It's a cold, rainy morning in Bristol, England as I arrive on the set of Bridgerton, a Netflix series produced by Shonda Rhimes: one of her first major projects for the streaming platform. The sweeping period drama centers on the wealthy Bridgerton and Featherington families as they navigate the dramatic waters of Regency-era London. The cast and crew are on location at a gorgeous country house from the 1800s filming the ball seen at the end of episode three, titled “Art of the Swoon.”
It's a lavish affair, with costume racks whirling past me, extras pacing between scenes, and a smoky haze left over from the Bird Ball, another society affair recently filmed. Unbeknownst to me, it will be another 13 months before Bridgerton—created for television and executive produced by Rhimes protégé Chris Van Dusen—arrives on Netflix for all to stream. In some ways it feels like a lifetime ago, but given the enormous undertaking of the elaborate series, it's a relatively short time frame.
“I'll be very honest, nothing about this show has been easy,” Van Dusen tells me between scenes. “But at the end of the day, that's what makes it all the more rewarding. When I watched the first cut, I was just overwhelmed with pride. I've always wanted to be involved with a period show, but make one that's different.”
And is it ever. As Van Dusen says, this is not your mother's period show. “It's vibrant and sensual and sexy,” he says. “We wanted to take what's always been a traditionally conservative genre and turn it on its head.”
In case you haven't watched all eight episodes, I won't spoil anything for you here. But I did uncover as many behind-the-scenes secrets as possible to learn just what it takes to bring 19th century London society to life. From audition stories to makeup and hair secrets, here's what you might have missed—and what you should go back and watch.
Phoebe Dynevor was nervous about the ballroom dances
“I've never been a particularly good dancer, and I was a little bit worried about that," Dynevor, who plays Daphne Bridgerton, reveals. “But it's a real bonding experience for all the actors to be thrown into this world and get to play together.” Freddie Stroma, who plays Prince Friedrich, says that choreographer Jack Murphy not only taught everyone how to dance for the time period, but tailored dance styles to each character. “He understands dance and time periods and that we're layering in [elements] that aren't necessarily historically accurate,” Stroma says. (Case in point, musical arrangements to Taylor Swift and Ariana Grande songs.) “It ends up being really fun.”
Daphne Bridgerton wears nearly 100 dresses on the series
“I have 93 dresses," Dynevor reveals. “That's just mad! They're all made from scratch and hand-embroidered. And there's six people making just Daphne's dresses.” Of the dress-making process, costume designer John Glaser tells Glamour that they started manufacturing gowns nearly nine months before filming started, in cities like Budapest, Madrid, Florence, New York, and London. Even with the head start, Glaser and his team continued making costumes during filming.
Dynevor has lots in common with her alter-ego
“I felt her emotion and everything she was going through," she says of Daphne's coming-of-age story and figuring out love. “Daphne is very much putting on a front to be someone she thinks people want her to be, versus what's her. And I have felt that as well.” Dynevor says social media hasn't necessarily been good for her, because of “the pressure to be this perfect thing, or what you think people want you to be, and then what's underneath.”
Nicola Coughlin was working in a doctor's office before her career took off
“I walk around every day going I can't believe I'm part of a Shonda Rhimes show on Netflix. I don't know what has happened," Coughlin says. “I think my imposter syndrome is at an all time high.” In fact, three years before getting the role of Penelope Featherington, Coughlin was working at an optometrist's office part-time. "I was the girl who tells you when your eye test is due. I used to practice my autograph on the letters, so this is insane to me. I wake up every day so grateful for my job."
The Featherington sisters are meant to be the Kardashians of the 19th century
“Penelope is old school Khloé,” Coughlin says. “Remember Khloé used to say, 'I'm the redheaded stepchild, and I have to do everything for everyone.' I think that's Penelope. But then, you know, Khloé came back and is flying high.” Coughlin says she thinks Penelope will follow a similar path, but for now she's definitely the one who's left out amongst her sisters. “Prudence and Philipa are terrible to her. And then Lady Portia Featherington is a true Kris Jenner—the ultimate ‘momager.’ She's very ambitious for her girls.”
Regé-Jean Page was drawn to the modernity of the Duke of Hastings
Our leading man says he cares very deeply about the character he plays, Simon Basset. “I have a version of this man [that I've created in] my head, and I care very deeply about him," Page says. His goal with the character, he says, was to construct and deconstruct what complex broken men look like and represent in romance in the 21st century. He says, “For instance, what is enticing, what is toxic, what needs to be redeemed, what cannot be redeemed, and what work needs to be done to make that an interesting story that is relevant to men and women in 21st century. And that excites me very much.” As for the reaction he hopes viewers have when they watch the series, specifically the latter episodes, Page says he wants people to be ”shocked, appalled and delighted all at once." Safe to say, mission accomplished.
