This adaptation of Dangerous Liaisons uses a color-sensitive cast whereas previous adaptations had little or no cast of color. Starz, starting with The Spanish Princess, has continually cast colored actors as servants or courtiers in their recent royal dramas, forcing costumed drama fans to accept or leave the existence of colored people in pre-1900 Europe. Additionally, the show’s production company Playground also produces All creatures big and small who opted for a color-conscious cast during the adaptation of James Herriot’s veterinary memoirs.

France’s history of racism and colonialism developed on a different trajectory than that of the United States and the United Kingdom The groundbreaking biography of Olivette Otele African Europeans documents the development of racialized society across Europe from ancient times to the present day. Anyone who believes Dangerous Liaisons “catch up” with the presence of BIPOC in Paris, you have to give them a link to buy or rent this book from the library.

Victoire clearly bonded with Camille based on the common struggle of life in general. There are vague clues as to whether Victoire has ever slept with clients, but it’s very possible that she avoided this by cleaning and acting as a maid. For those who would find Victoire’s positioning a rehash of misogynous tropes, social and legal discrimination at this time compelled single women to turn to domestic service or sex work. Victoire’s costume also provides clues to her background that aren’t explicitly mentioned in the script. She wears a headband that may seem look like a donkey but it is related differently. Cute headbands were legally mandated for enslaved and free women of color in French Louisiana. However, Victoire’s headgear is more indicative of North and West African feminine styles.

While Camille and Valmont have no problem with Victoire’s appearance, other white elites are only too happy to reduce her to third-class citizenship. For example, the Marquise de Merteuil tells Victoire that while it would be easy for Camille to blend into high society, Victoire’s origins would raise too many questions. The marquise then refers to the thieves of Marseille which is clearly a racist stereotype about the inhabitants of port cities. In many situations, pretending to be Camille’s “maid” is the only way for Victoire to stay by her side. Victoire’s difficulties have parallels in the life of Butler (Hakeem Kae-Kazim) who is the servant of the Merteuil house. If he is a servant like Victoire, he also wields considerable power when the Mertueils are out of the house as he can command the other household staff. At the same time, he is also the eyes and ears of his masters and he depends on their goodwill for his survival. However, unlike Victoire, Butler would never be threatened or subjected to gender-based violence. The story is keen to mention that Jean de Mertueil’s wealth is explicitly tied to owning slaves in the Caribbean and being an agent of the French crown in colonialist interests.

Ondine de Valmont (Colette Dalal Tchantcho) or “the widow Valmont” according to some characters is well above Victoire in the class system. Her marriage to the now deceased father of Valmont ensured her and her son wealth and influence in Parisian society. Valmont is convinced that Ondine’s lies cost him his inheritance. Ondine is invited to all the most important occasions and wears all current fashions. She can enter spaces without asking questions unlike Victoire. While we don’t know the full story of Ondines’ life before her marriage, it’s clear that she sees a connection to Camille as she likely came from outside of polite Parisian society.

The Knight of Saint-Jacques (Fisayo Akinade) is an opera singer and dance teacher, and Valmont’s acquaintance. In the class system, he stands between Ondine and the servant characters. His talents are valued but he depends on the whims of wealthy whites. He is one of the favorite artists of the royal court. In the second half of the season, his clients continue to reject every revision he makes for an upcoming opera performance. If the Knight doesn’t break through his creator’s block, he could very well find himself homeless. The Knight’s associates and colleagues are also the public’s first exposure to queer characters outside of the context of sex workers. These characters will likely cause audiences to question the legality of homosexuality at this time, but there is no clear cut answer on this topic or how intersectionality with other identities affects legality.