Once you've watched one episode, it's incredibly difficult to shake the magic that is Shondaland and Netflix's Bridgerton. The breakout period drama, adapted from Julia Quinn's bestselling romance novels, offers us a world of opulent gowns, 19th century scandal, intrigue, and sex. And it's projected to reach 63 million households.
Since its December 25th premiere, we've been obsessing about everything from the modern soundtrack, to the show's breathtaking sets, narrator Julie Andrews, and the necessary debates over race and consent that Bridgerton ignited. You might think we've already exhausted every topic—including how much we need a second season—but there are a few behind the scenes facts that we've yet to reveal. Without further ado, we bring you a slew of delightful Bridgerton trivia. Warning: There's one spoiler ahead if you haven't finished the series.
Jonathan Bailey first auditioned to play Simon.
It's hard to imagine anyone else but Regé-Jean Page as our dashing Simon, Duke of Hastings. But Jonathan Bailey, who plays Anthony, tells OprahMag.com that he initially auditioned for that role.
"It wasn’t until I was talking to the production company and Chris Van Dusen, the showrunner, and at the end of the meeting we’d spoken about family, and men in society, and women in society, and our own personal experiences," he says. "And they said, 'Have you thought about Anthony? We’re gonna send you some scripts to read because we think you might be an Anthony.'"
Clearly, the switch was the right move because we now have Page and Bailey to swoon over.
"Ultimately it’s really exciting when you’re told the character you should be thinking about. Because no one wants to go and see Hamlet played by someone who wants to play Hamlet. They saw something in me, and they were like 'Go on, you can do it.'"
And another actress on the show initially read for Lady Danbury.
Golda Rosheuvel plays the scene-stealing Queen Charlotte—who was a real life royal. But, if you can believe it, in another world she could have played Simon's commanding godmother instead.
"I first auditioned for Lady Danbury," Rosheuvel says. "But it went to the marvelous, marvelous Adjoa Andoh, who is a dear friend. Then they came back and said, 'Would you attend a self-taping for Queen Charlotte?'"
The rest is history.
Queen Charlotte's wigs weren't the most comfortable to wear.
Besides her biting wit and regality, one of the best things about Queen Charlotte was her arsenal of towering, show-stopping wigs. And while Rosheuvel did have a favorite, according to Essence, the actress told us it was much better to experience the looks as a viewer.
"They are pieces of beauty, you know; stand out, beautiful pieces on their own," she says. "Wearing them, sometimes was a challenge. I'll be honest. The weight of them is quite something. But keep yourself fit, eat healthily, a lot of core muscle and back muscle exercises. And you know, they are a pleasure to wear. (I say with a little twinkle in my eye.)"
Bridgerton had 7,500 costume pieces.
Yes, to create a brand new romantic fantasy world set in 1813 Regency-era England, the show's production had to create its own costume house with a massive wardrobe made of thousands of original, handmade pieces. Clothing and jewelry came from countries all over the world, including Spain and Italy. Alone, Daphne's Phoebe Dynevor had 104 costume changes across eight episodes.
"They wore a different dress to every ball, aside from the amount of dresses that would take place from morning ‘til dinner," costume designer Ellen Mirojnick told Harper's Bazaar. "So we knew just roughly that this was going to be a large, large endeavor.”
Boxer Will Mondrich was based on a real fighter.
The queen wasn't the only bit of British history that came to life in the romantic period drama. Actor Martins Imhangbe, who played Simon's friend and professional boxer Will Mondrich, told GQ UK that his character was based on the real 19th century fighter Bill Richmond.
“He found a lot of favor in society due to his charisma and his boxing ability,” Imhangbe told the publication. “He used boxing as a way out and as a way to provide for himself and his family. In the first season we see the early stages of Will trying to build that reputation and who he is.”
Richmond, who History Extra dubbed "Britain's first Black sports star," was born a slave in Staten Island, New York. While fighting for the British during the Revolutionary War, Richmond earned an ally in an earl, who allowed him to travel overseas and live in his home as a teen. Eventually, Richmond became a champion bare-knuckle boxer before retiring and founding a boxing club, becoming a trainer and promoter, in addition to a tavern owner. He was so respected in the country that he was an usher at King George IV's coronation. Richmond died at the age of 66 in 1829.
The actresses that play Eloise and Penelope are best friends in real life.
Second to Daphne and Simon, there's no other relationship we stan more than Eloise and Penelope's (aka Peneloise)—played by Claudia Jessie and Nicola Coughlan, respectively. Watching the two emerging debutantes vie for independence and attempt to figure out how one becomes "with child" was one of the highlights of season 1. And Bridgerton author Julia Quinn told us that their on-screen connection echoed an actual budding sisterhood.
"They became such good friends in real life, and you could totally see that. I tell people you've got this great romantic chemistry, but there's also BFF chemistry here to love," Quinn says.
As for the actresses, Jessie told Shondaland: "We really care about this job and our careers in general. We take it really seriously when we’re together. We have a really lovely time, but it means a lot to us."
And Coughlan? "Working with Claudia was ridiculously easy," she told Seventeen. "She is the kindest, sweetest person. She's so open and such a talented actor. But when you feel that comfortable with someone, it lets you be free to experiment and try. We had four wonderful directors on this show too and they were like, 'We really love Peneloise.' And we'd say, 'We love them too!'"
And the whole cast is in a WhatsApp group.
Bailey told us that the massive ensemble cast did their best to stay in touch post-production, which of course took place during the pandemic. But as we've all discovered, technology was the best way for them to stay connected.
"Lockdown made it really hard. But there’s Zoom and a WhatsApp group that’s still pumping in our pockets," Bailey says. "Me and Phoebe have grown incredibly close and the bros, the two Lukes [Luke Newton and Luke Thompson] are really close as well. But the idea that we all possibly may be able to do this again is something that will remedy quite a tricky year."
Um, can we get added to that group chat?
At first, Nicola Coughlan didn't know she was Lady Whistledown.
For those who hadn't read the Bridgerton books, the big reveal at the end of the first season finale was a definite shock. Even for Coughlan, who had no idea about Penelope's secret until after she got the role. The actress discovered the truth, in part, from digging through online fan forums.
"When I went for the first audition, I only had a couple of days to prepare; I didn’t have time to read the books or do anything like that," she told Variety. "I just thought, 'I’ll give this a go and if I get a second call, then I’ll read everything.' But that didn’t happen, I just got the job...It was on a forum that I realized she was Lady Whistledown. When I saw it, I thought, 'No, no, no, no, that can’t be right.' I kept re-reading it, because it didn’t make sense: [I’m] being given this amazing role in a Shondaland Netflix show, and it’s that role. It’s quite mind-blowing."
Violet Bridgerton probably won't get a love story—at least from Julia Quinn.
While we know for a fact that there is true love in the future for each of the Bridgerton siblings, we can't help but also look to matriarch Violet. As we know, she was widowed after her husband, Edmund, died of a bee sting while she was pregnant with Hyacinth. The warm, affectionate mother is set to watch all of her children get married, so isn't it only right that she find happiness as well after such a tragedy?
However, Quinn tells us that she is content with Violet's dating life remaining uneventful.
"I love her so much that I'm not sure I could create somebody good enough for her," she says. "I think she's reached a point where she's an independent woman and she's happy. In that day and age, if she got married again, suddenly he'll get to be in charge of everything. I don't think she's ready to give that up."
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