Hannah Dodd Was Meant to Play Francesca Bridgerton

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Hannah Dodd Was Meant to Play Francesca BridgertonKyle Galvin
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Joining Bridgerton in season three was an experience Hannah Dodd describes as "pretty mad."

Dodd, who takes over the role of Francesca Bridgerton, is the first major recasting in the Netflix series. "It was pretty scary," Dodd candidly tells Town & Country. "I was really terrified! It's the weirdest feeling, walking around a set that you've watched on TV and meeting these people who have become super successful."

She continues, "It is like you've stepped into your TV screen—it was intimidating. I had the worst imposter syndrome I've ever experienced in my entire life. For the first few weeks of filming, I was thinking constantly, somebody's going to find out that I'm not meant to be here!" Eventually though, her anxiety "melted away," she says. "I pulled myself together by episode eight at least!"

It helped that the cast was so welcoming. The energy and humor of everyone on the Bridgerton set was key to easing her apprehension: "Laughter can really disperse a lot of anxious energy, and they were massively supportive. The kindest cast and crew scooped me up, and as Francesca grew in confidence, I was getting used to being there."

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Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in season three. " Inetflix

Bridgerton season three is sure to be a breakout moment for Dodd, 29, whose previous roles include parts in Enola Homes 2, Harlots, and Anatomy of a Scandal. She didn't always want to be an actor; rather, Dodd began her career as a dancer. "I always loved old school musical films, I loved the dancing in them," she says. As she began her training at the London Studio Centre, she performed in a short fashion film; the experience of being on a set, surrounded by a team, was captivating. "Part of what I loved about dance was the storytelling element of it," she explains. "I just used my body instead of my words, so it took me a while. My first job was playing a dancer and then I never really looked back."

She auditioned for Bridgerton back in season one, though she didn't share for which role—but clearly, it was not meant to be. Years later, the opportunity to join the show once again came knocking: Ruby Stokes, who played Francesca in the first two Bridgerton installments, was unable to commit to future seasons due to scheduling conflicts. Dodd auditioned for the sixth Bridgerton child, and landed the role. "It's so nice to share a character," Dodd says. "I'm super grateful to share [Francesca] with somebody who's so talented and beautiful and lovely, but I don't think I could have recreated exactly what Ruby did. We had different scripts to respond to."

For the Bridgerton team, it felt like kismet that Dodd would play their new Francesca. "We saw a ton of people for [Francesca], and we didn't see Hannah's tape until way later in the process," showrunner Jess Brownell tells Town & Country. "As soon as we saw her tape, we knew that she was our Francesca; she just has this magic spark. Francesca is a tricky character because she's very introverted and she doesn't necessarily speak her mind like her siblings do. She's a bit of an enigma, and we needed an actress who could portray that sense of introversion, but also communicate an internal world silently—because the character does have a very rich internal world. Hannah has all these expressions and mannerisms that bring the internal state to the surface. She's really a wonder to watch."

Recasting Francesca was key for the new season of Bridgerton, as her love story—in Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked—is a second-chance romance and writers wanted to put that plot into motion before she takes the lead in a future season. (Read the synopsis of Quinn's novel at your own spoiler-y risk.) "For fans who are familiar with Francesca's book, her story spans a longer time than some of the other books, so we definitely wanted to get started on her story," Brownell says. "We also felt like as some of the elder siblings have married off, we needed to bring some of the younger siblings more to the forefront."

two women in formal wear
Dodd with Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope. Her audition scene for Francesca was the scene they share in episode one, but Dodd recalls it was "very, very, very different" than what ended up in the show.LAURENCE CENDROWICZ
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Once she landed the part, Dodd immediately read When He Was Wicked to better understand Francesca. "I'm definitely a slightly more introverted person," Dodd says, reflecting on how similar she is to her character. "Francesca comes out of her shell when she's with people that she loves and knows—it's quite a small circle, but those are her people, and then she can be being sarcastic and funny and all of the things that the other siblings are. I'm quite similar to that in my life; I'm an absolute goofball, and really fiery and fiesty with my closest friends and family."

