Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, makes her debut onto Regency London’s competitive marriage market. Hoping to follow in her parent’s footsteps and find a match sparked by true love, Daphne’s prospects initially seem to be unrivaled. But as her older brother Anthony begins to rule out her potential suitors, the high society scandal sheet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown casts aspersions on Daphne. Enter the highly desirable and rebellious Duke of Hastings, committed bachelor and the catch of the season for the debutantes’ mothers. Despite proclaiming that they want nothing the other has to offer, their attraction is undeniable and sparks fly as they find themselves engaged in an increasing battle of wits while navigating society’s expectations for their future.
Bridgerton has made a royal debut on 25 December 2020: Within a few days, the show has reached the number one spot on Netflix’s top 10 rankings in 76 countries. But why is Bridgerton so popular? Is it based on historical facts? Has England ever had a black queen and black aristocrats? Where was Bridgerton shot? And who is Lady Whistledown? Discover 25 Facts About Bridgerton.
25 FACTS ABOUT BRIDGERTON
Season 1 of Bridgerton is based on The Duke and I, book one in the Bridgerton novel series by Julia Quinn. The US author, whose real name is Julie Pottinger, is a graduate of Harvard & Radcliffe Colleges. She sold her first book, Splendid, at the age of 24 and has been working with the same editor and publishing house ever since. Julia Quinn is the author of 18 consecutive New York Times bestsellers, including Mr. Cavendish, I Presume, which reached nunber one on the mass market paperback fiction list. Quinn’s novels have been translated into 32 languages.
Bridgerton Season 1 unveils the glittering, wealthy, sexual, painful, funny and sometimes lonely lives of the women and men in London’s high society marriage mart as told through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family.
Bridgerton was produced by Shondaland, a storytelling company founded by Shonda Rhimes. Under the leadership of Rhimes and producing partner Betsy Beers, Shondaland developed award-winning series Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, How to Get Away with Murder, For The People and Station 19. Shondaland will produce various series exclusively for Netflix.
Bridgerton is not a history drama series. The characters are fictional. “It is lavish, vibrant, big and bold, steamy, fun, funny and emotional,” says showrunner and executive producer Chris Van Dusen. He devoured Quinn’s stories after Rhimes gave him a copy of the eight-book series three years ago to see if it might be something he’d be interested in developing. In it, he saw elements of his favorite types of storytelling: romance, sex, intrigue, all with a powerful family at the core.
The Bridgerton casting reflects the most obvious modernization. Though race isn’t discussed in the books, Van Dusen was adamant that he wanted the show to reflect the world in which we live. It’s a mainstay of all Shondaland’s shows, and Bridgerton posed a unique opportunity to have a multiracial cast with a period piece.
Van Dusen also wanted to explore the power of the written word. Lady Whistledown, a faceless narrator played by Julie Andrews who is the secret author of the town’s Society Papers, publishes a newsletter of sorts that runs down all the town’s gossip. Someone like Lady Whistledown, the one-woman Regency tabloid factory, can shift public opinion, just as magazines, tabloids and social media do today. “In my mind, social media is kind of like a modern-day corset,” says Van Dusen.
The 18-year-old Daphne Bridgerton is played by Phoebe Dynevor, a 25-year-old British actress. Phoebe, daughter of Coronation Street actress Sally Dynevor, was born and raised in Manchester. She began her acting career at the age of 14 in the British series Waterloo Road. In the following six years, she had minor roles in several series. From 2017 to 2018, she played Lottie Mott in 20 episodes of Snatch. Bridgerton is the first show in which Phoebe has the lead role. The young actress, who moved to Hampstead, North West London, last August, has 605’000 followers on Instagram.
“Even though Daphne isn’t our idea of a feminist today – because she does conform – her strength comes from saying no,” explains Phoebe. “She’s not a yes person; she stands up to her brother and she stands up to things that she doesn’t agree with. But what does make Daphne relevant to a young woman today are the parallels with social media. She goes to all these balls, she’s perfectly quaffed, she has to maintain the same energy and the same demeanor every single day.”
When it came to designing the hair and make-up for Daphne Bridgerton, Marc Pilcher says that they based the look on Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace. “It was that Sixties look. It’s always nice with your main actor to keep them soft, pretty and very natural. The images we found of Audrey Hepburn are of the period, but they also have a fashionable look.”
Regé-Jean Page plays Simon Basset, who has just come back from traveling the world. Though he’s handsome and boasts a new title, the Duke of Hastings, he wants to break free from his past and set up a new life for himself where he can envision happiness. He’s just not quite sure how to go about that. Even though he has no intention to get married, he begins an intriguing arrangement with Daphne.
“Simon is the outsider, free-thinking, rebel, bad boy of our Regency drama,” explains Regé-Jean Page. “But he finds unexpected places to rebel in: He rebels against his own status but doesn’t quite know what to do with that rebellion; he rebels against anything that he feels hampers Daphne’s individuality and autonomy, but again, doesn’t quite know what to do with that rebellion.”
