When over 63 million households have seen your show, life is going to change. That’s just a fact. But for Phoebe Dynevor, lead of Netflix’s hit series Bridgerton, it came a critical time. The 25-year-old was considering a break from acting when she booked the Shonda Rhimes-produced drama about the highs and lows of the Regency-era marriage market.
Now when she scrolls on Instagram, she might come across a Saturday Night Live star’s viral impression of her character, Daphne. She’s asked constantly, including by this interviewer, increasingly bizarre questions like, “What does your costar Regé-Jean Page smell like?” A casual weekday stroll to the farmer’s market results in multiple articles on massive celebrity sites like The Daily Mail and The Sun.
“It’s weird, isn’t it?” Dynevor says as we chat over Zoom about the overwhelming success of the series, hours after news broke that a second season is a go. “In my head, no one knows who I am so nothing has changed.”
That’s true to some extent. Dynevor, who has been living with her family in Manchester, England through quarantine, tells me she still doesn’t get recognized on the street by fans. But again: 63 million households. The impact of that number isn’t lost on Dynevor, even if it’s all a bit hard to comprehend while in lockdown.
So, how is she navigating what can only be described as a breakout role? And what’s next? Read on.
Glamour: Let’s start with the big news: Neflix just announced Bridgerton season two is happening. How are you feeling?
Phoebe Dynevor: I’m feeling really excited to go back. After lockdown and not really working much, it feels like a bit of a dream to look back at filming season one. It was a wonderful experience, so to know that’s on the horizon is the best news ever.
I think it’s hard at the moment because it’s hard to have anything to look forward to. The whole world isn’t sure when life is going to come back to normal, so it sort of feels like you are living day to day as opposed to a normal life. Having something that is definitely going to happen—even though I’m not sure when—is lovely.
Obviously, it’s early days. But what do you hope to see happen for Daphne in season two?
I genuinely don’t know anything, first off. It’s all top secret. But I would like to see her get more involved in her brother Anthony’s love life. I think it’s her time to get him back. And I’d like to explore a bit more of Daphne and Simon’s relationship. I really liked that it ended on a happy ending, but life isn’t one happy ending. I’d like to see what other hurdles they have to jump over.
So much of the first season was focused on Daphne’s desire to become a mother, and she gives birth in the finale. Is there anything within that storyline you’d like to explore?
Yeah, I’d love to see her as a mother. It’s going to be interesting because [in season one] you see that arc of Daphne becoming a woman. I really got to explore that. So who knows? I’m sure being a parent has its own hurdles and challenges. It’s so hard to say because I haven’t read the books past episode one. Not that…I’m not sure if they are basing the season on the books. I genuinely have no idea what to expect.
The show’s had a huge reception. Did you have any expectations around that going in? I mean, it’s a Shonda Rhimes show for Netflix. It was likely going to be a hit. But how different is your perception now versus when you started filming?
As soon as you see Netflix, you know people are going to see it because it’s Netflix. It’s a big platform. We knew people were going to watch it, and we knew it had a fan base in the people who love the books. But to see it blow up like this really, really was unexpected.
I remember Jonathan Bailey—who plays Anthony, my brother—and I having early conversations about what the hell we were doing. It felt so different and new. We weren’t sure if it was a period drama, or what kind of period drama it was, or if they were going to have modern music… We were shooting in the dark and hoping for the best and wondering what it was going to turn out like. When I finally got to see the show, I was like, “Oh, this is good!” But never did we expect it to hit the zeitgeist in a crazy way. We’re so thrilled to bring joy to people at such a difficult time as well. It’s what I love about the show.
Netflix said over 63 million households have watched. If the world were open, you’d be interacting so much more with those fans than you are in quarantine. Do you have any feelings about that?
Yeah, it’s very strange. I’ve never been recognized because, you know, I just pop out to do some shopping or go for a walk with my mom or dad. It’s nice, in a weird way, to be with my family. I get to experience it all alongside them. There are times when I’m like, “Damn it. I wish I was traveling and getting to really experience it firsthand.” But that’s life at the moment.
When the world opens back up and you do start getting recognized, are you prepared for that?
It’s weird, isn’t it? I honestly don’t think it’s possible to prepare yourself for that. Like, in my head, no one knows who I am so nothing has changed. I would have to go through that experience, I think. I still don’t quite believe the show is as big a success as it is—like it’s just my family and friends and the cast and crew that have seen the show and no one else.
Have you seen the memes? Chloe Fineman from Saturday Night Live also did a memorable impression on her Instagram.
I’ve seen a lot of stuff. I followed Chloe before she posted it, so it literally came up on my page. No one tagged me in it or anything. So that was super exciting. I love people sort of taking the piss out of it or using it for comedy. So many people are doing their own creative flair with it, and that’s so nice. I think when more creatives can get involved it’s really fun to watch.
Let’s go back a bit: When you found out you got the part, what did you feel? Did you celebrate in any way, or was it just another normal day?
I really remember that day. I was living in Los Angeles at the time and at a point in my career where I was kind of giving up. I wanted to go home—back to Manchester—and was about to book the flight when I got the call that I was reading with Regé. The timing was mental. I remember being at a cafe with my friend and saying, “If this doesn’t work out, it’s going to be hard.” There had been a few close close calls with stuff, so I thought, I don’t think this will work out, and that’s fine. I’ll go home to Manchester.
And then I got a call from my manger, who said, “Just so you know, Netflix is going to call me any minute.” After she told me the news, I had a bit of an embarrassing, crazy scream. I called my mom—it was like 4 a.m. her time—and I don’t think my family slept that night. It was super exciting. I had booked a massage–just in general, to clear out my stress and everything—and I had to go right after I heard the news. That was the last thing I wanted to do, because I had so much adrenaline. The whole massage I couldn’t sit still.
