Netflix have turned to period drama with Bridgerton (available Dec. 25), a lavish series that follows the romantic fortunes of an aristocratic family living in London during the early 1800s.
Based on the bestselling historical romance novels of U.S. author Julia Quinn, the eight-part tale boasts a star-studded cast of British stars, with Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor playing the romantic leads.
The tale follows beautiful young Daphe Bridgerton as she makes her debut on the marriage mart, yet her hopes of finding love soon take a knock when her reputation is slandered by influential Regency gossip-columnist, Lady Whistledown.
Mary Poppins star Julie Andrews will be the series’ narrator and well-known US producer Shonda Rhimes will be overseeing the project, which has been billed as Netflix's answer to Downton Abbey. But how was it made?
1. This isn’t the first time Shonda Rhimes and Julie Andrews have worked together
Rhimes wrote the screenplay for The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement, a 2004 movie that also starred Anne Hathaway.
2. Bridgerton’s corsets were created by the renowned corset maker Mister Pearl
Mister Pearl also made Kim Kardashian's famous Thierry Mugler corset, which she wore to the 2019 Met Gala.
3. Bridgerton’s Director of Photography Jeffrey Jur previously worked on the pilot episode of Grey’s Anatomy
He was also the Director of Photography on the classic 1987 film Dirty Dancing. Phoebe Dynevor, who plays Daphne Bridgerton recalls the fan club Jur had on set. “That man is a genius,” she says. “Our directors’ assistant made shirts with Jeffery Jur’s face on it for everyone to wear, so there were a couple of days when everyone was wearing a shirt with Jeff Jur on it. Everyone loves Jeff.”
4. Queen Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel, is widely regarded to be the first mixed-race member of the British Royal family
She descended from Margarita de Castro y Sousa, a Black branch of the Portuguese Royal House. She was married to King George III who was depicted in the biopic The Madness of King George. Together, Queen Charlotte and King George had 15 children.
5. The color palette for the classic Bridgerton blue used in the series was inspired by the well-known Wedgwood hue
Wedgwood, the fine china, porcelain and luxury accessories brand, began shortly before the Regency period and its wares graced the tables of many an English monarch and other heads of state.
6. The Bridgerton and Featherington families both have their own symbols that are used throughout the series and eagle-eyed viewers will be able to spot these throughout the season
“The Bridgertons have a bee which appears on certain parts of their costumes, and for the Featheringtons, it’s butterflies,” explains Head of Hair abd Makeup, Marc Pilcher. “We have a few little hair decorations that reflect this as well and we pop them in now and again.”
7. One of the strangest idiosyncratic aspects of period design discovered by production designer Will Hughes-Jones was a Regency spit roast powered by domesticated animals
“I just couldn’t believe it when we were on location and we saw a mock up of it in an English heritage property. It was a spit in a kitchen powered by a dog. Imagine a dog in a hamster wheel, on a wall that turns the spit roast in the fireplace. Yes, they had spit roasts run by terriers.”
8. Bridgerton’s Queen Charlotte has a special love for her pet Pomeranians
Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte loved the experience, but recalls that the pups all had strong personalities, much like her character.
“I do very well with dogs, and these were very feisty so you had to calm them down a little bit, but they were excellent dogs. They were as rowdy as the Queen sometimes, but I loved that. I think they were all female, bar one. It’s a very female driven show.”
9. Queen Charlotte never has a bad hair day
The head of Hair and Makeup for the series, Marc Pilcher, says that when it came to designing the look for Queen Charlotte, the early discussions he had with creator/showrunner Chris Van Dusen revolved around her having a different wig on every time she is on screen, and that the wigs would always match her outfits.
“She’s got nothing else to do. She’s waiting for her husband to die and she’s quite bored. It took us a lot of time, but it was great and a really creative thing to do.”
10. The production design team led by Will Hughes-Jones didn’t use furniture from prop houses
They built everything themselves, right down the curtains!
11. Despite the Queen’s penchant for her wigs, some of these accessories were starting to lose favor at this time
“Regency England was actually a really exciting period because it started to pull away from the strictness of the massive dresses and wigs,” explains M arc Pilcher.
“They introduced a powder tax on wigs. You had to pay a tax if you wanted to wear powder in your hair or in your wigs. It was about 30 pounds a year, which was a lot of money back then, so people decided to discard their wigs.”
12. The cast were all in when it came to putting themselves in the shoes of their characters
Depending on their role, an actor may have taken classes in any of the following: etiquette, horse riding, dancing, voice lessons, pistol training, and boxing.
13. Regé-Jean Page, who plays Simon Basset, says that he enjoyed the boxing lessons and scenes the most, even though it was always challenging and often incredibly sweaty.
“It was really fun to do something so physical and exhausting and to get into visceral play with the other actors,” Page recalls.
“I got on really well with Martins Imhangbe, who plays Will the boxer, and we had a great time in those scenes. They were some of the most challenging days in terms of doing many takes that were as close to the real thing as you’re going to get, but we had some fantastic trainers. There’s a very specific type of feeling of reward when you walk away from work physically exhausted at the end of the day, and knowing that it’s going to look great.”
