If you haven't been watching Bridgerton, stop what you're doing and head over to Netflix to catch all the historical gossip hit TV show. The series is set in 19th Century England, mostly revolves around two families, and has become a genuine, worldwide phenomenon. Today, we'll take an insider's peek and discover what really goes on behind the scenes of this fabulous, larger-than-life show.
Queen Charlotte's Afro Was Inspired By Beyoncé
Queens often wear the weight of the world on their shoulders, but Queen Charlotte wore the weight of the world on her head! If you're wondering which Bridgerton wig weighed the most, the heavy hairpiece in question was the one actress Golda Rosheuvel wore to Daphne and Simon's wedding party. Hair and makeup artist Marc Pilcher explained: "We just made sure that whenever Golda had a break, we would always take it off."
Another of Queen Charlotte's wigs––her Afro––was made from five separate wigs and took inspiration from Beyoncé's hair in Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002).
Daphne Bridgerton Wears Nearly 100 Dresses In The Series
While most period dramas would usually rent pre-made costumes, Bridgerton's costume department is like a small country! Actress Phoebe Dynevor wore nearly 100 dresses throughout the series, and never the same dress twice. The show requires over 200 people in the costume department and their boss is Ellen Mirojnick, who worked on Fatal Attraction, Basic Instinct, and Wall Street. It was her idea to craft all of the costumes from scratch.
All in all, Ellen's department created 7,500 custom-made, one-of-a-kind pieces just for season one alone!
The Featherington Family Was Inspired by The Kardashians
To make the two main families more relatable to modern audiences, the showrunners took inspiration from two very well-known American dynasties. Production Designer Will Hughes-Jones confirms: "I say it's the Kennedys versus the Kardashians." The Featheringtons are the epitome of nouveau riche, meaning they come from new money, so they are bold, flashy, and ostentatious like the Kardashians. In contrast, the Bridgerton family comes from old money, like the Kennedys.
That comparison is, of course, the American definition of old money. The Kennedy clan didn't arrive in America until 1849, meaning they were probably sweeping Irish streets in Bridgerton times!
The Show Is Far From Being Historically Accurate
While many period dramas employ historians to ensure historical accuracy, producer Chris Van Dusen wanted the show to reflect modern society. So he introduced a colorful reimagining of London's 19th century upper echelons featuring more people of color and more modern attitudes. The talented showrunner explained: "It's important to remember that Bridgerton isn't a history lesson ... We knew we wanted the show to reflect the world we live in today."
Van Dusen rounded off by saying: "Even though it's set in the 19th century, we still wanted modern audiences to relate to it and to see themselves on screen." And quite right, too!
Bridgerton's Author Worked As A Consultant On The Show
Every hopeless romantic's favorite Netflix series is based on Julia Quinn's Regency-era romance novels. If you haven't read them, each book follows a different Bridgerton sibling and their rather complicated love lives. Julia Quinn worked on the show as a consultant, but she also supports producers Chris and Shonda's artistic license. The millionaire author told Oprah magazine, "I was not going to tell Shonda Rhimes how to make television!"
Julia continued: "It's not a word-for-word adaptation, and it shouldn't be," she added. "I never expected that. I didn't want that. It's not what television should be about."
The Bridgerton Novels Didn't Feature Black Lead Characters
While Bridgerton has won many plaudits for its inclusive, color-blind casting, Julia Quinn's original novels barely touch on race at all. Showrunners Chris Van Dusen and Shonda Rhimes decided to include a diverse cast. "I think that working with historians, it became very clear that 19th century Regency London was a lot more diverse and a lot more colorful than people thought it to be," Van Dusen told Collider magazine.
In addition to featuring diverse ethnicity and skin color, the show went even further casting actors irrelevant of their body shape, sexual preferences, or gender.
Adapting The Bridgerton Books Was Shonda's Idea
Although Chris Van Dusen created Bridgerton, adapting the books into a TV series was Shonda Rhimes' idea. The Grey's Anatomy showrunner first introduced him to Julia Quinn's books and asked him to adapt the books to the small screen. He explained, "I took them home, read them that first night, and I just fell in love with them." Chris must be the world's fastest reader to read them all in one night!