Sometimes with auditions and going up for a role, you don’t want to admit to yourself that it’s everything you’ve ever wanted. But I knew deep down that I was so desperate to play Daphne. I was overjoyed to get to bring her to life. And then, of course, the fear kicks in. You’re like, Holy shit. I’ve actually got to do it now. The books are so beloved, and all of that fear started to kick in. You’re like, Oh, God, can I do it?
What helped you overcome that fear, or at least become more comfortable with taking on the role?
You have to just focus on the work. There was a lot of outside noise, and mostly it was coming from my worries. At a certain point, I had to set it all aside and completely focus on the role. You can make it academic, so then it becomes, “Okay, what do I want to bring to this? Who do I feel like Daphne is, as a fan of the book myself?” I kept bringing it back to myself and creating something interesting and trying not to hear the noise.
What did you want to bring to Daphne?
I really played with the idea of her having anxiety. It was something that connected me to her because I also have anxiety. I wanted to bring everything that was bubbling inside that she couldn’t show. She’s portraying something very different on the outside at all times from what she’s feeling inside. It’s a challenge to be able to express that in a way that obviously no one else can see. It was a lot about the inner workings of what she’s feeling and going through.
I think it’s a modern approach to the period piece. In my own experience with anxiety, it often manifests as this need to be seen as “perfect.” I related to that in Daphne.
Yeah, and I think we’re really good at hiding it. Or at least, I’m quite good at hiding it. There were a couple of moments on set where I did have to breathe. I was feeling the pressure of playing that role and being the lead. It was interesting, because I could use that real feeling and put it into the character. But, yeah, I’m glad you picked up on that because so often you see…in a lot of the Regency stuff we’ve seen in the past, we see a very composed woman. There’s not much sexuality there. It’s very much the male gaze. I wanted to make her feel modern and have sexual desires, as women do, and have a lot going on that isn’t surface level.
When Glamour interviewed Lizzy Talbot, the show’s intimacy coordinator, she talked about how important it was to have the show approach sex from a female gaze. According to her, the masturbation scene was one of the most difficult to coordinate because you didn’t have a scene partner to work with. She was impressed with your approach.
That was the hardest scene to shoot. That’s saying something, because there were a lot of difficult scenes to shoot. You feel very vulnerable in those scenes. We did the intimate scenes like stunts—we blocked them out, so you have yoga balls in between you and all sorts of things that never make you feel exposed in any way. You always feel safe. I’d rehearse with Regé so much that we both knew what we were doing. It felt very practical.
But on my own, it’s a different thing. The stage directions are very specific: You have to have an orgasm. It’s a difficult thing to rehearse, which means you don’t. You just do it. I always get back to the fact that Lizzy was on set for that scene. If we didn’t have an intimacy coordinator, it would be our director, who was a male, coming up to me and telling me what to do. That would have been awkward. I felt so safe in the knowledge that Lizzy was there, so that if something went wrong or the director wanted something different he could speak to her first. I think it would have been a very difficult experience if Lizzy hadn’t been on set protecting me and looking after me. No one wants to be told how to orgasm by a man. [Laughs.]
Tell me more about working with Regé as a scene partner. When you first met him, what was your initial reaction?
That he was the perfect Simon. He’s very polite and gentlemanly and all the things that Simon is…well, Simon’s a lot more than gentlemanly and polite. But Regé definitely had that composure of a Regency man. I saw it straight away.
I think we worked really well together, and I learned a lot from him. We have different acting styles, so we bounced off each other in that respect. We both were on the same page about the characters and what their relationship was. I loved working with him.
You said you had different acting styles. Do you have an example of a time when you were able to bounce off of each other?
I suppose when I say acting styles, I just mean that I was working from a very Daphne perspective—she’s quite open and receiving and bouncy. Simon is sort of the opposite. We gelled in the sense that we were similar in that way on set. It worked for the characters.
I learned a lot from how he works. He did a series for Shondaland before, For the People, so he very much knew how Shondaland worked and what they wanted. It was interesting to learn that style.
I know you had to do horseback riding lessons and dance lessons. Did you discover any skills you didn’t know you had?
I can dance better than I thought I could! And I’ve always said—I don’t know why—that I didn’t like horses and was scared of them. But in the audition when they asked me, “Have you ridden a horse before?” I was like, “Yeah, I’m amazing. I’ve ridden so many horses. I’d be perfect for this role!” I actually loved horseback riding by the end of it and would love to get back on a horse as soon as possible, so that was fun. I felt very much ready to enter the marriage market by the time I finished with everything,
So, aside from having Bridgerton season two to look forward to, what are your hopes career-wise after this? It’s such a huge platform that you now have.
I’m still sort of figuring that out. I’ve always just wanted to work on interesting projects. I think I’m about to do a really different role from Daphne, which is fun. Just keep challenging myself, I think. I’d love to do a play eventually, if theaters ever open again.
Is there any pressure or, I don’t know, weird feelings about doing another period piece?
I think it really is just about the the role as opposed to…I mean, I don’t know whether I’d want to do period for the rest of my life. But I wouldn’t say no if it was a great role. I don’t think period should be in the same box. I think I’m about to do a film which is technically a period drama, but it’s a completely different time [from Bridgerton]. It’s about what creatively excites me.
I know we’re at time, so I have to end on a completely silly note: When my Bridgerton fan friends found out I was interviewing you, one asked what Regé smells like.
Oh, my God. Why have so many people asked me that? He smells really, really nice. He never, ever had bad breath, and he doesn’t smoke or anything like that. We both drink a lot of coffee, so sometimes we both smell like that, which was fine. He’s unscented in a good way.
© Anna Moeslein