The new Netflix series Bridgerton spends its first eight episodes focused on the romance between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Duke Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page), whose mutual attraction is complicated by all the rules and regulations of Regency England. But the Shondaland drama has plenty of potential for future seasons focused on other members of the Bridgerton clan, and thanks to the series of books written by Julia Quinn, eldest son Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) would potentially be next, for a season focused on his own romantic journey.
Bailey, as you’ll see below, is more than aware of how Anthony may become a central figure in a potential second season — but Anthony didn’t lack for his own romantic misadventures over the course of Season 1. In this one-on-one interview, Bailey got into the specifics of bringing Bridgerton to life, from his mutton chops to the sex scenes to making Anthony feel likable despite many of his actions over the course of the season.
Collider: Talk to me about coming to this project, because you’ve had a fair amount of serious experience before, but this feels like something relatively new.
JONATHAN BAILEY: Yeah, really new. I think the idea of signing on to a sort of very commercial show and a show that is as expansive as this, that potentially could run and run, was something that I’d been wary of before, but reading Bridgerton, it was a no brainer. Not only is Anthony just the most convoluted and brilliant and multi-faceted character, but you know, every single character is written in such a way that there’s so much to play. And Regency England is such a weirdly structured society in a world that, of course, anyone would love to dive into. Yeah, it’s a no-brainer. You want to grow your hair, grow your mutton chops, get on some britches, and ride a horse all the way through the seasons, and I’m excited to do that. Yeah.
Did you actually have your own facial hair during filming, or was that created with some help from hair and makeup?
BAILEY: Oh yeah. We started in July and I think for the first month they sort of filled it in with a bit of pencil. As a man you just think, oh no, can I grow a beard, can I do this, and a mutton chop is a really niche aspiration, but yeah, I got there. It was funny because we had a break over Christmas and actually after that, we had to then chisel them back in, and there was at one point where they were quite wonky. So they sort of act as a mood ring for Anthony. When they’re in line, he’s happy, and when they’re not, he’s sad, which is for a lot of Season 1.
Indeed. Another fun aspect of this is that there’s a proud tradition of period dramas, especially in British television, but usually, they aren’t so explicit in terms of sex. For you, what was that aspect of it like to perform?
BAILEY: Yeah, it was great. I’ve always thought that sex is a brilliant way of telling really sort of vulnerable and convoluted emotional journeys, and I think when you get a love story like his and Siena’s, the turbulence of their relationship and the push and the pull — it’s something that actually when sex is given the space to be explored, like it is in this series, you can really show how they’re feeling in the way that they intimate with each other. We had intimacy coordinators in the show, which is a relatively new thing for the industry, and that just sort of made the whole thing really, really safe, really comfortable.
Sabrina [Bartlett], I knew from years before, and as a man in this industry, you, of course, want the woman to feel completely safe, and then in turn, you then feel completely ready to tell the story. We worked really well together, really hard on making sure that there were different ways in which they had sex… There’s just so much in sexuality and there’s so…Sex is so much part of humanity and the idea that in period dramas that we’ve seen and loved before, we’re lucky if we get a kiss 10 minutes before the end. Let’s unbutton the corsets and see what’s really going on, I say.
What it’s like to have an intimacy coordinator involved?
BAILEY: I can’t imagine a time without them now. I’ve weirdly always got to show my bottom. For some reason my bum always comes out and it’s not always written in the script. But the fact that it was written in the script this time, it felt like it was a choice before I was cast, so it wasn’t something that I brought to the party.
You knew going in what you were in for?
BAILEY: Exactly. Yeah. And it was also the first day of filming as well, so it was a baptism of fire.
Knowing the books, theoretically, if they proceed to keep close to the adaptation process, Book 2 is Anthony’s story so Season 2 would be Anthony’s season. How much have you talked about that with [showrunner Chris Van Dusen]? How ready are you for that?
BAILEY: Yeah, there might’ve been conversations. I think I’m really ready — the thing that I had known from the books, obviously, is that there is a future for Anthony, and so it allowed me in Season 1 to challenge the viewer to like him, because I think the trauma that he’s experienced and the trauma of being a man in that world and not wanting any of it really, and not being emotionally equipped to deal with that level of responsibility, meant that knowing that possibly in season two might be about him, that you could really go, really far one way in order to give him as much room to grow. I know that Claudia [Jessie], in playing Eloise, and obviously, Phoebe’s story, is so intricately portrayed and it’s very quick in her season, but yeah, all the Bridgertons are going to grow up.
I just loved watching Will Tilston and Florence Hunt playing Gregory and Hyacinth, and just thinking, my gosh, there’ll be a time where there’ll be a 45-year-old Anthony walking Hyacinth down the aisle. Weirdly, it made me feel quite emotional. There’s so much to see from this family, and let’s hope everyone falls in love with them so that we can all go on that journey together.
Of course. Actually, it’s interesting, you mentioned the likability aspect because Anthony is in a lot of ways kind of an opponent to a lot of people’s happiness, and also expresses a lot of views that definitely don’t go over well in 2020.
BAILEY: Like when he talks to Colin and he goes, “Oh, I should have taken you to brothels when you were younger.” He always thinks it’s his fault. He always takes responsibility. He’s never blaming Daphne, he’s blaming himself for not being a good enough brother, which I think is quite an interesting point. And the moment that his mum turns around to him and says, “Are you the man of this house?” It basically infers that he’s a shadow of his father. He takes that on and it cuts so deep to the trauma of losing his dad, that he changes. He drops the one thing that he sort of lives for at that moment, which is his love of Siena. He’s very sort of… He’s not as robust, and I think people who cause a lot of hurt in life aren’t very robust. So it’s been really interesting to explore that from the inside. You learn a lot about yourself and what you don’t want and what you do want for yourself by playing these sorts of characters.
Just looking forward, what do you hope the future holds for Anthony as a character, even with the book as a template?
BAILEY: Well, the love that he feels for his family — I hope that he grows into a person who can communicate that in a more generous and kind and nurturing way. I want to see him smile. I don’t want to see him dance. It wouldn’t help. Yeah, it wouldn’t be a problem if he had a haircut, but I want the mutton chops just to get lower and lower until he gets a full beard. That’s my ambition for Anthony.
That’s a really wonderful goal. To wrap up, do you have a favorite moment of music from the first season?
BAILEY: Yes. 100 percent, and I’m glad you asked that. I love the soundscape and the music all the way through. I just think it’s genius, and there’s that glorious moment after Daphne and Simon introduce the Queen and they go into their wedding and suddenly you hear a different sound. It’s a very modern piece of music and it’s not classical and it’s not a cover of a modern song. It just sort of, for me, really encapsulates what falling in love is all about. That it elevates you, what music and art can do, and there’s a certain type of musicality that I think people feel when they meet their love match. I just think that’s so encapsulated in that moment.
Bridgerton Season 1 is streaming now on Netflix.
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