Queued Up: Bridgerton
Since the euphoric reception that greeted the racy Regency-era romance Bridgerton upon its Christmas Day debut in 2020, the ton have been eagerly awaiting news of the latest exploits of the aristocratic family. They will be glad to know the long wait is drawing to a close. With the scene-stealing arrival of the Sharma family, the Queen’s quest to learn Lady Whistledown’s identity, and a particularly rousing game of Pall Mall — the series’ second season promises much more delicious drama, as the Shondaland favorite follows head-of-the-family Viscount Anthony’s search to find a wife.
“He knows exactly what he’s going to look for,” explains star Jonathan Bailey, who plays the head of the Bridgerton clan. “He’s going to think about breeding. He’s going to think about the future lineage, and he’s going to make sure that love is no part of that because he’s seen how distressing and toxic losing his father was for his mother.” Of course, fate has other plans for him.
Anthony sets his sights on marrying into the Sharma family, recently returned from Bombay. He begins courting the wonderful Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran): “Edwina presents as this very demure, naïve character, and Charithra came in and she read for this part, and she nailed it,” says showrunner Chris Van Dusen. “While she plays this naïve quality, there’s also this sharpness and this shrewdness beneath her eyes.”
However charmed Edwina might be by the Viscount, his antagonistic relationship with her older sister, Kate, complicates matters. “Kate has spent her entire life looking after Edwina and has put her sister’s needs above her own, much to her own detriment,” says Van Dusen. “Anthony and Kate both consider themselves the protectors and the heads of their families — and they also very much do not believe in love for themselves. These two characters are somehow able to find those similarities within each other and draw out the best parts of each other.”
Sex Education’s Simone Ashley was cast in the role of the corgi-doting, rebellious Kate Sharma, who reluctantly finds herself drawn to Anthony. “We needed someone that had that take-no-prisoners attitude, and we needed someone strong and sharp,” Van Dusen says. “Simone is that to a t.” Because of Anthony’s pursuit of her sister, theirs is a forbidden romance. “With Anthony, it’s looks of longing, looks of, Do you feel the same way? Are you feeling what I’m feeling?” says Ashley. “I would definitely sum up the season as a lot of side-eye.”
Serving as host to the Sharmas and attempting to guide Edwina to a successful match is Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh), who finds herself with her hands full. “Kate’s the eldest in the family, so then to stay at Danbury’s house, she is a guest there, and she can’t always have her own way,” says Ashley. “She fights back with Lady Danbury quite a lot, but she also really respects her and listens to her. She meets her match in that way.”
Golda Rosheuvel returns as the perfectly coiffed Queen, who has decided to unmask her rival Lady Whistledown (though viewers learned the character’s real identity at the end of the Season 1): “At the beginning of the season, I think the Queen misses her a little bit,” Roshuvel says. “I think if she wasn’t her rival, they’d be mates. There’s that kind of girl power thing going on. There’s some lovely fizzle.” Adds Nicola Coughlan, who plays Lady Whistledown, err, Penelope Featherington: “I think it was the smartest thing to let the audience in on the secret super early on because it’s going to be so much fun for them watching Penelope now, knowing that she’s sneaking around and what she’s gathering.”
Fans of the novels will be giddy to learn that the Bridgerton family’s annual game of Pall Mall — which Bailey describes as “basically croquet with a bit of Quidditch at the end” — makes a welcome appearance this season. But it’s more than fun and games out in the garden; according to Ashley, romance blossoms, too: “That’s when they find these moments of laughter and common cause,” she says. “It’s annoying when there’s someone like, Oh, I actually really don’t like you, but then you’re making me laugh and loosen up, and they’re forced to let go of all of that [animosity].”
What would Bridgerton be without its elegant balls? Along with Anthony, young intellectual Eloise (Claudia Jessie) has grudgingly entered the marriage mart. Despite her character’s feelings about it all, Jessie has been having, well, a ball wearing the glamorous costumes. “There was one dress that I put on and I cried because it was the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen in my life and I got to wear it,” she says. Performing the elaborate choreography was also joyful. “All the cast members are a bit obsessed with the dancers,” Jessie says. “We think they’re the coolest people in the world.”
Bridgerton’s second season is an entirely new adventure, with a surfeit of extravagant balls, dinner parties, and promenades along the river — and naturally some dangerous liaisons. “The team of writers that we have and the creative team at Shondaland have been able to inject new and exciting stuff into the show,” Jessie says. “There’ll be twists and turns that weren’t cemented into the novels, but that’s what makes it so exciting.”