While it’s being called Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey, Bridgerton is truly a Shondaland original. The upcoming period drama based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling romance novels is the first original series to come out of Shonda Rhimes’ production deal with Netflix. And only ET was on set with the cast as they opened up about bringing the Regency era back to life.
“It’s got more zing than Downton,” teases Adjoa Andoh, who plays Lady Danbury on the racially diverse interpretation of the early 1800s time period near the end of King George III’s rule, where Black people hold titles and power equal to their white counterparts.
“As a woman of color, how could I not be thrilled to be working for Shonda Rhimes?” the actress continues. “I'm also thrilled to say, ‘Yeah, do you know what? People of color existed in this country right back to Roman times.’”
She’s joined by Regé-Jean Page as handsome Duke of Hastings Simon Basset, Ruby Barker as mysterious newcomer Marina Thompson and Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, who adds that she’s “been very, very proud as an actor” to see someone like Rhimes push diversity onscreen. “She really draws people in and there’s something for everybody.”
All of them play major roles in the ensemble series about high society as Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the revered and expansive Bridgerton family, makes her debut in London’s marriage market. And no sooner than she steps out does she and others around her become the subject of the mysterious Lady Whistledown’s scandal sheet, which stirs up drama among friends, families and outsiders alike.
Adding a bit of class to gossip rag is Julie Andrews, who lends her voice to Whistledown’s many takeouts and knockdowns. But as she says in both the teaser and full-length trailer that Netflix has released ahead of the series’ Christmas Day debut, “all is fair in love and war.”
“When I found out Julie Andrews was gonna be in the show I cried,” Nicola Coughlan, who plays the youngest Featherington daughter, Penelope, shares. “Like, they literally could not have found a better person.... She's absolutely perfect.”
Of course, Andrews, err, Whistledown wouldn’t have any scandals to report if everyone acted as prim and proper as they presented themselves. Quoting creator Chris Van Dusen, who previously worked on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, Coughlan says, “This is not your granny's period drama. This is sexy, exciting and it's fun.”
“It's saucy and steamy,” Jonathan Bailey, who plays the eldest Bridgerton son, Anthony, says, while Dynevor reveals that she worked closely with an intimacy coach for many scenes. “We rehearse everything almost like a stunt.”
And because the gossip writer “stirs stuff up massively,” not only is London’s society concerned about their places, their potential suitors and party invites, they are all consumed with finding out who is Whistledown.
Of course, this cast knows -- but that’s a secret they’ll never tell!