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The Mondrichs Bring Black Love To The Bridgerton Universe (Finally!)

Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
Minor spoilers for Bridgerton Season 3 ahead. One thing a Shondaland show is going to do is embrace the swirl. Interracial relationships are a recurring component of Shonda Rhimes’ world-building, from Scandal to the oft-forgotten Still Star Crossed to the prequel series Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. And in Bridgerton proper, where Rhimes is an executive producer, the main couples of the first two seasons continued this pattern. Some fans have strong opinions on the racial dynamics of these pairings. While I understand the critique (and mostly agree), I think the couples make sense when it comes to storytelling and within Bridgerton’s fantastical reality, but I would love to see some variety — and a proper Black love story. Aside from Lady Danbury’s short-lived flirtation with Queen Charlotte’s brother in the prequel series (I forgive Rhimes for a lot, but I will never absolve her for not making this match a real thing!), there has only been one Black couple in the Bridgerton universe: Alice and Will Mondrich. 
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If you just said, “who?” out loud to yourself, that would be an understandable reaction. The Mondrichs have barely been a factor in previous seasons of the show. You’ll know Will as the former boxer and friend of Simon, the Duke of Hastings (Regé Jean-Page who is no longer on the series) and his wife Alice as that lady who was beside him sometimes. The only facts you may know about them are that he runs a gentleman’s club and she is very beautiful. That’s no disrespect to the actors portraying these characters; Martins Imhangbe brings tough vulnerability, warmth and amiability to Will, and Emma Naomi plays Alice with quiet confidence and curiosity. I’ve always wanted to know more about this couple but they haven't been given the chance to shine — until this season. In Bridgerton season 3, the Mondrichs finally get their moment. But is it worthy of them? 
In episode 1 when we catch up with the Mondrichs, their entire world is about to change “completely and utterly,” as Naomi puts it to Refinery29 over Zoom while sitting beside her co-star and on-screen husband. Their son Nicholas has inherited Alice’s aunt Lady Kent’s entire estate and fortune. “She has left your son Nicholas everything,” a solicitor says when he breaks the news. When Alice and Will’s son becomes Lord Kent, they enter society as equals to the rest of the ton. Instead of a bartender and his wife, they are the Baron and Lady of Kent. “We have to kind of understand what it means to have this title and so there's a lot of self-discovery,” Imhangbe chimes in. 
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Photo: Courtesy of Netflix.
It’s in that discovery where Bridgerton season 3 starts to get at some of the hierarchy and respectability politics that have existed since season 1, but that they have never truly explored. The most Bridgerton has talked about race (not including in its prequel series, Queen Charlotte) was in season 1 when Simon and Lady Danbury discuss why they’re the only Black royals. Lady Danbury says, “Look at our Queen, look at our King. Look at their marriage, look at everything it is doing for us, what it is allowing us to become. We were two separate societies, divided by colour until a king fell in love with one of us.” We watched how those separate societies merged in Queen Charlotte but in Bridgerton, now that they are fully integrated, race seems to no longer be a factor in this utopian society, but class still is. And the conversation between Simon and Lady Danbury set the tone for how we view Black folks in the London elite; they see their social standings and titles as things being done for them and that the Queen’s presence has allowed them to be there. Basically, they better act right before it all gets taken away. I don’t love this positioning — we know all too well the burden of Black excellence — but it does feel real within the Bridgerton world (and echoes the real-life scarcity mindset of so many successful Black people in today’s capitalist society). And now that the Mondrichs have moved on up, there is a bit of an adjustment period. Immediately, Alice is wary of their newfound wealth. 
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“Everything up until now we have worked for. I cannot stop thinking, what have we done to earn this?” Alice asks her husband in episode 2. “Nothing,” he replies. “The same as every Viscount, and Earl, and Barron out there. Absolutely nothing. But it is ours so let us enjoy it.” Will knows they are in a position of privilege that was unearned. To him, that means they should take advantage of it as much as possible instead of conforming to the confines of their nobility. Thanks to a push from Benedict Bridgteron, Will realises that the antiquated rules of the London's high society (like not sleeping in the same bed as your wife or Alice having to wear muted clothing) are rules that can be broken if you are rich enough and, of course, married. But do those same rules apply to the newly wealthy, especially a nouveau riche couple who is also Black?  

There's a level of trying to retain that level of working class authenticity and the foundations that they've built. The challenge is, how do we achieve that same level of authenticity and operate within society with all these expectations of how you should walk, how you should talk...