Just as her older sister Daphne was named "Diamond of the Season" by Queen Charlotte, Francesca, too, captures the attention of the queen. But unlike Daphne, Francesca "is overwhelmed and anxious" to have the eyes of the Ton on her, Dodd says. "She doesn't seem to be validated by the Queen or by men. Her experience on the Ton is just so different from a lot of the other debutantes." Dodd doesn't view Francesca as someone who is looking for that outward validation; rather, the actress believes Francesca has a secure sense of inner confidence. "Introverts get quite good at masking," she says. "There are certain episodes that I feel like she puts her face on, and she's decided that this is what she's going to do, so she's going to get it done. Whereas when she's overwhelmed, she doesn't really know what she wants or doesn't know what she's meant to be doing, you see that way more vulnerable side to her."

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Dodd with the Bridgerton family. Francesca presents a "new challenge" for Violet, she says.Netflix

Dodd's Francesca is reserved, in stark comparison to Claudia Jessie's Eloise, Jonathan Bailey's Anthony, or even Luke Newton's Colin. Despite Francesca perhaps not feeling like she fits in with her siblings, Dodd became quite close with the actors who play the other Bridgertons. "The days that we film as the family in the Bridgeton House are my favorite," she says. The actors often spend their downtime playing games; Dodd jokes, "they have a clap game that they play, and I had to learn that quite quickly. I took that quite seriously—I didn't feel like I could be a family member until I'd got that right!" Plus, she says, Florence Hunt, who plays her younger sister Hyacinth, "is really good" at getting all the Bridgerton actors to do TikTok dances.

On her second day on set, Dodd filmed a scene where she had to play Mozart in front of the entire Bridgerton clan. While Francesca Bridgerton is an avid pianist, Dodd had never played before; she learned before they began filming. "It's not something that comes natural to me," she says. "I tried my best!" Performing Mozart on set "was terrifying," Dodd recalls. "My hands were shaking—piano forte keys are tiny! There was a take that Johnny had to come in and be like, 'Oh, sister, you've gotten really rather good,' and I'd messed it up, and he came in, and he was like, 'I cannot say that was good!'" Dodd laughs at the memory, particularly grateful at how quickly all the Bridgerton actors made her feel at home so quickly.

hannah dodd
DoddKyle Galvin

This season, of course, does not center around Francesca's romance, but it lays the groundwork by introducing John Stirling (played by Victor Allí). "Me and Victor really wanted to get their dynamic right, because we didn't want it to seem like they're not interested in each other," Dodd says. They have what she calls a "wise love" explaining their relationship is "as if they've been married for 80 years and they're sat in their sofas and just the company of each other is what means the world to them."

Francesca, as viewers meet her this season, isn't concerned with a love match, or falling for her future husband. "She's not romanticized over the idea," Dodd says. "It's not something that she's grown up dreaming about what her husband will look like. The idea of marriage is something that she knows it's her turn. She always knew this day was coming. I don't think she ever wants to be the center of attention, so she feels quite uncomfortable with it being all eyes on her."

Looking ahead to season four (and beyond—Shonda Rhimes has said she hopes to make eight Bridgerton seasons, for each of the siblings), Dodd is eagerly anticipating her future storylines. "She's so young at the moment, we have to start her somewhere," she says. "I'm aware that we've got other bits to go within her personality when she's in more of a comfortable space. I'm excited to develop that personality that we see in the books and have her growing confidence and go after what it is that she wants. I feel like she has these walls—I want to see her just relax a little bit, take up the space, and not apologize for that."

Photographs by Kyle Galvin. Styled by Felicity Kay, hair by Josh Knight, and makeup by Sara Hill. Hannah Dodd wears a Hermès outfit, Pilgrim rings and earrings, and an Otiumberg ear cuff.

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