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"Season 2 will just be all forearms."

By Maureen Lee Lenker
February 03, 2021 at 08:00 AM EST
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Jonathan Bailey knows what romance lovers want from more Bridgerton.

"Season 2 will just be all forearms," he quips, after being informed of the internet's predilection for a still of him as eldest son, Viscount Anthony Bridgerton, poring over a desk full of paperwork with his sleeves rolled up and his forearms exposed. "I'll just draw a little smiley face there," he adds, pointing to his arm.

But in all seriousness, the audience does want more, well, everything when it comes to Bridgerton. More romance, more steamy moments, more thirst traps, and more pointed commentary on gender roles and class as the Bridgerton siblings navigate the perils of Regency London's marriage market.

The show, which is now officially Netflix's biggest series ever, is ready to deliver, earning a second season order and poised to head back into production this spring. Following the pattern of the Julia Quinn novels that inspired it, the sophomore season will center on Bailey's controlling, curmudgeonly Anthony.

So, we called him up in between his practicing his croquet form and re-growing his impressive sideburns, to get the Regency tea on everything from the cast's reaction to the show's enormous success to what we can expect going forward.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What was your and the cast's reaction to being Netflix's most-viewed original debut ever?

JONATHAN BAILEY: It's been completely wild, to say the least. It being released at a time that it has — the show is an escapist treat [and] a romantic interlude for anyone at any point — but coming at the end of 2020 was amazing. We've all been in lockdown, keeping contact, speaking with all the bros and sisters Bridgerton and it just got weirder and weirder as the weeks went on. To see that announcement was a delicious Regency cherry on a Regency cake. We're desperate for the world to start opening up again so that we can get a sense of real people who have actually seen it, and not just seeing it all online. But we're going to go straight into prepping season 2. We're all really excited for that momentum going in.

I think a lot of romance readers have always known a show like this had potential to explode the way Bridgerton has if the genre would just be taken seriously, but how has the cast taken the response? Are you all a bit astonished?

They were brilliant scripts. That was my introduction to the Julia Quinn world. Of course, I've grown up with the idea of romance as a genre. As you're saying, it's never been a genre that's been given the respect and the international platform that Bridgerton has. My understanding of romance novels was that it was on the beach with a glass of rosé. But it makes sense. Sexuality, intimacy, and identity is everything. Especially in the last year. So of course, we're going to celebrate it. Seeing it through the lens of a whole family as well, there's going to be so many different ways in which people can love and have sex and commit to people or not. It's a family; it's timeless; it just makes perfect sense. We didn't realize maybe how robust a world it was going to be because filming these TV series you're such a small cog in such a massive machine. This was so visual and the creative elements that all came together — the costume design, the hair, the set design, the music production, the amazing stuff they've done with visual effects to recreate this heightened London. We didn't really know. But when we saw it, it's mad.

Seeing behind-the-scenes, it seems like that familial atmosphere came very naturally to all of you. Was that the case? Or was it something that grew over the process?

I think it came too naturally. It was like a Christmas cracker game in that, depending on the different sequence of actors in one room at a time, you'd either get mass hysteria or you'd get line fluffing. It was just brilliant. That's a testament to Shondaland who cast everyone off self-tapes. That creative instinct that they work through and they encourage everyone to go on is really empowering. It meant that we were all on the same level as soon as we met. Also, a lot of the actors are from theater backgrounds in London, so there's a real understanding of each other's work beforehand. People like Adjoa [Andoh] and Golda [Rosheuvel], who play Lady Danbury and the Queen, I've done a lot workshops with. Luke Thompson [Benedict] and I have done theater together before. There's a real sense of tribe.

Yes, I saw the National Theater did an Instagram post of all you in their productions.

We had this TV show in the U.K. when I was a child called The Biz, [and] there was loads of really cool creative characters all together in this fictional school. The National is the leading theater in the U.K. because it's three big theater spaces in one big building. At any moment you're there, you just know that you're working with people that you're going to be seeing for hopefully the rest of your career. [Bridgerton] felt very much like The Biz and seeing those photos together, you realized how interlinked we all are and the English acting community is.

Your costar Regé-Jean Page broke the internet with a spoon-licking scene. Are you already plotting how best to one-up him?

I hope I get the fork and not the knife. [Laughs] I feel sorry for whoever's doing season 3 who gets the knife. I mean, who knows? This is what's brilliant about Bridgerton and what's been such a surprise. There's just so many characters, every single character is so detailed, and when it comes to family and that sort of playfulness, you're welcoming the fans into the family, [and] everyone's going to grow together. Hopefully, [creator Chris Van Dusen] will be able to go on to do a season per sibling. We start with a spoon, how are we going to up the ante? What's it going to be like when we get to poor Gregory?