Chris admitted, “It was something I was really looking for and what a lot of audiences are looking for today – to be transported to this other time and place in this amazing, decadent, beautiful world.”
Creator Chris Van Dusen Worked With Shonda Before
The Bridgerton producers' relationship goes back a long, long way. A graduate of the University of Southern California's Peter Stark Producing Program, creator Chris Van Dusen has worked with producer Shonda on Grey's Anatomy and Scandal, her equally binge-worthy medical drama and political thriller, respectively. That means their working relationship goes back almost two decades! Oh, and don't forget Chris also helped Shonda create Grey's Anatomy spin-off show, Private Practice.
Yet after two successful seasons, Van Dusen is stepping down to adapt the novel They Both Die at the End with author Adam Silvera. But don't worry, Jess Brownell, who has previously worked on Inventing Anna and you guessed it.... Grey's Anatomy, will be replacing original creator Chris van Dusen as showrunner for seasons three and four, which have already been announced.
Bridgerton Was Originally Going To Be A War Drama
Our list contains many little details like characters auditioning for other roles. But did you know that the show was originally going to be a war drama? Yes, Marina’s love interest, soldier George Crane, died in battle, but this war-drama revelation raises many questions. Would significant characters have had to go off to fight in The War of 1812 or the Battle of Waterloo in 1815? Would the producers have killed off major characters? And if so, who?
Simon Basset probably knew a thing or two about war, hailing from Hastings––the site of a very famous English battle––but at least we didn't have to see his shirtless body blown to smithereens on a battleground!
Explaining The Costume Designer's "Shonda" Look
So who makes all those fabulous Bridgerton costumes? Those fantastic dresses were designed by costumier Ellen Mirojnick, who said she didn't prioritize historical accuracy. She explained there needs to be "an element that people that are watching it today can really dive into and not be taken back to a time in history that they can't relate to — that there's something about this that gets them swept up immediately in the story."
The hugely talented designer added. "And if you think of all of Shonda's shows, it's evident, whether they are period or they are present-day, they're very fashionable in their own right."
Each Family Has Their Own Symbolic Color
Did you know each family has its own symbolic colors? To highlight the eponymous family's high standing in society, they wear sophisticated light blues, greens, and silver colors. The bee motif which appears on many of their clothes represents their industriousness and is a nod to Edmund dying from a Bee sting. Yet, as soon as Daphne ties the knot with Simon Basset, Daphne wears purple, blending her family’s blues with Simon’s family’s red (and gold) color scheme.
In contrast, the Featheringtons are symbolized by butterflies, and mostly wear bright yellow, plus pinks, and greens, to signify they are outsiders. Yellow represents Penelope's cheerful personality but may also hint that one needs to be cautious around her.
Queen Charlotte Was A Late Addition
Considering Queen Charlotte is such a powerhouse, it may shock you to find out that the character never featured in Julia Quinn's original novels. The author explained: "Queen Charlotte is the biggest new character and she's fantastic in every way. I go back and forth between: 'Wow, I wish I'd put her in the books, and 'I'm glad I didn't put her in the books because I wouldn't have done her as great as they do her here.'"
And without Shonda and Chris adding Queen Charlotte, we'd never have got to meet her gaggle of adorable Pomeranian dogs!
Shonda Rhimes Was Determined To Get The Rights
Before Bridgerton, Shonda Rhimes was famous for writing hit ABC shows like Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. The powerhouse producer knows a goldmine when she sees one, and that's exactly what happened when she read Julia Quinn's novels. In fact, the highest-paid showrunner in television––who signed a $140 million dollar deal with Netflix––was so passionate about bringing the novels to the small screen, she got a little hot under the collar!
"I remember, I was almost scaring people," Shonda told The Hollywood Reporter. "Like, 'We have to get these crazy romance novels — they're hot, and they're sexy, and they're really interesting!'"
