'Bridgerton': Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley Break Down Anthony & Kate's Slow-Burn Romance (Exclusive)

'It’s a different love story this season,' showrunner Chris Van Dusen tells ET.

Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched season 2 of Bridgerton.

If viewers went into season 2 of Bridgerton expecting steamy love scenes right off the bat, they had to wait a little longer than usual.

Unlike the first season of the Netflix series, the latest chapter in the titular family's story takes a different (translation: simmering, slow-burn) approach in building up the romance between eldest Bridgerton sibling, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), and his love interest, Kate (Simone Ashley). As the season begins, Anthony has his eye on Kate's younger sister and the newly minted "diamond" of the season, Edwina (Charithra Chandran), because -- as he says right off the bat -- she ticks all the boxes. But it's clear over the course of the season, he's unable to escape Kate's orbit.

Their disdain for each other morphs into a passion-filled desire that the two finally act on -- after more than half a season of longing gazes, confused emotions and intimate near-kisses -- at the end of the sixth episode when they share their first, long-awaited kiss. Their moment comes after Anthony and Kate imagine their own wedding while he's about to wed Edwina. (Slow burns and unresolved sexual tension are a signature of romance novels, after all.)

A shared moment between Anthony and Kate after she drops her bracelet at the altar, opens Edwina's eyes to the fact that it's her sister who has feelings for the viscount. When Edwina confronts Kate on whether she loves him, Kate is unable to answer. Later, Edwina asks Anthony if she's who he "truly wants." But his unromantic answer about them being proper matches due to their "places" in society and Kate, a "thorn" to be removed from their future, seals the deal for Edwina, who decides -- of her own free will -- not to marry him and tells them both in the deserted chapel.

Left alone in the chapel, Anthony and Kate are forced to face the reality of their feelings but they're slightly crippled with the scandal that's breaking across the Ton following Edwina's absconsion from the altar. Even so, Kate decides, just for a fleeting moment, to live in the present and not think about the freefall that's about to come. And, as she says goodbye to Anthony, Kate closes the distance between them and share a steamy kiss.

"It’s a different love story this season and that was really the appeal of this show to me," showrunner Chris Van Dusen told ET's Lauren Zima. "This season we're with Anthony Bridgerton and his quest to find love and his love interest, Kate Sharma, and their story is this incredibly fraught and charged, beautiful enemies-to-lovers love story. And the amount of sexual tension that happens this season you see it build and build from scene to scene to episode to episode and the payoff is well worth it, I think."

"That's very true," executive producer Shonda Rhimes agreed. "Season 1 and season 2, they are very different stories but they both take us to the same place. And I do think that the anticipation that builds is very hot and steamy, and sort of gets you ready for what's to come."

Liam Daniel/Netflix

For Bailey and Ashley, playing the growing tension between Anthony and Kate over the course of the season allowed them the opportunity to explore other aspects of their characters' roller-coaster relationship. 

"I think it allowed us as actors to just dive into the character development and I think tension makes us more invested in what's going to happen," Ashley said, "and I think all the fireworks are there and when it doesn't happen, it's very [frustrating]. So yeah, I was down for it. I was running with it."

"Psychologically, it's complicated with these two characters," Bailey noted. "There's a lot they needed to overcome in order to get there and there's different ways in which it's psychologically rich. And there’s so much. It's great when they were naked in front of each other psychologically before they were physically."

They pointed to the dramatic scene in the penultimate episode, where Kate is bucked off her horse in the pouring rain following a dramatic confrontation with Anthony, as being a particularly memorable moment on set. Bailey admitted "he felt for [Ashley] in that moment.

"Yeah, I mean movie magic for the horse-rearing scene is all I'll say. It's amazing what you can achieve with a robotic horse," Ashley said, sharing that she personally enjoyed "filming the mud scene" where Kate and Anthony get stuck at the beginning of the season. "I thought that was really fun, although falling in the mud did lose its novelty." Bailey added, "Too into it. By the end, we were getting mud all over our face!"

Van Dusen shared that he "wasn't necessarily worried" about how different Anthony and Kate's romance unfolds compared to Daphne and Simon's.

"I think our approach to intimacy on the show and our approach to these sex scenes really remains the same from season 1 and that’s, we use these scenes to tell a story and they always serve a greater narrative purpose," he said. "We never do a sex scene for the sake of doing a sex scene. I think these longing looks that these characters share, these near finger touches and finger grazes and hand misses. Those are all incredibly steamy moments and you really feel the sexual tension, which is really [a testament] to Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley's amazing performances this year." 

Bailey and Ashley have many memorable scenes this season, many of which were adapted straight from Julia Quinn's novel, like the iconic pall mall tournament and Kate's bee sting in the garden. The actors shared that when it came time to film Anthony and Kate's first sex scene in episode 7, it was all done with care and consideration.

"It's always inventive," Ashley said of how the intimacy coordinators put together the love scenes. "I think it's just practicality. It's about protecting the actors, it's about creating boundaries and making sure it's a safe environment for us to choreograph these scenes together. We had to take it seriously in order to have fun with it on the day and I think we did a good job with that."

Bailey agreed, "I think so too and the toolkit, you know, it's quite pragmatic and it has to be in order for it to feel safe." He and Ashley recollected using a John Lewis neck pillow during one of their intimate scenes. "One side of it is solid, one is soft. But the toolkit is ever-expanding and it's the difference between series 1 and 2, and I'm sure going forward the industry will be more and more resourceful."

Bridgerton is streaming now on Netflix.

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