Downton Abbey may be finally the hitting the big screen this fall, but if you’re on the lookout for your next big period romance on television, look no further than the forthcoming Netflix series inspired by Julia Quinn’s best-selling historical romance series The Bridgertons.
Set to premiere on Netflix in 2020, it will mark one of television juggernaut Shonda Rhimes’ first projects with the streaming service after signing an epic eight-show deal with Netflix in 2017. It’s also a huge step forward for romance publishing’s representation in pop culture being one of the first mass-market romance novels to be adapted to the screen.
Author Julia Quinn previously told EW the issue of “prestige” is the reason it’s taken so long for so many to see romance as a viable source for adaptation. “Producers would rather do the 496th Jane Austen than something with a ‘romance novel’ label,” she said.
The Bridgertons will be an eight-episode hourlong series set in Regency London’s high society. Focusing on the Bridgerton family and their eight tight-knit siblings, the romance centers on the siblings’ attempts to navigate the perils of the cutthroat marriage market, from the glittering ballrooms of Mayfair to the aristocratic palaces of Park Lane.
The series has eight books, one for each sibling, so it’s fair to assume the television adaptation could envision that many seasons with the first season centering on book one, The Duke and I, as inspiration. What’s more, with signature Shondaland flair, the project is injecting some much-needed diversity into a genre that can often veer extremely white.
Though the series has only just now rounded out the cast and begun its first days of production, we still have a lot of questions we’re eager to have answered. But in the meanwhile, here’s everything we know about the forthcoming Bridgertons series.
The series has received a lot of buzz for being a Shonda Rhimes project, and she is producing it, but much like several of the shows under her Shondaland banner, she’s not the showrunner. That title belongs to Chris Van Dusen. Van Dusen has been a longtime member of Shondaland, writing and producing on shows including Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal since 2007. Rhimes’ longtime producing partner Betsy Beers is also producing.
The first announced director for the series is Julie Anne Robinson. Robinson is a veteran TV director having helmed episodes of everything from The Good Place and Brooklyn Nine-Nine to Scandal and Masters of Sex. She’s overseen multiple pilots that have gone to series, including The Middle and Selfie. Robinson also has cinematic chops having directed romantic films One for the Money and The Last Song, so her experiences with romance and television make her the perfect choice for this project.
Julie Freaking Andrews
The first bit of casting news to break from The Bridgertons was a doozy – Julie Andrews, 83-year-old Oscar winner and living legend for projects as varied as Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, and The Princess Diaries. Andrews is attached to voice Lady Whistledown. Lady Whistledown is somewhat of an untraditional narrator, an anonymous, mysterious sharp-tongued gossip writer who frequently uses her writings to cause upheaval in wealthy circles across London. Andrews is an actress whose voice is associated with everything from a spoonful of sugar to the hills being alive to le jazz hot to being the voice of Disneyland for its 50th anniversary. Bringing her iconic voice to the Bridgertons as a Regency Gossip Girl is a real feather in their Regency bonnet that will have us all saying xoxo, Julie.
The rest of the cast has also been announced, and it’s a veritable grab bag of beauty and talent (though the vast majority of them won’t be incredibly well-known to American audiences). Leading the series are Phoebe Dynevor (Younger) and Regé-Jean Page (For the People) as Daphne Bridgerton and Simon Basset. If the plot of the first season largely hews to the first novel, the events of the series will follow Daphne and Simon as she enters the 1813 marriage mart and finds everything upended when she meets the extremely anti-marriage Duke of Hastings, Simon.
The Bridgertons are beloved for being a big family with their noses in their siblings business, so while season 1 should predominantly be Daphne’s story, it’s just as important we meet the rest of the clan. They are: Ruth Gemmell (Penny Dreadful) as matriarch Lady Violet; Jonathan Bailey (Broadchurch) as eldest child Anthony; Luke Thompson (Dunkirk) as sensitive Benedict; Luke Newton (The Lodge) as fan-favorite charmer Colin; Claudia Jessie (Line of Duty) as independent Eloise; and Ruby Stokes (Da Vinci’s Demons) as shy Francesca. The youngest siblings, Gregory and Hyacinth, are still children when we first meet them and will be played by Will Tilston and Florence Hunt, respectively.
But this is a huge historical saga, so that’s hardly the only actors involved. The rest of the cast includes Golda Rosheuvel (Lady Macbeth), Nicola Coughlan (Derry Girls), Ruby Barker (Wolfblood), Sabrina Bartlett (Victoria), Adjoa Andoh (Doctor Who), Polly Walker (Rome), Ben Miller (Paddington 2), Bessie Carter (Howards End), Harriet Cains (Marcella), Lorraine Ashbourne (Jericho), and Martins Imhangbe (The Tragedy of King Richard the Second).
Bridgertons is aiming for a 2020 debut, and they have officially started production in England. Van Dusen has been enthusiastically sharing updates on his social media, beginning with a beautiful shot of a stately home, Hatfield House, that he described as part of their location scouting.
On July 22, Van Dusen teased the first table read of the series, sharing a photo of a script with the title Bridgerton and the words “Episode 101, Written by Chris Van Dusen.” Several days later on July 28, he shared a photo from the first day of production showcasing the clapboard for the very first take of the series. In the background of the photo, you can spot a historical locale with neo-classical architecture befitting the Regency era, as well as a man in what appears to be breeches and a brocade jacket.
As production rolls ahead, author Julia Quinn has been nothing but supportive of the project. She’s shared photos of the cast on Instagram, even finding pictures of many of them in period dress from other projects. Quinn recently revealed at an author’s event in New York City that she’s read the first few scripts and loves them (as well as noting that as an advisor on the project she is invited to comment on things she might disagree with).
Be sure to check back with EW.com as more information about this upcoming series becomes available.