Bridgerton's Iconic Hairstyles Were Influenced By Celebrities
Several of the show's iconic hairstyles were based on real-life celebrities. For example, did you know that Daphne's curled bangs were inspired by Audrey Hepburn's memorable look from the 1956 epic, War and Peace? Bridgerton season one hair and makeup artist, Marc Pilcher, revealed to Insider magazine "When I did Daphne's first fittings she had these amazing eyebrows, and the looks that we started doing reminded me of Audrey Hepburn."
Other examples include Lady Featherington's updo, which Marc likened to a "red-headed Elizabeth Taylor."
Nicola Coughlan Was Cast After Only One Audition
Bagging a role in a high-budget series like Bridgerton usually involves numerous screen tests and call-backs. Unless, that is, your name is Nicola Coughlan. The creators fell head over heels with the Irish actress in her first audition. She divulged: “When I auditioned for the show, I didn’t have any full scripts, I hadn’t read the books... I got offered the job after that one audition, which was so unexpected.”
Once they started filming, the producers were proven right. Great casting is one of the many great talents Shondaland has up its massive batwing sleeves.
Queen Charlotte Was A Real Historical Figure
Queen Charlotte was Queen of Great Britain and Ireland from 1761 to 1818. Although technically, as King George III's wife, she was Queen Consort. Yet while Bridgerton purposefully adds more people of color, Queen Charlotte of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is believed to have been Britain's first mixed-race monarch. While most details have been lost in the mists of time, Guyanese-British actress and singer Golda Rosheuvel was the perfect choice to portray her.
Chris Van Dusen said: "That's something that really resonated with me... I started to wonder what that could have looked like. What could this queen have done? Could she have used her power to elevate other people of color in society?"
Nicola Coughlan Nearly Played Another Featherington Sister
In a 2022 New York Times article, fan-favorite Nicola Coughlan recalled Bridgerton producers reached out to her after her successful turn in Derry Girls. But Nicola originally auditioned for the role of the youngest Featherington sister, Eloise. Chris Van Dusen explains: "I called all of our other producers into the room and showed them the tape ... I'm happy to say that everyone loved her as much as I did."
Even though she didn't get the part, Chris said he thought she was the perfect fit for Eloise. Either way, Eloise's loss is our gain!
Pride and Prejudice Inspired Bridgerton's Sexy Scenes
If Shonda got hot under the collar imagining what she could do with the novels, she might have been harking back to the time Colin Firth walked out of the lake in Pride and Prejudice. The BBC's 1995 adaptation of Jane Austen's seminal novel featured Miss Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy (and his wet shirt) in one of TV's most talked-about scenes and inspired some of Bridgerton's most sexy interplays.
Shonda was too flushed to comment, but Chris Van Dusen told the Los Angeles Times. "Obviously, Colin Firth coming out of that lake with the white shirt is seared in my mind ... But I wanted to see a period piece that went further."
Nicola Coughlan Researched Penelope Featherington
Bubbly Nicola Coughlan first shot to fame in Channel 4's Northern Irish drama Derry Girls. And the versatile actress did her research to find out what fans of the books would expect from her character, Penelope, the intelligent, sharp-witted, warm-hearted daughter of Lord and Lady Featherington. She admitted to the UK's Guardian newspaper: "I spent a lot of time lurking on online book forums to see what fans thought."
She confessed: "I realized that [Penelope] is this really beloved character because she's not this perfect girl that all the boys love." "She's a complete wallflower... So I thought, 'OK, I really, really wanna do that justice.'"
The Show Employs An Intimacy Coordinator
It turns out the show's sex scenes were carefully coordinated under the watchful eye of Intimacy Coordinator, Lizzy Talbot. She was always on hand to create a safer professional space for actors during their most vulnerable scenes, making sure the actor's most private parts were protected by padding! Lizzy is the founder and Director of Intimacy for Stage and Screen and has worked on many other successful shows like HBO's Victorian superheroine showThe Nevers and Netflix's epic fantasy saga The Witcher.
Actress Phoebe Dynevor told Harper's Bazaar: "We rehearsed all the intimacy scenes weeks and weeks before we started to do things... I think that was really beneficial to us as well, because, by the time we got to set, we knew what we were doing. We felt really comfortable."
