The end of last year may have proved to be a difficult time for many. The holiday season was spent under lockdown and could not enjoy Christmas and New Years’ with anybody but the people you are quarantining with. The year-end also led to production shutdowns from almost every major studio in television, especially in Los Angeles. It may seem like the end of the Christmas season seemed to be filled with more and more dread. Rest assured dear reader, not all hope was lost in terms of current television being released. This author would like to share with you the latest show to take the world by storm.
That series is Netflix’s Bridgerton, which was released on Christmas Day 2020. The story is set in Regency-era England during the early 1800s and follows the wealthy Bridgerton family. The family consists of widowed matriarch Violet Bridgerton and her eight close-knit children. The first season primarily focuses on eldest daughter Daphne, who recently has turned of age to participate in debutante season, where she is eligible to be shown to bachelors in the hopes of finding love and getting married. Meanwhile, the brooding Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, has returned to London for matters regarding his late father. He is pressured by his confidante Lady Danbury to join the season. This leads to an encounter with Daphne and a blossoming relationship for the ages. All with the season’s gossip and drama reported by the mysterious Lady Whistledown.
Though many may have already seen the series, this list is to give a behind the scenes look into the production of the show. For those that have watched the series, the list features facts about the behind the scenes that you may not have known while showing how they work well within the story. For those that haven’t yet seen the show, it’s spoiler-free and these facts may convince you to start bingeing the show even sooner than you anticipated.
1. It’s a Shondaland production as part of Shonda Rhimes’ multi-million dollar Netflix deal
From Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal and How to Get Away with Murder, Shonda Rhimes is an undeniable force in television who is sure to create a show that becomes a huge success. Her shows are always known for their strong female protagonists, dramatic plotlines and of course their steamy romance scenes. The show is from Shonda Rhimes’ production company Shondaland, with Rhimes as an executive producer. The show however was not created or showrunned by her as she delegated that job to Chris Van Dusen. He used to be a production assistant on Grey’s Anatomy and worked his way up to producer on Grey’s and Scandal.
Bridgerton is also the first series from Shondaland to air on Netflix as part of her reported $150 million deal with the streamer. Shonda Rhimes shocked the TV industry in 2018 when she left ABC over frustrations with the network to sign on with Netflix. The show won’t be the last from the production company as Shonda Rhimes has a reported twelve projects coming to the streamer, some created by Rhimes like the highly anticipated Inventing Anna starring Julia Garner. Shondaland is just getting started.
2. It’s based on a successful series of romance novels
The romance genre for a long time has been criticized for being cliched and not as highly regarded as other literary genres. The genre, however, has proven to be one of the most profitable ever in bookstores. This is especially true for Bridgertons source material, a series of eight novels written by romance novelist Julia Quinn. Each book in the series follows one of the siblings, with the first novel The Duke and I focusing on Daphne’s story and which the first season of the show is based on. Showrunner Chris Van Dusen said that he hopes to adapt every novel in the series, saying he wants to tackle the love stories for each sibling.
While waiting for the second season, it is a perfect time to catch up on all eight Bridgerton books from your local library or bookstore. With the huge success of the first season within weeks of its release, as well as the pattern of long-running Shondaland production, there’s a high chance that the series may end up adapting every book as Van Dusen has hoped for. Though the show deviates from the books, it’s still worthwhile to read in advance what potential plotlines and romances might happen in future seasons to come.
3. It currently has been streamed over 63 million households
Speaking of the show’s huge success, as of the time of writing this piece, Bridgerton has already been streamed on over 63 million households. It has been reported via Netflix’s Twitter that the show has reached that amount in just its first four weeks of being on the mega streamer.
Bridgerton may have taken almost three years to come out since Shonda Rhimes signed her deal with Netflix back in 2017. If the show’s success shows any indication, it’s that Shondaland has a lot to prove with its next shows to match the viewing numbers and critical praise from this runaway success. The statistic has made the show part of Netflix’s biggest viewing week between Christmas and New Year ever in the history of the network. If you haven’t seen the show yet, do yourself a favour and join in on the hype. For all the Bridgerton fans, let’s celebrate this show for making our Christmas holiday so much more entertaining and be very hopeful in its renewals for many more seasons to come.
4. There’s a diverse cast in its period piece setting
One of the major historical changes the show makes when watching it is the diverse cast. Typically in period piece dramas, black actors usually do not get roles where they get to play black characters in powerful positions. In the case of the show, Guyanese-British actress Golda Rosheuvel plays real-life historical figure, Queen Charlotte. Notable black actors such as Zimbabwean-English actor Regé Jean Page play the main love interest in Simon, Duke of Hastings. Ghanian-British actress Adjoa Andoh plays Simon’s powerful motherly figure, Lady Danbury.
The show has received some criticism regarding its diverse casting, with critics calling out the show for its historical inaccuracy and its colour-blind casting. Actresses Nicola Coughlan and Phoebe Dynevor have clapped back at the critics, defending the show’s critics on its representation. The actresses championed the show for putting diversity in roles that aren’t usually seen by minority actors. The show isn’t just casting for the sake of race either. There is a point in the middle of the season where two of the characters talk about how the inclusiveness of race came to be in that world. It may all be a fantasy, but it’s one that allows for a more inclusive and different take on a formula that has been done time and time again.
