The Buccaneers’ Josie Totah wants queer stories to be more joyful

woo chats with Josie Totah and Mia Threapleton about their characters’ queer love story in The Buccaneers

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woo chats with Josie Totah and Mia Threapleton about their characters’ queer love story in The Buccaneers

By Darshita Goyal14 Dec 2023
6 mins read time
6 mins read time

If the first three years are any evidence, the 2020s is slowly but surely revealing a gargantuan appetite for period dramas. Just look at the many Bridgerton series and spinoffs, the continuing supremacy of The Crown, endless adaptations of Jane Austen’s repertoire and the reigning resurgence of nostalgia.

This decade is not like the Downton Abbey of the last, though. While we’ve grown accustomed to ribboned corsets, ballroom swishes and horse-driven carriages, these TV shows and films also introduced diverse, colour blind casting to the last century to give us an array of kings and queens. But imagine, if the romance of the past also featured fierce female protagonists - yes multiples of them. Imagine if they walked around in sheer, laced up underwear, chugged champagne straight from the bottle and chose each other over their one true pairing.

Sounds like a retro dream? The Buccaneers, an Apple TV+ period drama based on Edith Wharton’s unfinished novel of the same name, brings this exciting thought to the screen. A brash, big money American girl gang moves to stiff-lipped 1870s London in a quest to find suitors and in all honesty, to have some unhinged, cross-Atlantic fun.


They play Sardines as an excuse to make out in closets, drop stilettos onto tiered cakes and flirt their way out of sticky situations. Through the first season, the women find and fall out of love, get drunk, laid and pregnant, but always find their way back to each other and the safety of their female friendships.

In the midst of all the hyper-het love stories, one fairytale stands apart for exploring giggly, joyful queer love. Quick-witted and sassy Yank, Mabel Elmsworth, played by Josie Totah, and family-bound but confused Brit, Honoria Marable, played by Mia Threapleton, are drawn to each other for their similarities and stark differences.

With each episode and interaction, the pair grow closer; exchanging hidden kisses, stealing lovelorn glances and dreaming about a future together. Of course Mabel and Honoria’s love story witnesses far more complications than any of their straight friends’ courtships. But somehow, The Buccaneers focuses on the sweetness of it all, beyond the trauma. For a minute there, the girls are just seen as two people in love, not as a forbidden lesbian couple standing against society, and that alone makes the story compelling.

Ahead of the end of season one, woo sat down with Josie and Mia to talk about their characters, the lack of limiting labels and the glamour of a period piece. If you haven’t watched The Buccaneers yet, let this quick five interview convince you to dive into the drama.


Let’s start with Mia: the series emphasises a difference between the American and British way of living. But both of your characters dive into this distance to find love, tell us about that.

Mia: It was so enjoyable to portray a character who was discovering love and finding out what it means for them to be in love. It felt really good to tell a story where we were both able to do justice to this very special kind of love despite any difference that may come up.

Josie, owing to the time frame in which the series is set, we see Mabel struggle to define her sexuality; perhaps she doesn’t have the right vocabulary around it. How do you feel about the lack of queer labels in the show?

Josie: That’s a very interesting question, because of their lack of vocabulary back then, you could argue that there was a certain sense of freeness. You didn’t necessarily feel entitled to have a label. But I also think labels give us awareness and educate us, so there’s something to argue in favour as well. Regardless, all that matters is that we’re existing and happy with ourselves. We see this especially in episode eight when Mabel does the stuff she does.

There’s also an emphasis on Mabel and Honoria being a joyful couple. Why was that important for you?

Josie: So much of queer stories are rooted in trauma, especially in film and TV. Of course those stories are so important and they need to be told, but I also think it’s important to have stories of joy. We tried to centre this joy in the relationship between the two of us while still acknowledging the time period, and paying respect to the constraints and the confines that comes with it.

Mia, why were you drawn to The Buccaneers? What excited or intrigued you about it?

Mia: There’s definitely more than one reason why I wanted to join in. When I received the audition, I originally taped for Mabel’s part. But I got a call back to audition for Honoria and then found out a degree of time later that I’d gotten the job, I was so excited. One of the things that really drew me was that it was a job where there were going to be so many cast members and we were all going to be working so close together - that was the first time I had experienced something like that. So I was really excited about the potential, all of the dynamics we were going to build and of course, the story is fantastic. It just looked like so much fun!

What’s both of your wish for Mabel and Honoria? What happens after the end that we see?

Mia: Oh I just want them to be happy!

Josie: Yeah, I want them to be happy as well. But I also want to keep working and I feel like if we’re totally happy there’s not much to do. [Mia chuckles] So we got to throw a wrench in there somewhere, but I do want them to be happy. I want them to have a family of their own someday.

Mia: That would be wonderful, and a million cats…and fifty dogs.

Josie: Love that!

Mia: I don’t know where the cats came from..

Josie: Well, we want them to live on a farm.

Mia: Yeah and I want an army of geese.

Josie: Okay we’re going to have to talk about this, you’ve started a marital fix between us!

Watch The Buccaneers Season One on AppleTV+