Nicola Coughlan Fell Head Over Heels
Bridgerton might feature a lot of love, but when actress Nicola Coughlan fell head over heels, we're talking literally, not figuratively. The fun-loving star explained costume designer Ellen Mirojnick gave her heels to wear since she was so small. She said: "I agreed to wear these crazy heels, and then on my first day on set, we were walking around, and I toppled over not once, not twice, but three times!"
Nicola added, "I thought they're going to think I'm drunk, they're gonna think I'm crazy, and I was holding a dog at the time." The dog was fine, but Nicola did stab co-star Claudia Jessie with a parasol!
Nicola Coughlan Is Twice Her Character's Age
Actors often play characters much younger than their actual age, but did you know that Nicola Coughlan is more than twice as old as her character? In the first season, Penelope Featherington is meant to be 17 years old. But Coughlan recently celebrated her 35th birthday! It's not the first time she has played younger characters. Nicola played high-school-aged Clare Devlin in Derry Girls which recently aired its final season.
Would you believe the actress who plays Eloise is also in her thirties? Claudia Jessie recently turned 31, while her character, the fifth Featherington, Eloise, is also supposed to be 17 years old.
Where Have You Seen Daphne Bridgerton Before?
If you happen to recognize Phoebe Dynevor––who plays the central protagonist of Bridgerton's freshman season––the gorgeous English actress began her career as a child actress, appearing in the BBC dramas Waterloo Road, Prisoners' Wives, and Dickensian. She also starred in the TV series Snatch alongside Harry Potter's best friend Ron Weasley and Ed Sheeran lookalike Rupert Grint. Then, she showed up in Bridgerton, and the rest, as they say, is history.
If you haven't heard of Snatch, it was a TV adaptation of Madonna's ex-husband, Guy Ritchie's hit 2000 comedy-drama starring Brad Pitt as an unintelligible traveler boxer. A world away from Bridgerton's high society!
Is Bridgerton Just A Regency-Era Gossip Girl?
Bridgerton's Lady Whistledown chronicles the secrets of London's upper echelon just like Gossip Girl reports the goings-on in New York's Upper East Side. Fans took to the internet to point out the similarities to the modern-day CW show, and they weren't the only ones. In an interview with Variety magazine, Regé-Jean Page said Bridgerton is "something a bit like if Jane Austen met Gossip Girl and maybe like, you know, '45 Shades of Gray.'"
The stubbly actor added: "We have a lot of fun in period costumes, and it is set in the Regency period in 1813 ... It is a romance and a fantasy, and it's a big, warm Regency hug."
The Hills Are Alive With Lady Whistledown's Voice
If you recognized snooty, scathing, silver-tongued Lady Whistledown's narration, you might be surprised to hear that it belongs to Mary Poppins (1964) and The Sound Of Music (1965) actress and all-round legend Julie Andrews. The English singer voiced Penelope Featherington's alter-ego to maintain the gossip columnist's anonymity. Yet, while other actors filmed across the UK, Julie Andrews was confined to a voice-over booth in a New York studio. More on those gorgeous locations in a New York minute.
Chris Van Dusen revealed: "I had such a blast writing the voiceover for Lady Whistledown because she gets to say the most insulting things," he added. "And they're not typical things that you would think would be coming out of Julie Andrews' mouth."
Lady Whistledown's Identity Nearly Changed
If you've read the books, you'll know that Penelope Featherington was behind Lady Whistledown's writings all along. So when this fact was also revealed in the season one finale, there was no big shock. But did you know that the producers considered changing the identity of the anonymous gossip columnist? According to Entertainment Tonight's Stacy Lambe, producers considered revealing other characters as Lady Whistledown. Can you guess who they were?
Daphne, Lady Danbury, Eloise, and Brimsley were all considered as alternative options, but then they followed the novels and stuck with Penelope. In the novels, her secret identity wasn't revealed until the fourth book.
Where Have You Seen Viscount Bridgerton Before?