Have you read The Viscount Who Loved Me yet?

It was the first one I read. I read it on the way back from having met Shondaland. They sent me three scripts, I read those, and then I dived into The Viscount Who Loved Me. Who knows what's going to happen, but the relationship that's written in the book is one that I really related to. Kate Sheffield is a really brilliant character. You love your characters and you want them to meet brilliant people along the way, and I hope Anthony gets to meet someone like Kate Sheffield.

bridgerton
Credit: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

How do you feel knowing you're about to come centerstage here — nervous, excited, all of that?

I'm excited. Because the world is so detailed. I'd seen lots of Shondaland shows, and their ability to really stitch in real humanity into a world [buoys me]. And there's nothing more finished than a Netflix show. It's so elevated and heightened and escapist and extraordinary. With that in mind, it's not scary then, stepping into your season as a Bridgerton because everyone around you is going to be doing amazing stuff. All the little storylines, all the little flavors are great. The excitement genuinely is to see the character development and to be able to play around with that. The fear was probably there at the beginning of season 1. We really are a family and knowing where everyone's going to end up, we're all in it together. It's a real ensemble piece. And I might say that now but on day one, my top hat might just be like [makes sliding off head motion]. Maybe I'll lose my nerve, but we'll see.

Those that discovered you from Bridgerton might not realize you have a lovely singing voice and won an Olivier Award for your work in Company. Might we get to see Anthony sing?

Colin got there first, didn't he? I feel like it's probably very out of character for Anthony to break into song. I feel like he might play the flute or something, like a really weird European cinema moment where it gets really odd and he serenades his love in music. You never know with Bridgerton. Chris is really brilliant at taking what Julia Quinn has created. And then with what we bring to the party, I think he's going to really tailor the narratives we all love and know as fans of the books around skill sets. So, maybe a backflip or something?

Anthony ended season 1 heartbroken, which is a bit different than we find him on the page in the second book, so how might Siena complicate things? Are you already starting to think about that?

I am. I've had really lovely conversations with Chris. I just like to have an idea of what the emotional journey will be. But it all really made sense to me, Anthony, from the get-go. It's funny when some friends watched it, and they're like, "Oh God, he's really obnoxious and horrible." And it was a bit of a surprise. I mean, of course, he is. And the best way to play characters is to not comment on them or judge them. That's where you get the best performances. And I have a lot to say about patriarchy and male lineage, and that's definitely in the performance. But from my experience of playing him, I really understood where he was coming from. So, the heartbreak is really important because love comes from a place of despair sometimes. It can. Not always, but I feel like a very common experience amongst my peer group is to think, "This is not the right person for me. I'm not right. I'm defunct; love isn't right for me."

To get Anthony to a place that's similar to that to think that he isn't good enough. He can't look after himself, let alone a lady. He was trying his best to do right by everyone, particularly by his dead father, who is a big shadow and cloud over the whole family but particularly Anthony. It's a really good place to be able to mine that idea. Anthony represents something very particular. Because if he was just a rake flaunting around there...it just seemed to me that there was a real opportunity to show something that was a bit more commenting on masculinity. And despair and love and the line between the two. When you get someone to the breaking point, that's really when someone hopefully can come into their life and they can flower.

Can you tell us anything about Kate Sheffield?

I can talk about her in the books. All I can say is I hope that he meets someone who is as opinionated and offended by Anthony as we all are. She hopefully will be the voice of the audience and then they'll work something out together.

BRIDGERTON
Credit: NICK BRIGGS/NETFLIX

Have you been brushing up on your croquet, or pall mall as they refer to it in a fan-favorite scene in book 2?

I've brought my lucky mallet, so I've been working on that. [Laughs] I'm looking forward to getting back on a horse. The prep is started. I'm honing in and starting to think about things and there's been some great conversations, and there'll be some physical stuff to prepare for as well.

You grew your own Regency sideburns for season 1. How long do you have start in advance for season 2?

I had a bit of a false start. Because I had a meeting with the make-up designer, and I was like, "Right, we'll just go from now." And then weirdly, I don't know what was happening this year, maybe I'm slightly more virile, but my beard had grown quite quickly. So I've gone back and I think what I'll do is I'll shave every week. Then when we've got a definite filming start date, I'll be able to commit. But who knows where I'll end up this year? Every season may be different. Maybe it's a big mustache or goatee?

What else can you tease about what audiences can expect from season 2?

They can just expect a lot from everyone. It was such an amazing introduction to the world via Daphne and Simon. But there's so many brilliant characters that have got so much going on, so my tease would be enjoy your year and don't get comfy and thinking you know what's going to happen. We'll all be back for more romance, hopefully next Christmas, maybe further away.

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