One minute she’s navigating her desires in teen telly drama Sex Education and the next she’s bodice-ripping in Bridgerton.
Yes, it’s been a hectic couple of years for Simone Ashley, 25.
And it’s only going to get busier if the plaudits coming her way are anything to go by.
Simone plays Kate Sharma, a woman out to steal Duke Anthony from the arms of his intended in season two of Bridgerton – the Netflix hit watched by 83million worldwide.
She is the first South Asian actress in the drama and Simone admits her career has shocked her traditional Indian family – and that her parents find it “scary and unsettling.”
Simone has come a long way since persuading her parents to let her go to a performing arts school. Before Sex Education she had small roles in TV’s Broadchurch and Doctors.
But her teachers at Redroofs School for the Performing Arts, in Berkshire, were never in any doubt that Simone would become a huge star.
They recognised her “burning passion” and single-minded determination to succeed.
School principal Samantha Keston says it was the same inner fire as another old girl – Oscar-winner Kate Winslet.
Samantha says: “Students that really do break through into the big time so often have that absolutely burning passion.
“They simply don’t want to do anything else – this is their life.
“Simone is certainly not our first. Kate Winslet was with us for seven years and she was another extraordinary story.
“Both Kate and Simone had that exact same work ethic and that same blinkered vision. This is all they wanted to do. They were both very bright girls who turned into very bright women.”
Simone, who has a brother Sean, 29, said in a recent interview that she grew up in a “household full of Indian academics” with “incredibly protective” parents.
She told website Veylex: “Sometimes I found it quite stifling. It made me want to escape and do things my own way. I’ve always been a bit rebellious in that sense.
“I am incredibly privileged to be part of a generation where young women from all over the world have more opportunity than ever before, where we are being less stereotyped and walls are being broken down slowly. It can be hard for my parents to understand that sometimes, but I just try to empathise and reassure them that I’m going to be fine.”
Simone was raised in Cam-berley, Surrey, by mum Latha, 59, and dad Gunasekharan, 63. They moved to Beaconsfield, Bucks, to be near Redroofs. Principal Samantha says of meeting Simone and her parents: “Mum and Dad were very con-cerned we were just offering a one-way street into a narrow field of acting. They asked a lot of questions about what else our school might prepare Simone for.”
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But Simone was so driven her parents need not have worried. After leaving Redroofs at 18 she won a place on a musical theatre course at the prestigious ArtsEd drama school in Chiswick, West London, where Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber is president.
Simone changed her surname to Ashley to open up more mainstream acting roles.
Yet her South Asian heritage helped deliver the Bridgerton role. Series two is based on Julia Quinn’s second book, The Viscount Who Loved Me, and Simone’s character is described as pale-skinned.
But TV producers mixed the heritages of characters. It led to a wonderfully diverse cast which, while not strictly accurate, has been a hit with fans.