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Shonda Rhimes interview on ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3: ‘There is some steam obviously’


After Bridgerton’s chaste-ish Season 2, which told the love story of Viscount Bridgerton, Anthony (played by Jonathan Bailey) and fiery Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), will Season 3 be as steamy as season one? This is the question plaguing fans of the Regency-era romance ahead of the four-episode drop of Season 3 on May 16.

“I don’t compare the seasons in that way and don’t think of Season 2 as chaste,” says Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the historical romance. “It was the story that was told. We’re doing these stories based on Julia Quinn’s eight Bridgerton novels and the romances are quite different.”

Speaking over a call from the New York area, Shonda says, “Everyone’s life is not the same. The story of the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) in the first season was about virginity and sexuality and discovering all of those things. Season 2 was different and Season 3 has its own flavour as well. There’s some steam obviously (phew!), but it is based on the story.”

In focus

The couple in focus in Season 3 is Penelope (played by Nicola Coughlan, one of the three daughters of Baroness Portia Featherington) and Colin (the third Bridgerton son, played by Luke Newton). “In prior seasons, we were always introducing someone new. This time we already know the two people who are going to become a romantic couple. It is interesting to watch people who grew up on the show find each other.”

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in  ‘Bridgerton’

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton’

The clothes in Bridgerton contribute to its gorgeousness quotient. “I don’t necessarily oversee the costumes,” says the 54-year-old writer-producer of hit shows including Grey’s Anatomy and Inventing Anna. “That’s my producing partner, Betsy Beers’ love and joy.”

Season 3 of Bridgerton sees the team push the envelope, says Shonda. “We have tried new things and some of it turned out extraordinary. I love that every costume that you see on every background player everywhere, is bespoke, it has been made for them. The detail and colour are incredible.”

Representation matters

The racially integrated Regency period of Bridgerton featuring people of colour holding positions of power was a conscious decision, says Shonda. “We created this world. We made a rule that I don’t write or am part of shows that I am not represented in. We made a world based on the idea that Queen Charlotte (Golda Rosheuvel) was a woman of colour.”

Setting pop anthems to classical music in Bridgerton was a genius move. “It’s been great to do that. We wanted to stay true to a classical feeling and also find ways to give the show a modern edge. That’s been going on since the very first season.” It has been powerful, Shonda says, because it is music we can relate to. “It also sounds different with an entirely new musical story behind it, which is wonderful.”

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes attends the ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 global premiere at Alice Tully Hall

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes attends the ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 global premiere at Alice Tully Hall
| Photo Credit:
Andy Kropa

Classic pop

Since it had an Indian flavour, Season 2 had the title song from Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham…. “That is also a story that Betsy is going to have to tell you. I work on the story and editing and Betsy works on the music and costumes. I don’t know how we settled on that particular song, but I do know that once we got it in the show, it was perfect.”

Even though Quinn’s novels are romances, Shonda says they felt literary. “The novels had compelling characters. I could see myself in the characters and that helps in universal storytelling. I wanted to be in that world. We don’t make shows that we don’t want to watch. We make everything because we’re obsessed with it. I was obsessed with the world of Bridgerton and that’s how it began.”

Century not out

Shonda is the first woman to create three shows (Grey’s Anatomy, Private Practice and Scandal) that crossed the 100-episode mark. “Honestly, you don’t know that a show is going to be a 100-episode one until you’re at 100 episodes or 300 or 400 episodes. For me, it’s just about being passionate about the writing. If I’m excited about a story then that’s what I want to do. I learned very early with Grey’s that a show you think will maybe go a season or two, could go on for a very long time. So you better be ready to commit.”

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in ‘Bridgerton’

Hugh Sachs as Brimsley, Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Agatha Danbury in ‘Bridgerton’

While we have had to wait for two long years for season 3 of Bridgerton, we got a little fix of a bodice ripper with Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story in 2023. Shonda, the creator and writer of the show, says, “In Bridgerton, Charlotte is this powerful woman who is running this world that she’s in the midst of, with a sad, personal story. I wanted to tell the story of how she came to be Queen Charlotte, how she fell in love with King George and what that marriage has been like, what that spark had been. I enjoyed watching her evolve.”

Powerful and tragic

Shonda says she also wanted to understand Lady Danbury, played by Adjoa Andoh. “You get a clear picture of who Lady Danbury is when you watch Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story. Now you are coming to Season 3 with this very different knowledge of these two women and it shapes how you look at the season and those characters now.”

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes arrives for Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 premiere at Alice Tully Hall on May 13, 2024, in New York City

Executive producer Shonda Rhimes arrives for Netflix’s ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3 premiere at Alice Tully Hall on May 13, 2024, in New York City
| Photo Credit:
ANDREA RENAULT

Mental illness is dealt with poignantly in Queen Charlotte. “We are telling the story of Queen Charlotte and King George and you can’t tell that story without speaking of King George’s illness and finding a way to discuss it. I know he’s been called Mad King George and people make fun of him. I believe in stepping into the shoes of the characters and talking about them in three-dimensional ways and that was the goal with Queen Charlotte.”

Penelope’s journey

Shonda has a favorite moment in season 3. “It is a spoiler that I’m not supposed to say (laughs). Watching Penelope going through this journey is fascinating. Nicola’s work as that character is incredible. Watching that character come into her own and develop into who she is, is beautiful. Her storyline is one of my favorites.”

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton’

Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in ‘Bridgerton’

“We were fortunate with casting,” says Shonda. “We looked at a lot of people during the casting. We didn’t have a problem putting these characters together. We had an embarrassment of riches, so many actors to choose from. Each one of these actors was picked because they were exactly right for the part.”

It is different

Having worked in network television and streaming, Shonda says she does not have a preference between binge or single-episode drops. “I’ve done both. When I was writing for network television, I was writing for single-episode drops. When I am writing for streaming I’m not. It’s just a different way of looking at how you tell a story.”

When you are writing single episode television, Shonda says, the goal is to get the audience to return the next week. “In the binge model you’re trying to tell a full story divided into episodes, but you don’t have to worry about the audience returning for the next episode. The goal is to get people involved and tell a full story that maybe only culminates in that last episode.”

Apart from being the person behind ginormously successful shows, Shonda is also the author of the bestselling memoir, Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand In the Sun and Be Your Own Person, which came out in 2015. On whether a follow-up is on the cards, Shonda laughs, saying, “I’m considering that, now that we’re coming up on the 10th anniversary.”

Part One of Season 3 of Bridgerton drops on Netflix on May 16, with Part Two dropping on June 13



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