James Phoon, a New Face on ‘Bridgerton,’ Is Team Ariana Grande

James Phoon, a New Face on ‘Bridgerton,’ Is Team Ariana Grande

James Phoon couldn’t quite imagine himself cavorting among the 19th-century bon tons of “Bridgerton.” Then he read that the first Chinese person gained British citizenship in 1805.

“As someone who’s mixed East Asian — I’m part Chinese, part English — up until very recently I never thought that I would be working on a period piece,” he said.

Phoon joined the hit series in Season 3, whose second half began streaming on Netflix on Thursday, playing Harry Dankworth, the new husband of Prudence Featherington.

“To be able to take up that space and represent people who are watching at home, it really means a lot,” he said.

In a video call from London, where he was finishing the run of “Underdog: The Other Brontë” at the National Theater before moving with the show to Newcastle, Phoon, 30, discussed why his iPad and Apple Pencil, X-Men comics and Ariana Grande are among his cultural must-haves. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.


Every year I buy a blank scrapbook and turn it into this wellness journal. I decorate it with watercolors, and each month has a different aesthetic theme. At the beginning of the month, I write my goals, and at the end of the month I write a list of happy moments. And then I have This Month’s Win, which is one thing — work-related or personal, or just something that made you smile — that you want to hold onto.


On the very forefront, they’re superheroes. But at the heart of it, it’s a story about minority groups and a marginalized community dealing with prejudice and trying to figure out how they navigate the things they come up against. There are so many moments in it that are really beautiful parallels to sexuality or race or gender identity.


It’s set as a kids show. But there is one clear story arc, and it’s all about character growth and finding acceptance and trying to spread a bit of harmony in this chaotic world that they’re living in. It’s deeper than it seems.


My family are super, super competitive. Our time together is often spent playing games of some kind, especially cooperative games. There’s one called Pandemic, and you work as a team to try and eradicate all these diseases. I did play it a lot during Covid. It was board games imitating life at that point for me.


They roast their own beans, and they’re a carbon-negative company, which is amazing. But more than that, their coffee is the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.


When I was younger, normally while I was watching movies and TV shows, I would sit there with a sketchbook and just be drawing something. Then a few years ago, I got an iPad and Apple Pencil and started digital drawing for the first time. And that’s expanded into so many different things. I make invitations and cards on it. I’ve even made personalized expansion packs for board games. It’s sort of warm escapism for me.


Emily Maitlis, Jon Sopel and Lewis Goodall, who are very well-known British journalists, talk about politics or the hot topics of the day. It’s intelligent and articulate but very accessible.


You are in this big dark room with a bunch of strangers, and your whole focus is on this immersive experience. You get to appreciate the work that all of these hundreds, potentially thousands of people have put into this piece of entertainment. My favorite cinemas in Britain are Everyman. They have these really nice sofas and they bring you food and drink. It’s a very cozy experience.


I hate ironing, and so for years everything would just be creased. Then my partner introduced me to clothing steamers, and they’re honestly a godsend. Courtney Act, who is a famous drag queen, once said, “If you’re gay enough to hang it, you’re gay enough to steam it.” And I think those are words to live by.


When we were filming Season 3 of “Bridgerton,” Jonathan Bailey was also filming “Wicked” with Ariana, and he was talking about her and something that had happened on set. And I had to leave. I was like, I can’t join in this conversation because I can’t play this cool in any way. I just think she’s incredible. Her music is exciting and empowering, and she seems to approach the world with kindness and understanding. I think we should all try and do that as much as possible.

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