Similarly, if you recognize Viscount Bridgerton actor, Jonathan Bailey, it may well be that you've seen him in Phoebe Waller-Bridge's British television series, Crashing. That's right... before Phoebe hit the big time with Fleabag, Killing Eve and script-doctoring James Bond's No Time To Die (2021), she wrote and starred in her own BBC comedy series. It followed six twenty-somethings living together in a disused hospital in exchange for cheap rent.
Jonathan Bailey played sex-obsessed Sam in the show which aired in 2016. The BBC show is not to be confused with Judd Apatow's American series Crashing which aired the following year.
The Grand Old Duke Of Hastings Is Hardly Historically Accurate
While Bridgerton sometimes strives for historical accuracy, season one's Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, was well known for his stubble. According to hair and makeup artist Marc Pilcher, this was "technically wrong for that period for a wealthy man to be stubbly." But when actor Regé-Jean Page suggested Hastings' stubble, Marc took his suggestion on board. As if Simon Basset wasn't already charming, broody, and dishy enough without his five o'clock shadow.
Marc surmised: "The whole thing with Simon, we wanted him to look hot and handsome — all the girls are swooning for him — so we kept it just for that aspect, and he looked great."
Bridgerton's Actors Have To Dance Wearing Earpieces
Filming Bridgerton's elaborate Regency-era dance scenes is tricky for any actor, but things get a whole bunch trickier when you have to follow instructions via an earpiece. Luke Newton––who plays Colin Bridgerton––explained his thoughts on headphone choreography: "Hats off to the dancers because they do it every take, and they do it perfectly, and then I step in, and I feel like I've got two left feet because I can not hear the music."
The earpieces are difficult to spot because the actors swap the earpieces to different ears to keep them out of the shot. But we bet some of you eagle-eyed fans have spotted them!
Bringing The 19th Century Into The 21st Century
Music plays an integral part in Bridgerton and not just the classical music of the era. Chris Van Dusen suggested using modern pop songs to elevate the show and orchestral reworkings of Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams," Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy," and Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" were incorporated. Music supervisor Alexandra Patsavas and soundtrack composer Kris Bowers thought it was a great idea and worked closely to blend musical genres.
Patsavas explained: "The familiarity of these pop songs performed by a quartet or orchestral seemed the most seamless way to create a 'Bridgerton' musical signature and also support Bowers' beautiful score."
Ben Miller Has A Ph. D. In Semiconductor Physics
Before Ben Miller, who plays Lord Featherington, was an actor, he was a comedian. And would you believe before he was a comedian, he studied for a Ph.D. in semiconductor physics at Cambridge University? After an epiphany, Ben understood he was destined to become a comedian, so he stopped working on his thesis, packed his bags like Dick Whittington, and headed for London, where the streets were paved with gold.
In London, he joined a sketch comedy group which later resulted in his BBC comedy series Armstrong and Miller. As for their on-screen chemistry, Polly Walker––who plays Lady Featherington––had previously worked with Ben on the show Jeffery Archer: The Truth.
Will Mondrich Was Inspired By A Real-Life Boxer
Bridgerton's flamboyant costumes were never in sight during those bare-chested boxing scenes. In an interview with GQ magazine, British-Nigerian actor Martins Imhangbe explained his character Will Mondrich was based on a real-life 19th-century pugilist. Bill Richmond was born into slavery in Richmondtown, New York but came to England in 1777. He rose through the ranks to become perhaps the world's first Black sporting star two hundred years before Muhammed Ali.
And this being Bridgerton, you can bet Bill Richmond flew like a Featherington butterfly and stung like a Bridgerton bee!
The Cast Attended Bridgerton Boot Camp To Whip Them Into Regency Shape
The whole cast had to attend a pre-production get-together known as the “Regency Boot Camp,” where everyone got in some training for the show’s time period. Regé-Jean Page and Martins Imhangbe had to go a step further to get into character. The pair had to attend boxing boot camp: “It was really fun to do something so physical and exhausting and to get into visceral play with the other actors,” Regé-Jean confessed.
When asked about his time at boxing boot camp, Page recalls: “I got on really well with Martins Imhangbe, who plays Will the boxer, and we had a great time in those scenes.”
