Interview: Bridgerton’s Luke Thompson On Season 3 & Navigating Fame

By Tessa Dunthorne

3 weeks ago

The actor tells us why he's not in it for the fame


Luke Thompson is best known as a Bridgerton boy. But as an actor he’s navigating fame on his own terms and staying true to his compass, finds Tessa Dunthorne in our pre-season 3 interview.

Interview: Luke Thompson Talks Bridgerton & Fame

I find Luke Thompson in Hopper Coffee House in Clapham. Or rather, I don’t – at least initially. I sit next to him for ten minutes before I realise who he is. For one, he’s not dressed in the breeches and floppy shirts we’ve come to recognise him for, as artist Benedict in Netflix hit Bridgerton. In real life, the 35-year-old actor dons a much more casual flannel shirt on top of a grey tee. Secondly, he manages almost completely to blend into the background of the café, not quite becoming a wallflower, but attracting no attention. Surreptitious. Over the course of an hour’s chat, no one interrupts us for a selfie or to gush over the actor. Given Bridgerton ranks as Netflix’s fourth most popular show of all time, this must be rare. ‘I’m not recognised particularly,’ he shrugs. ‘I manage to go about my life.’ 

Chatting Shakespeare & the RSC

Luke’s currently in rehearsals for the Royal Shakespeare Company’s production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. This adaptation, he says, has a ‘really fresh energy’. Punters can expect to see the story – which follows the King of Navarre imposing a no women, no booze, no fun isolation on his court in the pursuit of self-growth – jettisoned to the modern day, and also Silicon Valley. 

‘It’s not necessarily the most well-known play,’ he says, ‘which is a good thing. You do sometimes feel that, with Shakespeare, you’re performing to the five percent of people who’ve seen 58 Macbeths.’

The director, Emily Burns, has taken a utilitarian approach to the original material, cutting and shaping it to fit her vision – an approach that may shock traditionalists. ‘There’s some stuff that just won’t work, and you’ve got to cut it,’ Luke maintains. ‘Because it’s not a museum piece. It’s not a lecture; it’s a play.’

He continues: ‘I think there’s a weird hang up around Shakespeare – they’re not perfect plays, and you can cut quite a lot. But I do happen to love them. They’re endlessly rewarding and endlessly complex.’

You can tell he loves them. After leaving RADA, he scooped up award nominations for his first professional role, playing Lysander in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Then he was Laertes in Hamlet under director Robert Icke. Casting directors obviously think him the perfect fit for The Bard.

‘I’ve always found that historical world easier to inhabit,’ Luke says. ‘I think for most people, they’re like, “modern – easy; classical –  ahh, a bit tricky”. For me, it’s always been the other way around. I think it’s that I enjoy playing the slightly imagined [world] – a bit like Bridgerton.’

"Bridgerton.

Luke Thompson On Bridgerton Season 3

On Bridgerton, Luke Thompson is clear about a few things. Firstly, that it’s very ‘locked up’ – media training is extensive, promotional junkets are more akin to ‘long pieces of performance art’ and ‘season three is season three’, the only detail I can elicit from him on the plot about the latest instalment of the hit show, landing on Netflix on 16 May. Secondly, though, is that we can expect a season of growth for Benedict. 

‘He’s so open for lots of new experiences, but it can be slightly paralysing, because it means he doesn’t really know where he fits in,’ Luke explains. ‘And that’s where we find Benedict this season – pushed a bit further on.’

Thirdly (and this might surprise some Bridgerton devotees), he’s not looking ahead to a Benedict-focused season – at least imminently. ‘It’d be nice to give the character a full exploration, that’d be really fun, but the way the show runs – it’s a big ensemble show. As long as I’m given interesting things to do, I don’t really mind.’

Nor is he expecting an extreme makeover anytime soon, although he does give some credit to the idea that male leads go through a pretty intense glow-up prior to their moment in the sun – see Jonathan Bailey’s de-sideburning between seasons one and two. Is there much pressure to look a certain way for the show? He did, he confirms, work with a personal trainer. ‘The way I approach it is that I wouldn’t do it for any part,’ Luke says. ‘It can feel really odd when people [on screen] are supposed to be playing normal people and then suddenly they have nine packs. But I think that with Bridgerton, because it’s based on a romance novel, it’s important – because that’s the world. Within reason, it’s part of it.’ Luke Thompson sat on a chair with an orchid

 

Navigating Fame

Throughout our conversation, there are several times when the actor stops and pauses to gather his thoughts. Sentences are dropped halfway through, consternation etched on his face, as he decides how to answer a question. I get the impression that he takes words very seriously – this man does not hand them out willy-nilly. And this seems true of his approach to his career – he is undoubtedly someone who’s in it for the art. A proper thesp, who sounds as though he’d prefer the baggage of fame didn’t come with his line of work.

‘I don’t really find [fame] weird. I think it can be,’ Luke says. ‘I feel it’s more of a choice than people make it out to be. I think if you want to stay private, you can do it.’

He continues: ‘It’s a trade off, though. It does mean you have to turn down some things you’d maybe quite like to do. But I don’t buy that it’s something you’re subjected to.’

Is the reason he’s not on social media a deliberate choice not to be ‘famous’, then? ‘That’s a bit of a myth,’ he says, ‘the reason I’m not on social media is that it plays into my addictive behaviours. It worries me, what it does to your attention span – I’m worried that I haven’t read a book in a long time, and that I find it difficult to focus on a film.

‘But maybe partly I think I’m not capable of dealing with it. And it doesn’t quite square with my vision of this job. But, you know, people have different visions of the job.’

Here and there, he grows quiet. There’s a point at the end of the interview where I ask him what he’s finding challenging at the moment. He meets this with a smile and a shrug – but he’s got an edge now. He starts to speak and then stops, several times. 

‘This,’ he says. The Shakespeare play or this interview? ‘These are always really challenging, I think. My relationship with this stuff. There’s fun to be had with it, and I don’t not enjoy doing it, but I find it quite challenging.’

He talks about being shy as a child. ‘One of the reasons I took up acting in the first place is that I grew up quite self-conscious. I’ve always slightly spectated on myself, which is not very pleasant when you’re just living! But on stage, it’s like I’ve outsourced it.

‘Other people are watching me, so I don’t have to. I can relax. I’m probably so attracted to the [acting] because that part of my brain just shuts up.

‘I don’t think it [acting] is a cerebral process,’ he continues. ‘I’m allergic to any sort of method. What’s infinitely more interesting is what happens to you – this idea of acting as some kind of sacrifice, in the Greek sense – you’re going out to go through something.’

And if he weren’t an actor, he says, he’d be a pianist: ‘But I think it would’ve been a bit lonely. There’s a bit more freedom and it’s a bit more sociable to be an actor. Over the course of this career, though, [piano] has become a really useful thing – it’s something that’s just mine, that no one can say I can’t do. Which is useful in a job where you’re spending most of your time like, “do you want me?”’

When we wrap up, he gets up and shakes my hand farewell. He offers to grab the bill – a true-blue Regency man – and then off he goes, into a rehearsal room to lose himself in Shakespeare, where I imagine he is happiest. 

You can catch Luke Thompson in Bridgerton Season 3 Part 1, which comes to Netflix on 16 May 2024.

Styled photo credits – Photographer: Alex Ingram; Stylist: Grace Gilfeather; Grooming: Alexis Day using the ordinary and Dior Backstage Beauté.