‘Bridgerton’: Director Cheryl Dunye Intended for Martins Imhangbe to Demolish ‘Angry Black Man’ Trope

"It really is another way to start thinking about Black men's performances," director Cheryl Dunye said. "It's not about the body. It's about the mind."
Martins Imhangbe, Bridgerton

Bridgerton” has been applauded for diverse casting across age, race, and body types, all while keeping the Regency era love stories as steamy as possible.

The Shonda Rhimes-produced Netflix series especially focused on breaking down racial stereotypes, according to director Cheryl Dunye.

In an interview with Insider, Dunye shared that she had a clear vision for how to capture the frustrations of boxer-turned-gentlemen’s-club-owner Will Mondrich (Martins Imhangbe) onscreen. During the finale, Will confronts schemer Jack (Jack Featherington) for trying to scam patrons. While Jack belittles the club, Will remains calm, which Dunye felt strongly about capturing for the character.

“It was so interesting directing those scenes because — on the page, and from his body and stature, and what we understand about Black men and the way that they are portrayed in film, Black boxer body, etc.— you’re thinking: ‘Use your body, use your strength, and use your power,'” Dunye said.

The “Queen Sugar” and “Lovecraft Country” director revealed that she had a very different vision for Imhangbe’s delivery during the argument with adversary Jack, one that she said Imhangbe was “wholly excited by.”

“I said, ‘Use your intellect. Give me where you’re just using your mind. You are just as powerful as this character that you’re talking to,'” Dunye continued, citing the “angry Black man” trope. Instead, she encouraged Imhangbe to play his character “as an equal” to Jack during the Season 2 finale.

“He was just like, ‘What? Really?'” Dunye recalled. “He did it, and I got a whole other delivery.”

Dunye, who directed episodes seven and eight of the new season, added, “It really is another way to start thinking about Black men’s performances. It’s not about the body. It’s about the mind.”

Liberian-born Dunye, legendary for directing the 1996 queer classic “The Watermelon Woman,” previously won a 52nd NAACP Image Award Nomination for Outstanding Directing in a Drama Series for “Lovecraft Country” episode “Strange Case.”

“Bridgerton” Season 2 broke records at Netflix. Season 3 is currently underway.

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes noted that the third installment might “not necessarily go in order” of the books. “You’ll see. Give it time,” Rhimes teased to Entertainment Tonight.

Longtime Shondaland filmmaker Jess Brownell is also taking over as showrunner for Seasons 3 and 4.

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