Bridgerton, Netflix’s smash romance series set in Regency era London, arrives with a new season on March 25, pivoting from the hot and heavy romance of Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Bassett to the tense, sensual story of elder brother Anthony Bridgerton and Kate Sharma. Ahead of the premiere, LA Confidential talked with creator and showrunner Chris Van Dusen about the new season and how all the new drama continues to capture whirlwind, rollercoaster romances through vibrancy, vulnerability and, of course, trademark color palettes.
For the first season, what was it like for you to see Bridgerton smash viewership records?
It was incredible. I don't think I ever anticipated that level of response to the show. I never could have expected it but it was amazing when I saw all the tweets and then there was this Bridgerton TikTok musical that was happening. The show broke all these records. It’s the number one English-language speaking Netflix series, the biggest of all time. It's incredible. I couldn't be more proud of the show and this cast and this crew.
Bridgerton takes place centuries ago. How do you ensure it still feels fresh and relatable and how does that translate to set design and the show's overall aesthetic, particularly for season two?
Everything on the show is told through a really unique, modern lens. I think that's true for pretty much everything on the show. It's certainly true for the way we cast the show with our actors. It’s a multiethnic, very colorful world. You can feel it in the tone of the show. It's very spirited and daring and people talk really fast and the banter is sharp and witty. It's very sensual and we're not afraid to push the envelope.
I remember, very early on, pitching the look I wanted to capture to Shondaland and Netflix. And I wanted this to be a really fresh world, and I wanted there to be a sense of swagger and style. And I use those exact words on the very first page of the script, I think in the very first scene of the series, as we're coming down into Grosvenor Square and we're immersing ourselves into this beautiful world. It's meant to be full of light and joyful in feeling and be a bit youthful and crisp and fun. There's a vibrancy in the world that I wanted to capture in the set design and the overall aesthetic that I established in Season 1, and it certainly carries over into Season 2 as well.
Given that vibrancy, how do you balance that with the show’s drama and sultriness?
It's no secret that this show is inspired by really delicious romance novels and that was something that I was excited to look into and make the experience of watching the show not be so different than the experience of reading one of those books. In the sense of the show feeling sexy and dangerous and fun and it being a wild ride at times, I think that all these elements of the show from, again, the casting to the way the show is edited to our production design, the wallpaper that you see on the walls— everything is rooted in the Regency period, but the volume is turned up because the show is for a modern audience and I wanted a modern audience to relate to it.
I wanted modern audiences to be tracking down the wallpaper they see in Daphne’s bedroom or the Duke’s bedroom and want to live in this world. I feel like it's a completely immersive experience watching the show. And I remember one of the things I talked about early on was the sense of bringing the outside in and I wanted this beautiful sense of nature to be apparent in the production design. I really wanted Bridgerton to look like the most gorgeous, rich, aspirational English garden that anybody's ever seen. I think that's because I'm a bit of an Anglophile at heart and I've been obsessed with English gardens for a really long time.
Last season, you talked about the Althorp estate being a source of inspiration. Were there any other historical states or buildings or landscapes that you pulled from for Season 2?
I was in London for the entire filming of Season 1 and for Season 2, and so immersing myself into that beautiful world, I actually made a point to go to the modern day Grosvenor Square today and write the show. There was so much inspiration that was apparent everywhere I looked. It was so, so beautiful. I think about the color palettes of the show and the thing about Bridgerton is that the palette changes depending on what part of the world that you're in. So for the Bridgertons, that color palette really came from my own personal tastes. I took what was really around me in my home in Los Angeles, and it's all steely blues and these gorgeous, creamy whites, and I find that authentic, so pleasing and beautiful and calming, so I knew that's what I wanted for the Bridgertons.
On the other hand, for the Featheringtons, I knew I had to do the opposite. So they're a bit more ostentatious, they're a little more gaudy and there's a sense of them trying a little too hard at everything they do and that completely goes for what they wear and how they decorate their home. Our production designer, Will Hughes-Jones, he presented me with this Featherington color palette of oranges and greens— colors that were much louder and bolder.
