The ‘Bridgerton’ Cast on Making a Hot and Heavy Period Drama for the 21st Century

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The British time drama has long been the domain of white actors, but the genre has received an inclusive update in recent years: Mary, Scottish Queen highlighted Gemma Chan as Bess of Hardwick in 2018, Dev Patel played the same name in David Copperfield’s personal story this year, and Jodie Turner-Smith will play Anne Boleyn in a new Tudor series. Slowly but surely, colored actors are turning into period games, and Netflix and Shondaland are adding historical balls Bridgerton to the list. (Although there was certainly no danger of a whitewashed cast with Shonda Rhimes acting as executive producer.)

The series is based on Julia Quinn’s novels and feels like one Gossip girl meet Pride and Prejudice fantasy mash-up, starring Julie Andrews. Seen in Britain’s Regency era, the revisionist story series follows the eight siblings of the powerful Bridgerton family as they navigate between love, sex and duty in high society. Black actors not only play lead roles as with the Rhimes series Scandal and How to get away with murder, but is also placed among the highest rank of the aristocracy.

“It’s a relief to make the very easy decision to stop excluding people from our stories,” star Regé-Jean Page tells ELLE.com. “It is not commonly done, but there is also no good reason why it is not done.”

Page plays Simon, Duke of Hastings, the racist romantic interest in Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne Bridgerton and a kind of Mr. Darcy character – if Mr. The Duke is considered the most qualified bachelor in court thanks to a title and fortune bequeathed to his late father by Queen Charlotte, the wife of the mad King George III. Bridgerton leaning in the possible mixed race legacy of the real queen with the cast of biracial Black actress Golda Rosheuvel.

It is through the Queen’s ethnicity that Shondaland stands firm and Bridgerton showrunner Chris Van Dusen brings diversity to the storytelling that was not present in the books. “Queen Charlotte really opened up the world and gave us this very different side of St. James Palace to explore,” Van Dusen says. “We have the most amazing, diverse cast that is diverse, not only in terms of ethnic groups, but also the levels of recognition for certain people who are better known than others.”

The audience will recognize the British stage and screen star Adjoa Andoh from Doctor Who, Broad Church, and Clint Eastwood’s 2009 film Invictus. She plays Lady Danbury, the best friend of Simon’s late mother, and enjoyed the chance to appear in a period drama that recognized Britain’s multiracial history.

“There have been the presence of many different races as far as records go back, and many period dramas do not even do the basics of the period’s history,” says Andoh. “This show takes the elements of truth and makes them more alive. It’s not a documentary. It’s not a history program. It is a historic room com. ”

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Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury.

LIAM DANIEL / NETFLIX

Bridgerton has all the elements of a modern romance series against the backdrop of the polite society. The orchestral sounds of Ariana Grande and other modern pop stars soundtrack the cast as they move through their loud drama and lamentations in eye-catching costumes. “The characters are in psychedelic green and yellow colors and colors that would definitely not be accurate for the period, but cuts is of the period, ”says Andoh. “It’s a way of making things more vibrant and more extravagant.”

It certainly adds to the escapist feel of period dramas, often fairy-tale-like, when depicting the social customs, fashions, gender politics, and etiquette of the distant past. But as it conflicts with issues of relationships, sexuality, sexual desire and equality, Bridgerton feels a lot of the present. “The show is so engaging – not only do you see yourself in it because it’s different, but it also tells stories that are so related to the 21st century,” says Dynevor. “It’s nice on the eye, but also to touch on all the themes that are so relevant today.”

This fresh approach appealed to Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan, who brings her best clipped English accent to Penelope Featherington, daughter of a rival family and best friends with one of the Bridgerton sisters. “Sometimes I am drawn away from period dramas because they feel very referential and the dialogue feels out of a playbook. You’re like I’ve seen it before, ”Coughlan tells ELLE.com. “‘But Bridgerton felt very sharp and sparkling and modern and fresh. ”

bridgerton l to r claudia jessie as eloise bridgerton and nicola coughlan as penelope featherington in episode 108 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix © 2020

Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington.

LIAM DANIEL / NETFLIX

The Irish actress is no stranger to this new brand of time drama – she appeared in season 2 of the steamy Victorian era comedy Prostitute. But when she first started, the genre did not feel accessible. “There was a pretty narrow view for a while when I left drama school – it was a lot, do you fit in this box or do not? Okay, you do not. See you! You do not get the job, ”She remembers. “I think it’s starting to build [up], and what really needs to be addressed in terms of roles for women is more diversity on screen. It is not progress for women if it is not progress for all women. ”

Bridgerton certainly flies flags for orgasms with equal opportunities with more hot and heavy moments to make the audience blush. But in a post- #MeToo world, it is becoming increasingly important for actors to have a safe space to perform these scenes. This was a basic requirement of the series, and the actors rehearsed with an intimacy coordinator on stage.

“I knew exactly when Regé wanted to touch me and where and for how long, and he knew the same thing about me,” says Dynevor, “it was all very choreographed. It made the scenes almost better for it because we both felt safe and secure in what we were doing and that was when we could really go for it. ”

bridgerton l til r phoebe dynevor as daphne bridgerton and regÉ jean side as simon basset in episode 101 of bridgerton cr liam danielnetflix © 2020

Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page.

LIAM DANIEL / NETFLIX

Page adds: “When you speak the words, you have a script. When you talk to the corpses, you have a script – whether it is a dance with communication, or you dance with fewer clothes, “he says. “You still have a choreography. It allowed Phoebe and I to free ourselves so as not to worry and make our jobs better as actors. ”

There are eight episodes in Bridgerton season 1, taking its signal from Quinn’s first installment The Duke and I.. But with eight novels in the series to work with, there are many more stories waiting to be told – and a television universe is ready for expansion. “I’m really proud that we were able to reflect race in our world and do it in a way that makes sense,” Van Dusen said. “Our continued goal is to ensure that modern audiences relate to it and see themselves on screen, no matter who they are. I definitely want more to get on that front. ”

Hanna Flint is a London-based film and television journalist and critic

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