For W’s second annual TV Portfolio, we asked 26 of the most sought-after names in television to pay homage to their favorite small-screen characters by stepping into their shoes.
The massive success of Netflix’s Bridgerton might leave American audiences with the impression that Phoebe Dynevor is a starlet at the onset of her career. The romantic naivete with which she imbues her character, Daphne, the eldest daughter of a Regency-era clan on shaky ground in the areas of love and social status, might underpin that notion. Though you don’t need the snooping skills of Lady Whistledown to discover that, at the age of 26, Dynevor is already a television veteran.
Dynevor has been working in the medium steadily since she was a teen on British television. She first appeared on American screens in her early 20s, with a recurring part on Younger. And both her parents worked in British soap operas (her father wrote for Emmerdale, while her mother, Sally, has starred on fellow soap Coronation Street since 1986). Perhaps that’s why Dynevor gravitated to The Morning Show during lockdown, even before Bridgerton premiered. She may be new to this level of fame Stateside (her recent relationship with Pete Davidson only heightened that attention), but like Jennifer Aniston’s character, Alex Levy, she knows what it’s like to balance devotion to a career in television with a personal life in an industry still dominated by men.
When you took the part on Bridgerton, you were aware the first season would be about your character’s romance. Then season 2 would shift to the love story of another family member. Now you’re sort of playing a character after the fairy tale ending. Has that been exciting to explore?
It has, really. Daphne is so naive and [doesn’t have] very much power at the beginning of the first season. By the end, she really knows that power. Next season, [I’m] taking it to the next level and am able to play her as this sort of empowered adult that has a child now and knows what it means to be a woman and a wife. It’s fun getting to play her in a very different way. She really knows herself at this point. So to explore what it means for her to have all those things that she longed for in the first season, it’s really a joy.
For the portfolio, you chose to portray Jennifer Aniston’s character in The Morning Show. What drew you to that show?
It was one of those shows I stumbled across in lockdown and had no preconceived ideas or knew what it was about at all. The way it talks about male power, and what it means to be a female at the top of their game, was something that I thought was very interesting and very of the time. Jennifer Aniston plays the role so brilliantly. I just loved it, and think it almost hasn’t been talked about enough.
Britain has its own culture of morning television, but this is such an American take on it. Did you have a point of reference for it beforehand?
It was less about the aspect of the job and more about where we are in the world, and also what it means to really be a woman who devotes her whole life to that job. What does that mean for your family, and what does that mean for [your] relationships? It ties in with the male power element and the abuse of power. I just think there are so many themes that are interesting to explore as a woman. Similarly to that character, I love my job and devote my life to it, in a way.
I didn’t realize until yesterday that your mother is one of the long-running stars of Coronation Street. You’ve grown up in a professional TV family.
Yeah, I have. I’ve also grown up around working women who really sort of devoted their lives to work. My grandma worked her whole life as a single mother. I really admired them for doing that, while also being able to have a family and do everything.
For Bridgerton, you had to go through a lot of training, for things like dancing and horseback riding. Was there anything that you particularly enjoyed or felt like you could stick with?
Being able to do a role where you learn a new skill is just such a dream. I recently played a potter and got to learn pottery. For Daphne, it’s terrible, because I really wanted to learn how to play piano, but then the pandemic happened, so I never got around to it. Which sounds silly, because you could easily learn from home. I had so much free time.
Were you a big fan of Jennifer Aniston before The Morning Show?
Oh gosh, yeah. I love her. Her body of work is so huge, and she’s got such range, and, you know, she’s Rachel in Friends! I mean, she did that. Jennifer Aniston. She’s so lovable, but I think watching her take on a powerful role like in The Morning Show was so exciting.
Would you be interested in taking on more comedic roles in the future?
Apparently, sitcoms are like the dream job, I’ve been told. The hours are great, apparently. I’m currently filming a cameo in the British version of Call My Agent!, and I get to do a little bit of comedy in that, which is really fun for me.
Were there any other shows you really got into during lockdown?
Schitt’s Creek, obviously. Dan Levy, he’s amazing. I love him. I also couldn’t wait for the next season of Succession, which I know is coming soon. But oh my God, if that came during lockdown, that would have been amazing. I binge-watched stuff like The Office again, and then I watched the American Office and Parks and Rec.
Do you have any reality TV favorites?
I’m not a big reality TV person, although recently someone got me into 90 Day Fiancé, which is pretty addictive. When I filmed The Colour Room, my latest film, that’s when I understood the importance of reality TV. I was so exhausted, and there was nothing else I could watch. So 90 Day Fiancé was like a blessing.