Everything in the Featherington world is a bit discordant. You see that contrast between the two families, and that was important from a storytelling perspective. You also know when you're in the queen’s world. The queen’s world is very much a palette of regal deep reds and golds and colors you don't really see anywhere outside the palace… I wanted whoever's watching to know what part of the world they were in depending on the color palette they were seeing on screen.
Kate Sharma, played by the amazing Simone Ashley, I feel like her color is this beautifully rich purple color. It's gorgeous and she looks amazing in it. And Lady Danbury’s house,which you see a lot of in Season 2, it’s pinks and greens and decidedly more feminine. That was so interesting to add that feminine layer and complexity to Lady Danbury because it relates to her character as well. And again, it goes back to always asking the question of, “What story are we telling,” and we try to tell the same story in all of the elements of the show.
Speaking of Simone Ashley, why does she make for the perfect romantic lead this season?
Simone is incredible. I had seen her in Sex Education early on and and I knew that I wanted her as our Kate, and we went after her and it was a complete match made in heaven. She has done such an incredible job bringing Kate Sharma to life. I needed an actress that could really portray a fierceness. Kate has this take-no-prisoners side of her, but in addition to that ferocity and that kind of steeliness and that hardness, I needed an actress that could be vulnerable as well and give that softer side and that’s Simone Ashley. She brought so many distinct levels to that character.You root for her and you want her to put Anthony in his place, yet you also want her to fall in love at the end of the day, and I think that's really a testament to Simone’s performance.
Why is now the right time for, as you deemed it on Twitter, the Kanthony era? It of course has all the expected drama and romance, but it also takes more of a dive into death and grief.
The main theme of Season 2, I would say, is head versus heart or duty versus love, and which one wins? For me personally, I've always been interested in looking at the kinds of pressures of things like duty and honor placed on a person and how that affects this constant pull between one's head and one's heart. When I started developing the series myself, I had just become a father and it was incredible how much my life shifted almost instantaneously, in terms of my priorities changing and my thinking changing. My entire perspective was different. I think that that definitely found its way into Bridgerton when I started writing it because there was this sense of familial duty that I was grappling with.
I think it's very much something that Anthony Bridgerton is grappling with and also Kate Sharma too. These two characters feel this responsibility to their family and they're struggling with it and they're struggling with whether they want to follow one’s head— which is the choice of looking after the family, being responsible for this family, honoring your duty— or their heart, which is what they really, truly feel for each other.
You’ve said enemies-to-lovers is one of your favorite tropes. Why is that?
There's so much conflict that's inherent in that trope. Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley are so good at the banter, and they're so good at the longing. They're so good at this frustration that they feel. It’s so apparent and it's palpable, and you just know that the payoff when we get there on the show is going to be well worth it. Their chemistry is just out of this world.
Do you have a favorite song featured in Season 2? Robyn’s “Dancing on My Own” felt particularly outstanding.
That's my favorite. I love that song. Personally, I'm a big fan of that song. It's one of my favorite songs and Robyn is one of my favorite artists. And that cover plays underneath an amazing scene and what I think is really this transcendent moment between Kate and Anthony. The song is beautiful and painful at the same time and that's exactly what's happening with our characters in that moment. It's the kind of song that makes you lean into your television screen or whatever screen you're watching the show on. It's angsty and it’s bittersweet and it's really moving.
What are you most proud of about Bridgerton Season Two?
I'm really proud of the fact that we were able to continue with the multicultural, multi ethnic world that we established in Season 1. I changed the Sheffield family of the books to the Sharma family in the series. I've said it many times before, but Bridgerton is not a colorblind show. Race and color are very much a part of the world and Bridgerton wouldn't be Bridgerton without the colorful world that the show is set in. I'm really proud that we were able to find a way to honor the heritage of the Sharma family throughout the season and continue to expand the world in a way that allows audiences, no matter who you are, to be able to relate to be able to see yourself reflected on screen.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Bridgerton Season 2 arrives on Netflix on March 25.
Photography by: Liam Daniel/Netflix