Martins Imhangbe
“I think what's amazing is that [Alice and Will] don't see [their race] as an obstacle,” Imhangbe says about how race factors into their storyline. “They don’t see it as a hindrance. They just take space, they just do what they need to do. Also, they want to stay authentic. There's a level of trying to retain that level of working class authenticity and the foundations that they've built. The challenge is, how do we achieve that same level of authenticity and operate within society with all these expectations of how you should walk, how you should talk, how you should, you know, do all these things.” 
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Will takes to their new life quickly, but soon resents their status when he learns that he will have to give up his club. There are expectations on how they should walk, talk, and be noble, and any leeway they have to bend the rules because of their standing falls short at being — god forbid — members of elite society who actually work for a living
“They aren't expected to get a title,” Naomi says. “I think if their ambitions were to enter society, they would have prepared for it in some kind of way… There's an element of not wanting to mess it up, [Alice] wanting the best for her children and feeling like because [the title] comes from her side of the family. It's on her to be that ‘respectable’ family or mother. And the challenge of being authentic whilst trying to get it right as it were, is a lot for her initially.” Throughout this challenge, the Mondrichs support each other. Alice is a Black woman carrying the weight of their new life and trying not to lose herself in the quest to fit in with the rest of the nobility. She tries to dim her light, wearing her late aunt Lady Kent’s clothing and tiptoeing around her own house. Even though the other Black women we know in this universe are exemplifying the opposite (Queen Charlotte and her sky high wigs would never dull her shine and Lady Danbury is a woman of tradition but never trepidation), Alice is different. She’s a working class Black woman who knows her new peers are just waiting for her to mess up. It is, as Naomi put it, “a lot for her,” but she has Will. And it’s in his moments of support where we see the Black love we’ve been waiting for in the Bridgerton Universe. 
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“I think it is very, very important,” Imhangbe says of Will and Alice’s Black love story. “It warms my heart to be able to contribute to this storyline and, and to be a part of this narrative for many reasons. Will Mondrich was based on Bill Richmond, a real life figure. To be able to honour someone who actually existed, a Black man who was successful as the first Black boxing entrepreneur in London [and] to have a Black family be unapologetic, confident, and strong [is important]. What I love is that the character isn't compromised.” Imhangbe says, and then does a very Will thing to do: he compliments his wife. “Alice is the same with everyone she speaks to. She's still her, she doesn't bow down, she doesn't talk differently or try to behave a certain way. I love the fact that these characters have integrity and they hold their own.” 

What I really love about Will and Alice from season 1 onwards is that it’s not the title or the money or the success that has made the love so strong. It's the love that made the love strong.

emma naomi
Code-switching isn’t a term one would know in regency era England (especially not in the Bridgerton Cinematic Universe) but the Mondrichs could easily change the way they act in service of being accepted. While Alice does give up her clothing temporarily, she and Will “fight for authenticity,” as Imhangbe puts it — together. “What I really love about Will and Alice from season 1 onwards is that it’s not the title or the money or the success that has made the love so strong,” Naomi says. “It's the love that made the love strong. I feel that we are teaching at least the Duke and I hope the audience that you don't need all these things to find your person or to love and respect your person.”
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It’s the respect and unconditional love (you get the feeling that Will and Alice would be down bad for each other no matter what their financial circumstances were) that make the Mondrichs such a special — and rare — Black couple on television. Will is the guy who says “wife business comes first” when Alice calls him away from his drinking buddies. He’s the guy who will go against the traditions of the ton just to get to sleep beside his wife at night. And she’s the woman who supports her man’s dreams but still prioritises her well-being and that of her family. In a show all about finding “love matches” and how romance rules, well, everything, the Mondrichs are the longest, most stable, and healthiest match in the kingdom. It’s beautiful to witness their love which is unwavering even while everything around them changes. My only wish for Will and Alice (and for us, the audience) is that they get a proper love scene. We’ve got some good kisses here and there, but I want them to get the steamy treatment the other couples get. Yes, they are a noble married match with integrity and high morals, but they are also hot and horny for each other. To the Bridgerton writers room, I say this with my whole chest: give Will and Alice Mondrich a real love scene, you cowards! 
Finally, if you’re on the Bridgerton subreddits or in the comment sections on TikTok, you know that some fans object to the Mondrich’s increased screentime this season. They don’t see the point in their storyline. In a series about love and the ways in which it can change lives (and an entire social structure and magically defeat white supremacy!), showing a Black couple loving on each other – fully, fundamentally, and without struggle — is the point. Not only is their presence on screen justified, it’s so refreshing and necessary in this universe that I want more of it. 
Bridgerton Season 3 (part one) is streaming on Netflix now. 
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