The Cast Describe Filming Like Summer Camp
While Bridgerton Boxing Boot Camp sounds about as much fun as going off to The War of 1812, the actual filming of the series was a hoot! Season one took nine months to film––from July 2019 until February 2020––meaning they wrapped just before England's first COVID-19 lockdown... which was lucky. Then, the show was edited and released when most of the world was safely ensconced in their homes, becoming a worldwide phenomenon.
Jonathan Bailey said that filming felt just like being at summer camp: “On a nice day, everyone would just sort of sunbathe and roll around in their corsets, so there was always something going on.”
The Bridgerton And Featherington Homes Were Built From Scratch
You may have been blown away by the stunning homes seen in the show, but would it surprise you to find out that the interiors of the Bridgerton and Featherington beautiful homes were built from scratch? Production Designer Will Hughes-Jones explains: “These are some of the biggest single rooms that I’ve ever built. Each Bridgerton and Featherington room has an individuality to it,” but that's not all; the set designers went further... much further.
Everything, even down to even the furniture and fabrics matched the families. For example, the Bridgerton’s sitting room features soft blue and cream colors, matching their high social status.
Most Of The Carriage Scenes Were Filmed On A Soundstage
Bridgerton's street and park scenes were primarily filmed in historic Bath, England, where Jane Austen lived, and Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein. Yes, a 19-year-old girl invented science fiction. Filming locations were scattered around England, with the crew filming in nearby Wiltshire and Gloucestershire, as well as slightly further-flung Hertfordshire, Yorkshire, Hampshire, Kent, and Surrey. As for all those scenes involving carriages, well... most were filmed on sound stages, with crew members roped into pushing the carriages!
Regé-Jean Page quipped it was challenging to keep a straight face when the crew pulling the carriages were asked to go faster, and he could hear them straining!
Links To Netflix's Other Royal Show––The Crown
Did you know that Bridgerton was filmed in some of the same locations as that other royal Netflix show, The Crown? The magnificent Wilton House was used for interior shots for the Duke and Duchess's home as well as Queen Charlotte's residence. Now, if Wilton House looks familiar to you eagle-eyed readers, the Wiltshire-based estate was also used for some interior shots for Buckingham Palace on Netflix's other royal show.
But would you believe us if we told you that sharing filming locations with The Crown is not Bridgerton's only link to royalty?
Bridgerton's Famous Tea Shop Existed In The 19th Century
Remember Gunter's Tea Shop, where Daphne and The Duke often enjoy a cuppa? While Bridgerton was mostly filmed in Bath, which is famous for its tea shops––including the oldest in England, Sally Lunn's which was built in 1482––the show's tea shop is located in London's Berkley Square. It was initially named "The Pot and Pine Apple" and opened in 1757 by Italian Domenico Negri. It later changed its name to Gunter's Tea Shop.
And yes, that's the same London address from the famous song "A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square." It turns out England is full of history. Who knew!
Queen Elizabeth II Interrupted Filming
In Bridgerton, the beautiful Lancaster House stands in for St James's Palace. You may remember the climactic scene in which the Duke and Daphne plead their case to Queen Charlotte took place there. The show's creator, Chris Van Dusen, revealed on Twitter that the cast and crew had to hurry to film the iconic scene. And there's a funny reason behind why they had to rush. In fact, you could say it was a right royal rush!
They had to rush because Queen Elizabeth II—the real Queen of England—was on her way from nearby Buckingham Palace to host an event at Lancaster House. We wouldn't have liked to have been the one having to explain any overruns to Her Majesty!
Bridgerton House Was Inspired By A Famous House
The beginning of Bridgerton's very first episode sweeps us off our feet as we're introduced to the luxurious home of one of London's most prominent families. But were you aware this is another link to The Crown and real royalty? Yes, folks, Bridgerton House was inspired by Princess Diana's family home. Chris Van Dusen explained that the Althorp Estate influenced Bridgerton House after he visited while he was developing the show.
The 13,000-acre Spencer ancestral home is located in Northamptonshire, England and while visitors cannot visit Diana's grave, you can pay your respects at a lakeside temple dedicated to her memory.