Regé-Jean Page (30) was born in London, but spent part of his childhood in Zimbabwe. His mother was a Zimbabwean nurse, his father an English preacher. Regé-Jean graduated from Drama Centre London in 2013. After appearing on stage in London in The History Boys and The Merchant of Venice, he played Chicken George in the History Channel miniseries Roots alongside Forest Whitaker and Laurence Fishburne. In 2018 and 2019, he played Leonard Knox in Instagram.
Queen Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel, is widely regarded to be the first mixed-race member of the British Royal family. She descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. She was married to King George III who was depicted in the biopic The Madness of King George. Together, Queen Charlotte and King George had 15 children.
“It made me wonder what she could have done if she had used her power to elevate other people of color in society?” says executive producer Van Dusen. “Could she have given them titles and Dukedoms?”
Bridgerton was filmed in a number of spectacular historic locations across the UK. Nicola Coughlan (Penelope Featherington) found herself especially enamoured with one location in particular. “We shot at Hatfield House, which was the house that they filmed The Favourite in. I did sneak upstairs because I wanted to see Olivia Colman’s room. I was trying to rub the walls so that her acting talent would rub onto me!”
Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte has a special love for her pet pomeranians. Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte, loved the experience, but recalls that the pups all had strong personalities, much like her character. “I do very well with dogs, and these were very feisty so you had to calm them down a little bit, but they were excellent dogs. They were as rowdy as the Queen sometimes, but I loved that. I think they were all female, bar one. It’s a very female driven show.”
The head of Hair and Make-up for the series, Marc Pilcher, says that when it came to designing the look for Queen Charlotte, the early discussions he had with creator/showrunner Chris Van Dusen revolved around her having a different wig on every time she is on screen, and that the wigs would always match her outfits. “She’s got nothing else to do. She’s waiting for her husband to die and she’s quite bored. It took us a lot of time, but it was great and a really creative thing to do.”
The color palette for the classic Bridgerton blue used in the series was inspired by the well-known Wedgwood hue. Wedgwood, the fine china, porcelain and luxury accessories brand, began shortly before the Regency period and its wares graced the tables of many an English monarch and other heads of state.
Claudia Jessie and Nicola Coughlan, who play best friends Eloise Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington, knew each other a little before working on Bridgerton. “One of my favourite things about this story is Penelope and Eloise’s friendship,” Coughlan says. “Claudia and I were the first two people cast. When I found out that Claudia was playing my best friend, I thought it was amazing because she is the most joyful person to work with. I think that sometimes with period dramas you think they were very stilted, but one of our historical consultants, Dr. Hannah Greig, showed us portraits of them lounging and hanging around, and she told us that we had to get those antiquated ideas out of our heads, because they were real people. So, the scenes that I have with Claudia feel so fun and modern, and the writing is so sharp and so funny.”
Bridgerton was shot in 35 locations in the United Kingdom. Most of the series was shot in the picturesque city of Bath. Queen Charlotte’s scenes were filmed in Wilton House near Salisbury in Wiltshire. The Double Cub Room of Wilton House is the room where Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip meet the Kennedys in The Crown.
Jonathan Bailey, who plays the eldest Bridgerton son Anthony, says that the scale of the Bridgerton production was most felt when the cast were filming the epic ball scenes. “What was amazing was when they would get the extras to stare at you as the Bridgertons as we were walking into the room. It was impossible to not feel a bit like a Bee Gee! You’d get a bit of a strut. That was really enjoyable.”
Bridgerton Season 1 features 8 balls (6 indoors and 2 outdoors), 38 dancers plus 10 children.
In the 1800s, after their formal debuts into society, young, upper-crust debutants were expected to meet and marry men not necessarily for love, but for a family name that might further their own family’s fame and fortune.
Though the show is set in the early 19th century, the themes of Bridgerton are, in fact, both timeless and universal. Though the show’s look is rooted in Regency fashion and design, Van Dusen — along with his costume designer Ellen Mirojnik, production designer Will Huge-Jones, hair and makeup team headed by Marc Pilcher, and cinematographer Jeffrey Jur, ASC — has created a fresh youthful and effervescent feel with colors, textures and materials throughout costumes, hairstyles and sets that give the entire world a heightened reality, a feast-for-the-eyes and a way to stay away from drab period dramas.
The costume department created thousands of costumes from scratch. Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, remembers how different the experience was from other projects she’s worked on. “For my first costume fitting, my agent said, ‘They need you for four hours’”, she recalls. “Normally you just try something on and see if it fits, but because everything on Bridgerton was couture they had to get every single measurement right. They’d make an outline of your hand to get gloves made, they’d get shoes made just for you, everything was specially colored and if they didn’t have the right color, they would dye it.”
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Photos: Courtesy of Liam Daniel / Netflix © 2020