Phoebe Dynevor has gone from little-known British TV actress, to a fixture in 63 million households around the world thanks to her breakthrough performance in Shondaland’s Netflix smash Bridgerton. Now she’s hoping to remain a fixture in Season 2, but admits filming under Covid-19 safety protocols will be challenging.
In an interview with Deadline, the 25-year-old actress acknowledged that her character Daphne Bridgerton’s story arc comes to a satisfying conclusion at the end of Season 1, as her lusty romance with Regé-Jean Page’s Simon Basset plays out over the course of the eight episodes.
Based on the novels of Julia Quinn, the spotlight shifts from Daphne to her older brother, Anthony Bridgerton, in the second book, but Dynevor thinks there is scope to flip Season 1’s storyline on its head. Anthony spends much of his time meddling in the affairs of his sister, without taking good enough care of his own romantic dalliances. Dynevor would love to see their roles reversed in future storylines.
A second season is yet to be confirmed, but it close to being announced by Netflix. Dynevor remains in the dark — for now. “I genuinely have no idea what they’re going to do with the second season, but I imagine if they’re following the books, then it would be Anthony’s journey,” she says over a Zoom call from her home in Manchester. “I’m sure Daphne will end up getting involved. But yeah, I do wonder what it looks like. I’m excited to find out.”
Bridgerton’s first season wrapped filming in the UK in February last year, mere days before production had to be abandoned across the industry because of the coronavirus pandemic. Dynevor remembers the final few days on set being a “crazy” time, during which the ever-encroaching virus was a source of fevered discussion. “We just managed to finish. It was amazing,” she remembers.
The show, created by Chris Van Dusen, was a vast operation that toured around some of the UK’s most lavish stately homes, and Dynevor can’t really get her head around making the show under a protective layer of Covid safety protocols. “I can’t imagine how it would be possible to film under these circumstances. There are so many extras and so many crew members, and it’s a very intimate show. It just baffles me how we would film it under Covid rules unless there was a vaccine beforehand,” the actress explains. Producers may have more confidence, with Production Weekly suggesting Season 2 could shoot in the UK from March.
The intimacy she refers to is a nod to Bridgerton’s steamy love scenes. In other words, scenes that do not lend themselves to social distancing. And it’s not just an issue when cameras are rolling: Daphne and Basset’s romps took six weeks of choreography and preparation with an intimacy coordinator. Dynevor says this was vital to the final performance and their chemistry could not have been achieved behind the shield of a mask, which is an experience she has had while filming TV Land’s Younger in New York last year.
“When I was filming, it was masks on in rehearsals. So you don’t take them off until you say action. Or at least we didn’t. It was a really strange experience. I didn’t see my character’s new boyfriend’s face until we were filming a scene together, which was really bizzare,” she says of the shoot.
Back to those rehearsals with Page (who has gone so stratospheric since Bridgerton landed that he is now being linked with James Bond), Dynevor hints that their connection offscreen was not quite as natural as it was on-screen. Dynevor says she and Page are “yin and yang,” although she is hesitant about being specific. “It was such an interesting dynamic working with him because we work quite differently, but it really brought out the best in each other and in our performances,” she adds. “It’s just a style thing, I think.”
Dynevor didn’t go to drama school, but has worked in television on and off for more than a decade, getting her first major credit on BBC classroom series Waterloo Road in 2009. Other roles in Prisoners Wives, Dickensian, The Musketeers and Snatch followed, but Dynevor was becoming disillusioned with the business before Bridgerton came along. “I wasn’t working before Bridgerton for a long time. I was having that moment of, ‘Oh, gosh.’ I was starting to write and I was like, ‘Okay, I’m going to cast myself in my own thing.’ You have so many of those moments as an actor because it’s about talent obviously, but it’s mostly about being in the right place at the right time,” she explains.
This emboldened her in a way, and she was going into auditions thinking “f***k it” and taking bigger risks with characters. “With Daphne, there was a huge part of me going, ‘This is my dream job, literally my dream role, but there’s no way I’m going to get it. So I may as well just do it how I want to do it, and not think about anyone else.’ That was quite a good thing,” she laughs, before drawing an appropriately romantic analogy: “It’s that thing of dating, isn’t it, where it’s a [playing] hard to get thing. If you’re not interested, then someone’s interested in you.”
Dynevor’s Mom is a long-time star in ITV’s iconic soap opera Coronation Street, while her Dad is a screenwriter. They have helped in the difficult moments, and she says her experience on other shows has braced her for the limelight of Bridgerton. “By the time they were like, ‘You’re going to be number one on a call sheet of a Netflix show with Shonda [Rhimes], it wasn’t a completely overwhelming terrifying feeling because I felt like I had earned my stripes.”
So what’s next for Dynevor? She says Bridgerton has led to some “exciting” conversations and she is particularly keen on securing film roles, where she knows her character has a definitive, self-contained story arc. “There’s definitely been a shift in [incoming enquiries]… I feel like it’s a breakthrough moment.”
© Jake Kanter