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The Netflix series Bridgerton might be defined as the ultimate water-cooler show of the past year, if it hadn’t rolled out during a pandemic during which most Americans steered clear of offices and other communal work spaces.
The series, from executive producer Shonda Rhimes and creator Chris Van Dusen, is not only Netflix’s biggest series ever, but it ranked No. 1 for the streamer in 83 countries in Q4 of 2020. Recently, a half-dozen talents from Regency-era costume drama gathered for a Q&A with THR Presents, powered by Vision Media, to talk about the global phenomenon the series became, and why its racially diverse cast and feminist bent struck a chord among viewers not used to modern sensibilities being served up with the mores and peccadillos of the British upper classes.
“I think the reaction to the show was unlike any of us imagined,” says Phoebe Dynevor, plays Daphne Bridgerton. “I was wild. It’s been a lot for all of us because we’re also in the midst of the second wave of the pandemic (in the U.K.) and the roller coaster of the last year was just added to by the huge success of the show. But I feel very happy and proud to have made something that gave people a lot of joy in a difficult time.”
Adds director Julie Anne Robinson: “I was around when Grey’s Anatomy exploded, so I have a memory of that, and it was like this enormous wave hitting the actors and everybody involved. So I had an inkling that this would happen. Of course, you never really think it’s going to, because that only happens once, right?”
But Adjoa Andoh, who plays Lady Danbury, points to other factors in the show’s success. ‘I think it’s a game changer in terms of historical drama,’ she says. “I don’t think anybody’s going to flinch about it not being documentary-perfect. It’s raised all sorts of questions about how historically accurate previous historical dramas have been in terms of their multi-racial depictions, the conversations about sexuality and feminist politics, and all those sorts of things. There’s more of a feeling that you can breathe out and bend the form to your will in a way. We got the global thumbs-up that you’re allowed to do that stuff.”
Casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry felt a new-found freedom to practice her discipline in a way she saw fit. “We felt Bridgerton was a gift to us to use our knowledge, and go, ‘Hey, what about?’ and not feel shut down by a group of white guys in a room,” she explains. “And it just so happened that everybody was on the same page.”
This edition of THR Presents is brought to you by Netflix.
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