14. Claudia Jessie and Nicola Coughlan, who play best friends Eloise Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington, knew each other a little before working on Bridgerton
“One of my favourite things about this story is Penelope and Eloise’s friendship,” Coughlan says. “Claudia Jessie and I were the first two people cast. When I found out that Claudia was playing my best friend, I thought it was amazing because she is the most joyful person to work with.
"I think that sometimes with period dramas you think they were very stilted, but one of our historical consultants, Dr. Hannah Greig, showed us portraits of them lounging and hanging around, and she told us that we had to get those antiquated ideas out of our heads, because they were real people. So, the scenes that I have with Claudia feel so fun and modern, and the writing is so sharp and so funny.”
15. Claudia Jessie (Eloise Bridgerton) lives on a canal boat and was in the midst of boat renovations when she heard about securing the role in Bridgerton
“I was painting the roof of my boat, and I remember at that time thinking, ‘You’ll get a job and everything will be fine’,” she recalls. “Then my agent called me and told me I got this role. I just went back to painting the roof but I thought, “This is a great day”. It’s such a pleasure to be a part of this show.”
16. Luke Newton, who plays Colin Bridgerton, put his musical abilities to good use when filming the series
“I come from a musical theatre and singing background and both of my aunts were in West End shows, so I was brought up going to see them in musicals. When the opportunity to be part of Bridgerton came up I never thought that I would be singing in the show, but I performed around the piano and it was so cool for me because I got to learn a completely different style of music that I’d never even listened to before.
"There was such a nice vibe on set and everyone was complimentary so it was great, but it was really terrifying! There are actually a lot of people in this cast who sing, and we were making up songs on set when we had an hour or two to chill. We’re all ready to perform at any moment!”
17. Jonathan Bailey, who plays the eldest Bridgerton son Anthony, says the scale of the Bridgerton production was most felt when the cast were filming the epic ball scenes
“What was amazing was when they would get the extras to stare at you as the Bridgertons as we were walking into the room. It was impossible to not feel a bit like a Bee Gee! You’d get a bit of a strut. That was really enjoyable.”
18. Irish actor Nicole Coughlan got lucky when it came to learning a tricky dance at one of the balls
“The dances were planned out before anyone was cast and I was thinking it was going to be a waltz or something like that, but it just so happened that the dance they had for Penelope was an Irish jig! It was a total coincidence. It’s called The Siege of Ennis and it’s a very famous dance that I’ve known since I was five years old.”
19. When it came to designing the hair and makeup for Daphne Bridgerton, Marc Pilcher says that they based the look on Audrey Hepburn in War and Peace
“It was that Sixties look. It’s always nice with your main actor to keep them soft, pretty and very natural. The images we found of Audrey Hepburn are of the period, but they also have a fashionable look.”
20. Polly Walker, who plays Portia Featherington had previously worked with her on-screen husband Ben Miller and says that the familiarity added so much when it came to building this relationship
“Years ago, I did a project called Jeffery Archer: The Truth with Ben. He’s so funny and such a talented actor and I couldn’t have hoped for a better Lord Featherington. It’s nice to have already worked with someone because you have an ease in the relationship. Ben’s got one of those faces where he doesn’t have to do very much and he’s hysterical, but he’s also a really good actor when he’s doing drama and moving material as well.”
21. Jonathan Bailey (Anthony Bridgerton) decided to grow his own lengthy sideburns for the role instead of resorting to assistance from the hair and makeup team, something he had regrets about by the end of the season...
“They were homegrown!” he says. “About three weeks in, Luke Newton said to me, ‘They’re sticky and quite itchy, aren’t they?’ and I said, ‘What do you mean? No, these are real!’ He said, ‘You’re going to hate that’. By the end, I was worried that when I took them off I wouldn’t be able to walk in a straight line. I’d be completely off balance.”
22. The costume department created thousands of costumes from scratch. Nicola Coughlan remembers how different the experience was from other projects she’s worked on
“For my first costume fitting, my agent said, ‘They need you for four hours’”, she recalls. “Normally you just try something on and see if it fits, but because everything on Bridgerton was couture they had to get every single measurement right.
"They’d make an outline of your hand to get gloves made, they’d get shoes made just for you, everything was specially coloUred and if they didn’t have the right coloUr, they would dye it.”
23. Regé-Jean Page (Simon Basset) says that when it came to his character he couldn’t believe the amount of care that the costume team put into what the outfits meant, in addition to how they looked
“We talked a lot about what kinds of Byronic influences we could bring into Simon’s costume, what his clothes say about him and where he’s been,” remembers Page. “Byron is very big in terms of his writing and his sense of romanticism and adventure, and he would have inspired a lot of these characters.”
24. Bridgerton filmed in a number of spectacular historic locations across the UK. Nicola Coughlan (Penelope Featherington) found herself especially enamored with one location in particular
“We shot at Hatfield House, which was the house that they filmed TheFavourite in. I did sneak upstairs because I wanted to see Olivia Colman’s room. I was trying to rub the walls so that her acting talent would rub onto me!”
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