Golda Roshuvel didn't originally audition for the role of Queen Charlotte
“I was asked to do another role,” Roshuvel admits, without naming the original part she went out for. “My first audition was so overwhelming. I did a good job but came out going, ‘Oh, I could have done that better.’ And then in a couple of days [casting] said, 'You haven't got that role, but would you go on tape for Queen Charlotte? We think that's more you.'" Roshuvel says she put a couple scenes on tape, and then a few days later got the call from her agent that the role was hers.
There are hidden details in Queen Charlotte's look
“Every single scene that I am in, I have a different wig and a different dress," Roshuvel says. In fact, during the day of filming the Ingenue Ball, Roshuvel was wearing two wigs to bring the queen's look to life. “It's a wig on top of the wig. And then three feathers, which are real hair, and crafted by hand,” she says. Another fascinating detail you may have missed in episode three? There's a teardrop on Queen Charlotte's cheek. “You may not notice it at first, ”Roshuvel says, “but it's a little detail that is just so beautiful. So every look is different. It takes about half an hour to get the costumes on and it takes two people to put me in. I'm even double-corseted. It's a challenge, but it's one that I am very, very happy to do.”
Johnathan Bailey found out he got the role of Lord Anthony Bridgerton in the most unexpected place
He was actually on his way to Coachella when he was sent a few episodes to read. “The traffic getting to Coachella was appalling, so there I was, just flicking through the scripts,” Bailey tells Glamour. "And then when I was at Coachella, the deal was being made and then it was signed.”
The secrets of the sideburns
The men of Bridgerton are quite blessed in the hair department, and their sideburns are no exception. “I've got my face covered in hair,” Bailey says with a laugh. “They just sort of blow dry my hair forward, and I get about another seven feet just in hair from that.”
To create Prince Friedrich's look, Freddie Stroma wears fake sideburns “because I don't grow facial hair very well.”
The corsets were made by legendary designer Mr. Pearl
What do Madonna, Beyoncé, Dita Von Teese, and the Kardashians all have in common? They've all worn corsets designed by iconic designer, Mark Pullin, known as Mr. Pearl. “And he designed our corsets, too,” Bessie Carter (Prudence Featherington) tells me.
The Bridgerton and Featherington families are inspired by iconic American dynasties
“I say it's the Kennedys versus the Kardashians,” production designer Will Hughes-Jones tells me. “The Featheringtons are new money, so there is a more brash, flashy element to them. Whereas the Bridgertons are a bit more old money and therefore have the historic and polite qualities you'd find in a design piece.” Hughes-Jones says the Bridgerton color palette is muted, soft, pastel colors, whereas the Featheringtons are more acidic, with bright yellows, greens and pinks. “It's a period piece with modern inflections, which helps create this amazing, beautiful world.”
The elaborate sets are sometimes used for only one day
“We are working at a ridiculously fast pace," Hughes-Jones says. “We design and build sets for one day and then we're off to the next one.” Ironically, the set I visit (more on that, below) is one of the few locations being used over multiple days.
The secret ingredient to pulling off those elaborate balls
Hughes-Jones says getting rid of the modern elements of an old house is always an issue, but once he and his team do that, they have a blank canvas to work their magic. "We finished the Bird Ball yesterday, which has a tropical flavor. Today is the Ingenue Ball, which is more ethereal and has lots of blossoms and sheers and statues. Then the ball we're doing next week is what we call the Crystal Mirror Ball, which is about reflection and looking through people, looking at mirrors, what you see is not necessarily what you're getting sort of thing. So very different looks, but all within one building, which is really fabulous.”
The costume trailer is like a candy factory
Seriously, it's a real-life version of Candy Land. There's bright yellow feathers, hot pink florals, purple jewels, you name it. “The Featheringtons want everyone to know that their clothes are new, flashy," he says. "I call them the Guccis or the Versaces."
“The level of detail is insane,” Nicola Coughlin tells me of her bright yellow French silk gown. “Everything is made from scratch, and it's just spectacular.”
Meanwhile, the Bridgerton look is just as beautiful, but much more subtle. “When they walk out of the house, you don't know where their clothes came from,” Glaser says. “They're much more private about what's going on. That's why I call them the Kennedys, or the Tiffanys.”
Bridgerton on Netflix is now streaming.
Jessica Radloff is the Glamour West Coast editor. For more behind-the-scenes photos from the set of Bridgerton, head over to her Instagram (for videos like this one, below).
Originally Appeared on Glamour