- Film & TV
- 28 Apr 22
With the new season of popular bodice-ripper Bridgerton having just dropped on Netflix, the cast and showrunner talk about how they sought to make the second series even more wildly entertaining. Stills: Liam Daniel/Netflix.
Based on Julia Quinn’s novel The Viscount Who Loved Me, the second outing of Bridgerton sees Anthony search for a bride for duty’s sake, disposing of love altogether. His plans are dashed when he meets Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), the headstrong sister of Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) – the Queen’s newest “diamond” and woman he aims to marry.
Allured by Kate’s tenacity and fierce protectiveness over her family, the pair fight against their attraction for the sake of their responsibilities. Elsewhere, Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) strives to conceal her secret identity: the mysterious Lady Whistledown.
At a global press conference for the Netflix/Shondaland production, stars of season 2 were only too buzzed to discuss the latest developments. Unfortunately, Irish star Coughlan tested positive for Covid and was absent. Nevertheless, Ashley and Chandran, as well as Jonathan Bailey – who portrays Anthony Bridgerton – and showrunner Chris Van Dusen were on-hand to discuss the eagerly anticipated second series.
“Fans should expect a wild, wild ride this season!” Van Dusen grins excitedly. “We worked really hard to bring everything that fans loved about season 1 into season 2, and I think we did it. It’s amazing, emotional, romantic, sexy and scandalous. Bridgerton is back for an even greater escape into 19th century regency London.”
The central courtship unfolds at a slower pace than that of Daphne Bridgerton and Simon, Duke of Hastings. However, this extended period of yearning and those longing, smouldering looks across rooms have only added to the pent-up energy of Netflix’s number one English-language series. Bailey has gone down a treat with fans, in particular.
“We start the season with Anthony making a callous decision that he needs to find a wife, only to find one that would suit him more on the page,” he jumps in, enthusiastically. “He’s taken love out of the equation after a complicated mistress affair. He’s shaved off his sideburns and is ready to go!
“There are things I found immediately identifiable about Anthony, which I talked about with Chris when we first met. I’m from a big family too, but I’m the youngest. I have an understanding of what it is to fulfil a role within a bigger gang and tribe. It’s a huge burden for him. Anthony’s quite stubborn, and my experience of series two was that it was quite isolating to be the way he is.
“Both Kate and Anthony have a weird thing where they seem to exist for other people. Their boundaries are skewed, so when they’re alone, there’s this addictive quality to the time they spend together. It made me think about what it is to love yourself before you can love someone else. Also, what it is to be a soulmate and grow from trauma. It was interesting to study what that is for two people who have experienced similar things in their past, at a time when there was no conversation.”
Having started out as a child actor in Royal Shakespeare Company productions of A Christmas Carol and King John, Bailey went on to star in David Hare’s play South Downs and the West End revival of Company, for which he won the 2019 Laurence Olivier Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role in a Musical. Then there’s his screen work, which includes ITV drama Broadchurch and Channel 4 miniseries Crashing (2016). As for Bridgerton, it arrived at an opportune moment.
“This happened at an extraordinary time, didn’t it?” he reflects. “Series one came when everyone needed to fall in love and be reminded what it is to be filled with joy. We were running through series two while still in the pandemic. I started listening to the audiobook to slowly focus on Anthony again. As the world expands every year with amazing new actors coming in, we’ll get further seasons of watching other Bridgertons fall in love. There’s definitely a lot of pressure, but the moment you get the scripts and start having those conversations, it’s all go.”
What was Bailey’s first post-Covid project?
“The first thing I did was RuPaul’s Drag Race,” he replies. “I got taken out of lockdown and suddenly I was next to Mama Roo! That was thrilling. The only thing that could top that is meeting Simone a week later. We had a chemistry test and things just fell into place. I knew it was going to be a joy. When you have a partnership like we’ve had, everything clicks. Chris and I had amazing conversations. It’s going to be so sad to not have him as our captain going forward.”
With both Ashley and Chandran entering the fray, how were they welcomed aboard?
“Everyone in the cast was so warm,” Simone gushes. “They understood how overwhelming it is and how exciting it can feel. It was really just, ‘Enjoy the ride’.”
“We had the ideal first day - it was like a baptism of fire,” offers Charithra. “It was such a large group scene, so we got to meet everyone straight out of the gate. When you have those kinds of large-set sequences also, there’s time to get to know people because you’re waiting around. All at once was the perfect way to do it.”
“I remember when Charithra came on the scene with her screen test,” adds Bailey. “You’ve got amazing actors all around, and the sibs and the bros are always there for you. We’re one big family and possess the knowledge of how to pass the baton forward. I’ve got a little notebook for whoever’s next. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to be cast, but I’m relieved it’s out. I’m looking forward to supporting everyone else now.”
