Phoebe Dynevor was—almost-but-not-quite literally—born to wear a tiara. The daughter of British soap star Sally Dynevor, whose stint on the long-running Coronation Street made her a period-piece fan-favorite, Dynevor was born with the high cheekbones and posh inflections that made her an obvious choice for Shonda Rhimes’s Regency drama Bridgerton. The choice was so obvious, in fact, that once her audition tape made the rounds, she was suddenly, after months of no contact, called into the Shondaland office in Los Angeles to meet with showrunner Chris Van Dusen and producer Betsy Beers. The chat clearly went well: Days later, Dynevor was on a plane from L.A. to London to begin six weeks of prep in the arms of Regé-Jean Page, who plays her character’s love interest Simon Basset.
But what excited Dynevor more than a spontaneous trip back to her home country was the prospect of working with Rhimes herself. “I was such a fan of Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy, and all of her characters are always super dimensional and interesting, particularly the female roles,” she says. “I knew that this was going to be a different sort of period drama in the way that the women were going to have real agency. They were going to actually be interesting and dynamic characters.”
As Bridgerton continues to dominate the Netflix charts, ELLE.com grabbed a few minutes with Dynevor to discuss the challenges of filming a period piece, her intimate scenes with Page, and what she hopes to see in Season 2.
What’s so dynamic about this show is how it reinvents the Regency era, modernizing it without de-historicizing it: the feminist attitudes, even the modern pop songs played by string instruments. With that in mind, how did you research and prepare for your role as Daphne?
I think the context of the era was still really important for Daphne’s character arc, so I wanted to get all of that right. The etiquette stuff—we had an amazing choreographer who did all the dances with us and taught us how to properly curtsy and bow and build good posture.
And we all read a lot of articles. At one point we had a group chat just for the girls where we’d share articles and books that told us what it was like to be a woman in that time. That was really important for all the women’s stories, actually, to understand how empowered they were even within the context at that time. Women were very oppressed. All these little things: how difficult it was to give birth for women, the fear behind that, how important it was for them to find a man.
So, for instance, I learned how to ride sidesaddle, which was interesting, but there’s a scene where Daphne has to jump on a horse and quite quickly get somewhere, and I really pushed for her to be riding astride as opposed to sidesaddle. I thought that wouldn’t be like her—when something quite desperate was happening, she wouldn’t be sidesaddle.