It is a truth universally acknowledged that a Regency romance must be in want of glittering ballrooms, witty banter, a dashing leading man, and a piquant heroine.
Bridgerton, Netflix’s first scripted title with über-producer Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland production company — under its headline-grabbing $150 million deal — has all of this in abundance. Not to mention a diverse cast that’s a far cry from the typical lily-white hues of Jane Austen adaptations and their ilk. Oh, and the narrator is a Regency-era Gossip Girl voiced by Julie Andrews. As showrunner Chris Van Dusen puts it, “It’s not your grandmother’s period [piece].”
Based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn — beginning with The Duke and I, which offers the season 1 blueprint — Bridgerton follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), a debutante who’s thirsty for a love match. Buoyed (and slightly overprotected) by her family, including her marriage-obsessed mum, Violet (Ruth Gemmell), and her seven siblings, Daphne embarks on a fauxmance with Simon, the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). “When we first meet her, she’s this young, naive woman who’s been in this little bubble and doesn’t know anything about love or sex,” says Dynevor.
Simon, meanwhile, is hell-bent on avoiding matrimony, as part of a vengeful vow he made to his execrable father. Page drew inspiration from the classic Romantic poet Lord Byron to craft a character who is part aesthete, part brooding enigma. “You have this beautiful, shadowy, broken, thoroughly complex man, who is as glamorous as we all wish we were on the outside,” notes Page. “But [he’s] trying to figure out who he is.”