateful for that opportunity.
Sex Education was really life-changing. I’m so grateful for that show. I learnt so much in my craft and as a person. It was such a joy.
That said, she’s acquired quite an impressive resume in a very short span of time. She’s starred in Broadchurch, Wolfblood, and Pokémon Detective Pikachu and has an uncredited role in Straight Outta Compton.
And now, we can’t wait to see how she steals the show in Bridgerton Season 2, playing Kate Sharma, a character she seems to have a found a lot of common ground with.
Kate’s a go-getter. She will speed right ahead, but she’s also smart and admirably strategic. I’d like to think I can be like that as well.
That said, it wasn’t as easy to get into the physical aspect of the character. Speaking to reporters about the process, she’s admitted that Kate Sharma’s character is incredibly competitive, sporty and fierce.
“It was such a physical process getting into her mindset as she’s incredibly fierce, sporty, competitive and brave. To represent that I had to put it into action… I was in horse-riding training a lot which was so much fun.”
Bridgerton Season 2 returns to Netflix on the 25th of March, 2022. Oh, and guys, it would be unjust to leave this out but she has a very cute dog.