5. It’s a captivating portrayal of one woman’s sexual awakening
One of the main selling points of Bridgerton is that it’s all about attractive people in luscious settings finding love and romance in a period piece. Like other Shondaland shows, the show is no stranger to explicit, hot and heavy love scenes, especially between its main leads Phoebe Dynevor and Rege Jean Page. As Daphne Bridgerton, Phoebe Dynevor leads the story as a woman exploring romance and sex for the very first time as she comes of age. What makes the show more subversive than others in the genre, other than its modern touches in the production, is the storyline focusing purely on the sexual and romantic endeavours of a woman. This groundbreaking perspective from a period drama is being touted as presenting the female gaze, showing Daphne as a stronger character than she initially lets on. Shondaland’s ABC shows are known for their strong, assertive female leads and Daphne should be no exception. Her character is all about finding that perfect match in love and pursuing having a family, but she owns it. She knows exactly what she wants and her struggle is her trying to find ways to get it. Phoebe Dynevor shines as Daphne and may have even begun to have a buzz about her being the next queen of period dramas after Keira Knightley.
The show’s way of presenting romance feels both familiar and different at the same time. The series is clever at matching Daphne’s naivety with Simon’s experience. It explores how both characters manage to make their differences to make their relationship work. It poses interesting discussions on consent, marriage and sexual self-discovery. The show knows how to make you swoon and be caught up in its whirlwind romance while also making you think along the way.
6. The show has been touted as Downton Abbey meets Gossip Girl
Bridgerton has mostly received praise for its bold and original take on the historical period piece drama. From its inclusive casting, modern takes on music and vibrant costumes. One of the show’s main plot threads involves an elusive gossip and scandal writer, Lady Whistledown, voiced by the iconic Julie Andrews (Best known for The Sound of Music). The series’s main gossip columnist writes and reports on a lot of the drama and scandals happening throughout the episodes. This may allude to another very popular teen series, Gossip Girl. The show has been compared to the popular teen show as being a regency era Gossip Girl. It does have its fair share of similarities, with the main mystery revolving around who is spreading the gossip of the elite. Fans of other famous period dramas, notably Downton Abbey, have compared the two shows for their stunning production value and the fact that both are about rich families set in England. If you’re a fan of either show, chances are you are going to love this mix of melodramatic drama within a beautiful historical setting.
7. It infuses classical instrumentals with famous contemporary pop songs
One of the coolest modern touches that the series adds to its setting is the music. Typically in historical debutante balls, the music that is played are usually opera, orchestral instrumentals that you would hear in any Jane Austen adaptation. Bridgerton adds a touch of modern tunes to its music. The songs include songs from famous pop artists such as Ariana Grande, Maroon 5, Billie Eilish and Taylor Swift. The songs are covered in beautiful instrumental renditions to add a flavour of modernness to its 1800s setting. This stylistic choice adds personality and subversiveness to the show’s historical setting. The music is just one of the ways the series manages to skillfully add modern twists while still being faithful to its historical roots.
8.The cast attended a ‘six-week regency boot camp’
Before the cast could dawn the beautiful costumes and live out the Regency fantasy, they needed to have proper training first. To properly give authentic performances, the cast learned about the eras history and practical skills such as riding horses, dancing and the proper etiquette. All to get the actors in a proper mindset of how to act and behave in ways that are not part of our modern world. This training clearly paid off when watching the show, however, as the cast performances felt genuine enough where audiences believed they were actually part of that time period. Being swept up in these characters’ melodrama even makes it jarring when you see them as regular people with regular clothing during interviews.
9. There was an intimacy coordinator used to create the sex scenes
Since the show is a full-on romance, it’s no stranger to steamy sex scenes. They’re hot and heavy, romantic and look very real. This is due to the show having an expert intimacy coordinator to create a safe but immersive environment for the sex scenes during filming. In recent years, especially following the #MeToo movements, Hollywood has been implementing changes to their tactics of filming sex through hiring intimacy coordinators on set. This is to ensure that the actors participating in the sex scenes are as comfortable as possible when filming these difficult scenes. They have become an essential part of any production that has any sort of explicit, intimate scenes like in Bridgerton to ensure safety on set. The coordinator for Bridgerton, Lizzy Talbot spoke about the difficulties and process of filming the montage sex scenes in the show. She especially discussed the montage scene and how they needed to prep and coordinate it to make it look as real as possible while the actors are comfortable. This benefitted both the chemistry between Daphne and Simon with the actors praising the scenes they filmed and how well the coordinators helped them build chemistry and relieve any kind of anxiety while doing these scenes.
10. There were 7,500 costumes used that mixed historical with modern designs
One of the most impressive parts of Bridgerton’s production value are the endless amounts of costumes shown. Costume designer Ellen Mirojnick spoke in a behind the scenes feature where she discusses her process of integrating modern twists to the regency costumes worn on the show. They stuck to the basic silhouette that was often worn in that era but with an added layer of a modern colour palette. The dresses have added embroidered, embellished flowers and jewelry. Chris Van Dusen says that around 7500 costumes were used on the show and every costume was made for Bridgerton. Nothing was made in a costume house but was specifically designed to be a part of the show’s colourful world.
The two families whose storylines audiences follow in the show, the Bridgertons and the Featherintons have their own colour palette in their clothing. The Bridgertons style is filled with muted pastel colours of blues and whites. The Featheringtons wear bright, vibrant and extravagant yellows, oranges and greens. This is because the family’s styles are inspired by American dynasties like the Kennedys and Karshashians. It makes sense as the interactions between the family members, like the Featheringtons flashy, gossip obsessed sisters are a reflection of Kardashian sisters. In contrast, the Bridgertons are old school money, more reserved and polite than over the top.