Plus, his winking nod to Simon's infamous spoon lick that you might have missed

If you've watched season 2 of Bridgerton — or gone anywhere near social media since it premiered last Friday, you might have noticed the hordes of people obsessing over Anthony Bridgerton's (Jonathan Bailey) very hot and undeniably sexy line of dialogue, "You are the bane of my existence and ... the object of all my desires."

He delivers it to Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), in one of their many dances of temptation and desire, as their mutual loathing gives way to crackling sexual tension.

But Bailey actually did not anticipate that line being the one to capture the hearts and minds of audiences in much the same way that season 1's "I burn for you" did.

"We thought that 'You vex me' would become a thing, actually," he tells EW. "Sometimes you hear a catchphrase. I thought it would be 'Newton!' "

Bailey says one of the pitfalls of having such an explosively successful first season was that it made filming the second season a bit of an out-of-body experience, trying to anticipate what the audience might spark to.

"The only problem with being in the second season of something like Bridgerton is you begin to think that you can hear the soundbites. It's so weird because in series one we didn't understand the aesthetic of the show. We hadn't seen it in its full glory, but suddenly, now, you see the person you're playing opposite as if they're actually on the screen. It was all a bit weird."

EW caught up with Bailey after he'd finished his evening's performance of Cock, in which he's now starring opposite Taron Egerton in the West End. We talked about how he mastered the art of looking at a love interest with exquisite yearning, what romantic moments made him bust up laughing, and the subtle nod he included to season 1's infamous spoon lick.

Bridgerton Season 2 Kate and Anthony
Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: You just know how to look at a person — the yearning, the tension, the desire in your face is out of this world. How did you master that?

JONATHAN BAILEY: Bloody hell. Anthony was an always really appealing and complicated character. He's obsessed with Kate, and he is obsessed with her because she is the end point for his life. She just completely tapped into all of his barriers, emotional barriers, his insecurities. Everything was wrapped up in the past. I just know that when you're working opposite someone like Simone, the gateway to the soul is the eyes. For Anthony, I know what sort of guy he is. For him, it's about eyes, lips, smell. Keeping it in an animal realm was always the key. And he's got a lot to understand. He's deeply curious. So I think that's where the looks come from.

People are screen-grabbing the closed captions of all the heavy breathing, and as you mentioned, Anthony definitely sniffs Kate a few times. That plays very romantic on screen, but I must imagine that there were times where you couldn't help but break out laughing at those moments?

I do remember the post dance scene in his office. After the first time they dance together at Aubrey Hall. Simone was wearing a tiara in that scene. My hair kept getting caught in her tiara but we were so determined to not break character or to break the spell. We'd sort of try and wrestle around with my quiffs pierced in her head. But that didn't really work and then the moment that happened more than once, we were obviously in hysterics. That innate sensuality between the two of them also meant that if there was anything that we're finding funny, both of us would just go from that sort of ferocious intensity to an intense hysteria. That was slightly tricky, but we worked out that nuzzling was only possible with no tiara.

The lake moment feels like Anthony's equivalent to the duke licking the spoon in terms of like a thirsty moment. You were mentioning having that little bit of an out of body experience. Having done season 1, was that something you felt hyper aware of?

All I knew is what I was really excited about within the first montage of him dating was that I managed to eat ice cream really quickly in a very pragmatic, functional way. That was my nod to the spoon lick. There's nothing that made me laugh harder than the line, "If Hastings could do it, how hard could it be?" Within the first five minutes. There was all that all the right nods, and also, in the writing was a sense of this is going to be a different ride completely. There are different ways in which you can eat ice cream.

Anthony very much begins as a traditional alpha male and his journey is really unpacking the ways that this toxic masculinity has obliterated his happiness, but how much does it mean to you as an out gay man to be the one telling that story? Do you feel like it subverts the trope even further or adds another layer of meaning?

I think it adds another layer of meaning. I love period dramas, I always have, and I've never felt that there's been a real investigation as to why these avoidant men are so disconnected. That was always the appeal. Everything else, who I am in my life, I don't think necessarily comes into it. And if it does, that's something that I haven't thought about. But I always knew from reading that second book that there was a lot in there, and the truth is that the thing that I was most clicked with is losing someone in my early twenties. That's actually the way in. It's interesting that people talk about sexuality a lot to me, that's really on the wrong foot. It's because I've experienced some grief, and that's the thing that I connected with with Anthony. My sexuality didn't come into it really because I do believe with Kate and Anthony, their romance exists because it's rooted in high stakes, and complicated overcomings. There's so much that they have to they have to try and control, and that's innately sexy. And that's to do with grief and responsibility.

That scene with Gregory where Anthony talks about their father was so beautiful. How did that come to be? And what was it like filming that for you?

Yeah, I loved it. It was particularly special because I did speak to Chris Van Dusen really early on. As soon as I read episode 3, I said to myself, it really feels like in episode 8 it would be amazing to have a conversation with Anthony and either all of his siblings or they go back to the father's grave. I thought about back to Aubrey Hall. And then I said or maybe it's to Hyacinth or Gregory. Gregory because it will show the distance in male responsibility within that family. It was brilliant because whenever there's something like that listened to it shows how collaborative it can be. Despite this being a massive juggernaut show and so many people involved. Chris Van Dusen has been the ultimate captain with his ability to sensitively draw these different characters. He's basically the ultimate conductor of this sexy orchestra. We'll miss him dearly.

We only really get Kate and Anthony happy together in those final final moments. Did you wish there was more of that or do you hope there's more going forward?

I'm with the fans and asking the same questions. I think that might be a nod to the fact that we might get to explore that side of it a bit more going forward, which would be nice.

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