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James Phoon

19th April 2024

Interview & Editor-in-chief: Owen James Vincent

Photography: David Reiss

Currently on the forefront of discussions pertaining to the upcoming installment of the sensational Netflix offering "Bridgerton", James Phoon is presently under the massive spotlight for his highly-anticipated involvement as 'Harry Dankworth' within the project. 

Possessing British and East-Asian heritage, rising star of stage and screen, Phoon marked his debut West End performance in the role of 'Craig Bowker Junior' and as the understudy for 'Scorpius Malfoy' in the Palace Theatre production of the widely loved 'HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD'. 

Phoon is all set and gearing up for his National Theatre debut as 'Branwell Brontë' in Sarah Gordon’s new play "UNDERDOG: THE OTHER OTHER BRONTE" alongside the phenomenal Gemma Whelan, Adele James and Rhiannon Clements. 

We recently had a wonderful chat with the immensely talented James Phoon about his upcoming performance in the Shonda Rhimes and Chris Van Dusen’s critically acclaimed project 'Bridgerton', his experience in his novel production "UNDERDOG: THE OTHER BRONTE" and several other significant insights into his professional journey.

Hi James! Thanks for talking to us today. You have been busy with starring in shows such as UNDERDOG, Wreck, and now Bridgerton. What’s it been like to be jumping from one show to the other?

Honestly, I am feeling incredibly grateful. Growing up, I dreamed of doing the kind of work that I’m doing now. Sometimes I still can’t believe I’ve found myself here - it used to feel like something very far away that other people did. So I try to celebrate all the wins, big and small. I’ve learnt from and been inspired by so many incredible, creative people already in my career. It really does take a village to make a show happen! And I’m also really proud that although all three of these projects are hugely different to one another, they are all championing diversity to more fully reflect the world we live in within the stories we share.

You’re currently in UNDERDOG at the National Theatre. You’re playing the role of Branwell Brontë. What can you tell us about your role?

Branwell is the brother of the three Brontë sisters. Their family was on the cusp of social classes as their father was highly educated, but they still had to work to earn a living. As the only boy, and having shown some promise artistically as a child, Branwell had a lot of pressure to make a success of himself and provide for the family. When we first meet him in the show, he’s 20 years old, and is coming up against the world not receiving his artistic talents in the way he’d imagined for himself. He’s someone who is incredibly passionate, and always working away at something, but his aim is always slightly off. He doesn’t know how to successfully navigate the obstacles he faces and unfortunately relies more and more heavily on alcohol and opioids to ease his pain.

What would you say is your favorite thing about performing on stage?

I love telling a story start to finish each night, and sharing it right there and then with the company and audience. It’s a living thing which is constantly shifting, and so each time you tell the story, although the overall arc is the same, the minutia is always finding new little crevices to expand and contract in. I also love that you have a group of people all watching the same show at the same time, but each having their own personal response. In the age of streaming, there’s something really special about sharing a story as it happens with a room full of strangers.

Series 3 of Bridgerton is just around the corner. How excited were you to join the Bridgerton cast and star in the hit show?

Well I’m pretty sure there must have been some kind of admin error - but I’ve managed to film the season and no one at Shondaland or Netflix has realised I’ve snuck in yet, so I’m not questioning it! I was a big fan of the show beforehand, and so when I got the S3 scripts it almost felt like I had access to an insider leak, and my first day on set was pretty surreal. And then even once you settle in, you still have these moments which are so iconic in their style that you can’t help but go “wow, we’re actually filming the next season of Bridgerton”. It’s a really strong season. I can’t wait for everyone to see it!

What can you tell us about your character?

I play Harry Dankworth, the resident himbo of the ton. He might come across as rather dim witted, but I like to think that he just dedicates his brain space to his sense of wonder, his love of love and the maintenance of his curls. It’s quite nice to play someone who has so much buoyancy.

Lastly, if you had the opportunity to ReVamp anything in the world. What would it be and why?

I would ReVamp the cast of X-MEN and plonk myself right on in there! I am an unashamedly huge X-MEN superfan. My bookshelf is crammed with the comics and I had the 2000’s trilogy on repeat growing up. Kevin Feige, call me.

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