Netflix's "Bridgerton": A period piece with hidden modern elements

Netflix's "Bridgerton": A period piece with hidden modern elements

Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page play the leads in the new Netflix series, "Bridgerton".
Phoebe Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page play the leads in the new Netflix series, "Bridgerton".

Ever thought how Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" would sound like as a classical piece? Watch "Bridgerton" and you'd find out the answer to that.

The new Netflix series, which premieres this Christmas day, is an arresting period piece that's peppered with hidden modern elements. Listen carefully to the music, pay attention to the fashion, there is a touch of modernity in almost everything on the show. Safe to say, this is not your typical drab-coloured Regency-set period drama.

"Bridgerton" has a very vibrant look and feel to it, as evidenced by these colourful getups.

Cinema Online recently had a chance to talk to star Regé-Jean Page, who plays Simon Basset a.k.a. the 10th Duke of Hastings, and showrunner Chris Van Dusen, whose long-time experience working on Shondaland productions shows in the way he successfully put together this series – his first as a creator and showrunner.

Calling the series an escapism, rather than a history lesson, Van Dusen made sure that while it is still set in the 19th century, like the popular Julia Quinn-penned historical romance novels it is based on, the series also carries a tone that is more modern in feeling. Its timeless and universal stories portray relatable issues that resonate with audiences, pulling them into the world of the Bridgertons.

Let's find out more about what Regé-Jean Page and Chris Van Dusen have to say about their upcoming Netflix series.

Regé-Jean Page seen here in his role as Simon Basset in "Bridgerton".

Hi Regé, since "Bridgerton" is adapted from a popular book series, were you familiar with the literature before taking on the role?

Regé: No, I was woefully ignorant. But a lot of people aren't. This is one of the highest-selling genres of books in the world. It was really interesting to get to learn what the biggest stories in society are, what people connect to, and how important romance is to everyone. How important these stories of finding your sense of identity, how important and how universal these stories are. It's a privilege to get to kinda dive into that. And I'm sure you're gonna find out an awful lot more about the centre of that storm.

Chris, how closely did you stick to the source material?

Chris: I think with any adaptation there's always gonna be differences from the source material. With this adaptation, I think that fans of the books are really gonna see all the elements they love onscreen. Most important to me was giving the dynamics of the Bridgerton family correct and really feeling the love and the spirit that the Bridgerton siblings share with each other. The way that they banter and the way that they joke around with each other.

And also, you know, the bedrock of the season is really Simon and Daphne, and this incredibly moving and sweeping romance that I wanted to honour and really capture the same essence that the book provides.

But that being said, there's new elements too in the adaptation, we added a bunch of new characters. We had Queen Charlotte for example, who really opened up the world to us. We explore love stories for other characters that aren't really necessarily a part of the books. For me it was always about a show being much more than just the Bridgertons. That it is really about a world and it is about a society.

Regé, tell us more about Simon and Daphne's magnetic chemistry. Why do you think they're made for each other?

Regé: First, I'm gonna give credit for said magnetic chemistry to its creators. I think Julia and Chris did a lot of work creating the chemistry in whatever nefarious labs they have in their homes. I'd congratulate them on that. It was our job to just come and channel that and get out of its way.

And in terms of why they're made for each other. I mean, first up, maybe they're not, we haven't seen. Will it work out? Won't it? Who knows? But if they were, I think that they're very enticed by quite how significant the other person is. I think in each of them they find the first person who is capable of standing up to them and really challenging them, because they're both often the smartest person in the room and they're not used to having someone on their level. I think that they're intrigued by the other person's strength.

You play this rogue-ish character who tries to do the right thing. Are there any similarities between you and Simon? What do you want to say to the audience through him?

Regé: I'm not entirely sure Simon's always trying to do the right thing. I think Simon may be very good at justifying his actions to himself. I think the differences between us, I like to think that I have slightly more sense of humour than Simon. I didn't crack a smile for about six months playing this character, which was challenging. And I think that we're similar that Simon has an immense stubbornness and determination to achieve what he wants.

I think what I'd like audience to receive from this character in particular is that there is a lot to be learned about how we can love each other better. Simon grows up without a sense of what love is and he has a lot of walls to be broken down before he can grow any further. He thinks he's defending himself, but all he's actually done is restrict himself. So if there's anything that I can give the audience through Simon's portrayal is that sometimes what you think is defending you is holding you back.

Lady Danbury (Adjoa Andoh) is one the few "Bridgerton" characters Simon is close to.

Regé, if you could play any other character on the show, who would it be and why? Chris, if you could play a character on the show, who would it be and why?

Regé: I wanna hear Chris's answer.

Chris: [Laughs]. I think Lady Danbury has the most fun and I feel like she's going around town with her cane and she is just, she has no filter, and you know, people are scared of her. People are terrified of her. So I would like to be able to walk around town with that kinda power for sure.

Regé: I think if I couldn't be Lady Danbury because Chris was having too good of a time in those heeled boots, then I'd probably choose Colin. I've always admired that character. I like how pure and naïve he is. I think he has one of the purest love stories in the series. I think that he gives his heart so fully and so eagerly and he's kinda taught how harshly the world can treat you when you do that. I've always liked how human that story is, it's very touching.

Chris, you got Julie Andrews to voice the mysterious Lady Whistledown. Could you share why you wanted Andrews as the narrator and how did you manage to get her to come onboard the project?

Chris: [Laughs] The short answer is I don't know how I got Julie Andrews to be honest. We never expected in a million years that we would end up with Julie Andrews as our narrator. She was at the top of our list, we offered her the part, we sent her the script. She ended up reading the script and loving the script and she said yes.

I'm just so happy and thrilled that she did because working with her has just been, it's been amazing. We did all our sessions virtually with this kind of Zoom setup and it was just so fun, she relishes in saying that she gets to say the most scathing things as Lady Whistledown and that's really one thing that I'm so excited for audiences to hear. The words coming out of Julie Andrews' mouth as Lady Whistledown.

You've worked with Shonda Rhimes from "Grey's Anatomy" to "Scandals", but was there anything different with working with her this time around?

Chris: "Bridgerton" is the first show I actually created and took the full reins on. Working with Shonda, she's been such a tremendous resource from the beginning. She really had the foresight to know that that I would connect with these books and I really did. And Shonda, she's been so on board with my vision for the show and also with my work as a showrunner and show creator. She fully supported me from the beginning.

The series isn't out yet but it's already drawing comparison to "Downton Abbey". Any thoughts on that?

Regé: [Laughs].

Chris: [Laughs]. Go on Rege.

Regé: No, that's it. That's my answer. [Laughs].

Chris: I love a good period piece. I love everything from the sets to the costumes to the world that period pieces bring to life but at the same time, they're often considered a little bit traditional, a little bit conservative. So with "Bridgerton", what I set out to do was create a period piece that I always wanted to see and what I hadn't seen before. Developing the show, we struggled to name one other show that this series was gonna be like because it really is its own thing.

Regé: If "Downton" was funnier, faster, sexier, considerably more unbuttoned and an awful lot shinier, it might be in some way like "Bridgerton".

Make "Bridgerton" your must-binge series when it starts streaming on Netflix from 25 December 2020! For more VOD titles currently showing and coming soon, visit our In Home section now!

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