Back to Bridgerton

Back to Bridgerton

May 16, 2024


As the third season of Bridgerton arrives on Netflix, DQ hears from executive producer Shonda Rhimes, showrunner Jess Brownell and author Julia Quinn about returning to Regency London for a new social season.

After a two-year wait – punctuated by a prequel series – Netflix is taking viewers back to Regency London for the third season of Bridgerton, which arrives on the streamer today.

Once again inspired by Julia Quinn’s romance novels, the show continues its tradition of focusing on a new pair of potential lovers, this time pushing Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton’s Colin Bridgerton into the spotlight.

The new season picks up from the events of S2. Penelope has finally given up on her long-held crush on Colin after hearing his disparaging words about her, but she has decided it is time to take a husband – preferably one who will allow her to continue to lead a double life as Lady Whistledown, the author of a scandalous society newsletter.

Meanwhile, Colin returns from his summer travels and is disheartened to realise Penelope is giving him the cold shoulder. Eager to win back her friendship, he offers to mentor her and help her find a husband, but are his feelings for her purely platonic?

Complicating matters further is Penelope’s rift with Eloise (Claudia Jessie), while her growing presence on the social circuit is making it more difficult to keep her alter ego a secret.

Bridgerton S3 focuses on Luke Newton’s Colin Bridgerton and Nicola Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington

Produced by Shonda Rhimes’ Shondaland, Bridgerton has a new showrunner this year in Jess Brownell, an ever-present writer on the series, while the story takes its lead from Quinn’s novel Romancing Mister Bridgerton.

In their third season, “sometimes shows fall into a slump,” Brownell said at a Bridgerton preview event earlier this year. “We’re quite lucky that because we have a different couple we focus on every year, it means the show is naturally reinventing itself. We didn’t worry about it too much.

“I did want to make sure we were constantly raising the bar on the visuals, because I know people have come to expect that. Everyone from the writing staff to the hair and make-up team, our costume teams, VFX, they are bringing it this season and the show is even brighter and more spectacular than ever.”

Brownell was joined by executive producer Rhimes, Quinn and cast members including Coughlan, Newton, Golda Rosheuvel (Queen Charlotte) and Adjoa Andoh (Lady Danbury) to discuss the new season, adapting Quinn’s novel and how 2023 prequel Queen Charlotte has added depth to the main series.

Shonda Rhimes

This season, fans will already be familiar with the two characters falling in love.
Rhimes: Usually we’re meeting a new person who’s fallen in love with one of our regulars. This time we know the people who are falling in love.

Brownell: Colin and Penelope are underdogs in many ways. You have Penelope, who’s the perennial wallflower, and you have Colin, who’s the third [Bridgerton] son who hasn’t quite found himself. You get to see these characters tap into their powers this year. Maybe a lot of people who have ever had an unrequited crush or feel like an underdog will feel very seen.

Romancing Mister Bridgerton was the most challenging book for Quinn to plot.
Quinn: This was because [it focuses on] two characters who were so well established. Usually, when you bring in a second [character], you think, ‘I can make this person whatever I need for this story.’ But I already had these two people who are set. That’s why it worked so well to do a friends-to-lovers story, and I feel excited for that. I feel like we don’t see that quite so much on television.

Jess Brownell

Brownell and Rhimes have worked together for 15 years, with Brownell having written on other Shondland series including Scandal and Inventing Anna. But stepping up as Bridgerton showrunner was “terrifying.”
Brownell: It was a big responsibility but also a huge privilege. The fact so many people love the show is really rewarding, and I’m surrounded by incredible support from Shonda and everyone at Shondaland. I have been on the show from the beginning and I really believe in the vision Shonda and Chris [Van Dusen, series creator] had for the show.
I’m not changing anything too drastically. That being said, every season, because we focus on a different couple, there’s a slightly different tone. Friends-to-lovers allows a little bit more familiarity, a little bit more cosiness, and it allows us to lean into classic romcom tropes. We’re playing with those tropes, we’re turning them on their heads in some cases – and there’s a lot of awkward banter that I personally love writing.

The cast describe the new season as intimate, romantic, unpredictable and mischievous, and the existing relationship between Penelope and Colin gave Coughlan and Newton a good place from which to start.
Newton: It was really fun to play the romantic leads this year because you’ve seen these characters through three years, so you see us play different versions of Colin and Pen from season one.

Coughlan: It feels so different. It’s weird for us because the last thing the fans have really seen is season two, and it feels like a really different show. It’s interesting because we get these glow-ups aesthetically, but then you realise they’re still these big nerds underneath.

Golda Rosheuvel returns as Queen Charlotte

Queen Charlotte provided viewers with some backstory for Rosheuvel’s Charlotte and Andoh’s Lady Danbury, not least their relationship with each other.
Andoh: For Agatha, what’s been lovely for season three is once you know a little bit of her history, you get an understanding of why she’s so invested in the Bridgerton family. I find it incredibly touching to look at this woman and understand the depth of her relationships with Golda’s Queen Charlotte, who we met [in the prequel] as young women embarking on this journey in this new world.
You see in those early stages of these younger women the way they have to navigate this new arena, the way they have to protect themselves, how they strategise, how they form alliances, who they avoid, who they lean towards. When you see Lady Danbury as an older woman operating at the top, you understand why she’s an operator, because how do you survive in this frankly hostile environment if you don’t understand the navigations that must be made? I felt like Queen Charlotte just enriched Lady Danbury when we came into season three.

Rosheuvel: What is really beautiful and what I carry in my heart is that the fans have now caught up. Adjoa and I, when we first started Bridgerton, we did all the work, we did all the research. I knew about my [character’s] children, but the audience didn’t. Shonda wrote those kids so beautifully and so complexly that now the audience understands Charlotte as a family woman. That feels like a beautiful support going into Bridgerton number three. The fans are with us and they’re rooting for us. They understand us. They understand the complexities of the relationships that have been formed and they have seen in Queen Charlotte.

The Netflix show is produced by Rhimes’ proco Shondaland

Bringing Quinn’s novels to Netflix was the “biggest swing” Rhimes has ever taken on a show.
: Oddly, I’ve done a lot of shows but this was the biggest swing I’ve ever tried to make with a show. To read some books, fall in love with them and then try to do them justice by bringing them to the screen was a big deal for me because I really wanted to get it right. I didn’t know how it was going to be taken. I wanted to see these love stories on screen, but I wasn’t sure anybody else did. It was great to have the audience be there and be excited by it.

And Brownell credits the source material as the foundation for the show’s mix of romance and intrigue.
Brownell: Julia’s a master of big, emotional swings that really land, so we look to that. Something I really learned from Shonda is not just to write what should happen but write what you want to see, what you’re excited about. We spent the first day in the [writers] room blue-skying and talking about what images, what events, what scenes from the book we wanted to see and letting that guide us. Love, friendship, romance and family are things that naturally have a lot of weight in our lives but they don’t always get the proper weight on television. It’s just giving them their space to breathe.

Rhimes says season three of Bridgerton “is for the wallflowers.”
Rhimes: There’s a line Lady Danbury says in Queen Charlotte when she says we are untold stories. This season leans into the idea of telling those untold stories. You get to see a little bit of what’s going on emotionally with the more adult ladies in the show, and that’s very exciting. It brings everybody into this world even more.

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