Edwina and Kate Sharma possess a noticeably different air to that of the Bridgertons and Featheringtons, one that adds richness and South-Asian diversity to the series.
“The Sharmas are really an interesting family,” Charithra posits. “They’re sort of the viewer’s perspective, in that they’re not accustomed to the ‘ton. They’re not familiar with its dealings. They have their ideas, so they’re the audience’s advocates in a way. Particularly with Kate and Edwina, you see a lot of sibling relationships, but I think theirs is super-unique because they only have each other. They’ve grown up in isolation.”
“The stakes are higher,” says Simone. “There’s the love triangle, which represents the loving relationship between Edwina and Kate. What’s so special about it is that the roles reverse a bit throughout the series. You first see Kate being this incredibly protective sister, sometimes a little too overprotective, but she learns a lot from Edwina as the series goes on. What I like about the Sharmas is this sense of mystery. It’s like a survival act. You slowly start to see through the cracks of what this family is about – their history. They have to fall apart for their bond to be even stronger.”
“You can’t really imagine Bridgerton without the Sharmas now,” Jonathan smiles.
“I love that all of the sibling relationships in the show are so realistic,” Charithra nods. “It’s not always sunshine and rainbows and flowers – there are ups and downs, but it’s always with a foundation of love.”
Ashley elaborates on other aspects of the characterisation she enjoys.
“I like reserved people, where you have to earn their trust first, “ she says. “I saw that in Kate. Maybe I’m learning to be a bit more open, but I also like that she has a very warm, soft heart and a hard exterior. That’s mirrored in her protection of her family. These are characters we can all relate to, with real human problems and experiences. As an audience, you can find which nest you might be a part of. Collectively, as a cast and crew, Bridgerton brings out the best in everyone.”
“A lot of the show was edited in my basement,” notes Chris. “You would expect me to be in this huge, state-of-the-art editing suite, but due to the pandemic, we did all the editing virtually. God bless my editors for being so patient. I was in my basement at home with 18-month-old twins and a four-year-old running around. They were actually a benefit – if they danced to the orchestral pop songs, we would keep those tracks in!”
Did any embarrassing wardrobe malfunctions have to be edited out?
“Yes! The fencing sequence between Anthony, Colin and Benedict,” Jonathan laughs. “The costumes are incredible, and as men, we’re not going to complain about restrictive clothing when women are in corsets. That being said, the fencing outfits were quite tight in embarrassing places. Going in for my final lunge with Benedict my crotch ripped, and it was all on camera. It’s in those moments where you suddenly realise we’re being filmed by four different cameras. I just wanted to scream. There are lots of complications along the way, it’s never quite as slick as you think. It is amazing what you can do in a basement in the edit. Thanks, Chris!”
“Wardrobe malfunctions aside, let me just say that the chemistry between these two is off the charts,” Van Dusen adds, pointing to Ashley and Bailey. “There’s sexiness in the looks across the room, the hands grazing, the fingers almost touching. You can really feel it build from scene to scene. When we get there, the climax is well worth it.”
Speaking of climax, the second season contains a significantly reduced amount of sex from season 1.
“We did what we did from a writer’s perspective,” says Chris. “I’ve described you guys as magnets, and you can really feel that tension. You’re just drawn to each other throughout the season. It’s really something to behold. It was also never about quantity for us. Our approach to intimacy was the same. We use these types of scenes to tell a story push the narrative forward. We’ve never done a sex scene for the sake of doing a sex scene, and I don’t think we ever will. It all serves this larger purpose. Kate and Anthony have a different story, one that’s very different from Daphne and Simon. The ability to tell these close-ended love stories season after season was what drew me to this project.”
“The reduction in sex scenes makes sense for these characters, because they’re so truthful to their duty and responsibility,” says Simone. “For them to break that wouldn’t have made sense. As Chris has said, they aren’t performative sex scenes. The intimacy has meaning. When the fireworks happen, those moments are very earned.”
“There are so many ways in which people connect with their own bodies and intimacy,” Jonathan agrees. “Kate and Anthony feel explicitly naked in front of each other. It’s a very interesting, cerebral way of exploring innate sexuality. It bodes really well for the following seasons for it not to just be expected. Sex is a huge part of Bridgerton, but many other amazing things are explored and will be explored going forward.
“It’s incredible to be able to jump into a romantic male character that we know through literature, but then to understand the avoidance and toxicity to Anthony. He’s got a troubled past and that’s been great to explore. To see him smile more was always something I looked forward to. He gets there through meeting Simone as Kate.”
• Bridgerton season 2 is streaming now on Netflix.
- Film & TV
- 30 Jun 22
- Film & TV
- 30 Jun 22
- Film & TV
- 30 Jun 22