The success of Netflix’s brand new period drama Bridgerton cannot be overstated, with the streaming service finding a clear hunger for classic love stories amid the flurry of fast-paced action-centric TV series.
Telling the story of the powerful Bridgerton family, comprising eight close-knit siblings, including protagonist Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the glamorous series highlights the lavish and socially competitive world of Regency London. Unveiling a seductive life of ballroom dances and thorny power struggles, Bridgerton has thrived thanks to its compelling characters, alluring story and impeccable costumes.
Based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling series of novels, the Netflix series, created by Chris Van Dusen, has become a staple series for the streaming service that has recently reported to be struggling to maintain its subscriber base. Recording 627.11 million hours of the show viewed from across the globe, the newly-released second series of Bridgerton has subsequently become the most-watched English-language show ever made by Netflix.
With the period drama helping to keep Netflix afloat, as well as entertaining audiences across the world, we sat down with Bridgerton star Rupert Young, who plays Lord Jack Featherington in the brand new series, to discuss everything from costumes to manor houses to horses.
Far Out: So, how was your experience shooting the brand new series of Bridgerton?
Young: “It was great. It took me a while to kind of get my head around the fact that I was in the show that I had just been watching. It was a very bizarre experience but it was such a lovely group of people and actually really fun to film. It just never really felt like work, it was just a really relaxed, happy environment because you’re looked after and you’re working with the best people, so you just feel very safe”.
It looked like a pretty fun one to work on, particularly being on set of the locations themselves…
“A lot of what you see is actually built which is just insane, but then we also filmed in Hampton Court which is incredible, and all these stately homes all around England. It was just amazing. When you’re dressed up, and you’re surrounded by hundreds of people in Regency clothing, and you’re at these amazing houses, there’s something so phenomenal about that”.
Having not been a part of the first series, did you find it quite easy to slip into the cast of the second season?
“I did. There’s always the fear, because, having been on a long-running show before and knowing how it must feel for people to come in, being the new kid is kind of daunting. I was lucky to have lots of makeup tests and costume fittings before my first day, so I ran into a few of the cast members, and then I think the first time seeing people was on a zoom read through, I’d just been cast and I remember I just had my first makeup test, and initially my hair was much bigger, I had huge sideburns and I just looked like the ‘keen kid’. But everyone was so welcoming and it was very quick to feel like I was part of the furniture, and also joining a family; the Featherington family”.
Did you have a particularly favourite scene that you were a part of?
“The grand balls were really fun. I didn’t have to dance in them which was quite nice, so I got to stand on the side, and because you have all the cast together and you didn’t have to say too much, I’d just watch these amazing musicians and dancers. Those were always such a joy and there’s not the pressure of having to say too much on those days you go, you just sit in the background drinking pretend champagne. So they were always the most fun to be a part of. As for some of my other scenes, all my scenes with Polly in terms of dialogue were a joy, and when the family were all together it was just really fun and so surreal to be in the room”.
Would you not have wanted to embrace the ball scenes and partake in some dancing?
“You know what, I would have done. I’ve known Jack Murphy for a long time, he’s the choreographer, and when you watch it, it’s such an integral and brilliant part of the whole thing. So I was mildly disappointed”.
“I’m not a fan of dancing in real life but when someone tells me, ‘these are the moves you have to do’, I quite enjoy the challenge of learning. So yeah, I was slightly disappointed that I didn’t get a chance but it was equally fun to be on the floor watching it all”.
It’s always a pleasant surprise with Bridgerton, how it came out of nowhere and is now suddenly a massive series. Does the success of the show take you by surprise as well?
“I think it does, because when I auditioned for it I was asked for a tape during lockdown and I think it was in October time, just before the first series came out. So I heard the show was coming out, saw the trailer and read the scenes I was sent, and then when I was recalled, which was like four months later, the show had then become this massive hit. I mean, the numbers are insane. I’m doing a play at the moment, Dear Evan Hansen, and I think my applause at the end has definitely increased quite a lot since, so I think that’s something”.
It’s quite refreshing to see the success of a period drama amidst the extent of action packed series, do you think there’s a reason behind its success?
“It’s something that everyone can watch and it’s easy to follow, you’re interested in all the characters. People are represented on the screen, it just seems like a glamorous, joyous time and a celebration of people. I think it took everyone by surprise how popular it was, but it just shows that people deep down love a great love story and love that kind of period”.
Are you a fan of the genre yourself?
“I am, I’ve watched a few over the years and it’s one of those things that people always say to me, ‘why have you never done a period drama?’, well it’s not through choice! But yeah, I’m definitely a fan. I think in the past I’ve always got confused by trying to work out, in certain period dramas, who’s related to who?
Seeing as you did Merlin for BBC back in the day, I guess that fits into the fantasy period drama genre
“Yeah exactly, there’s something so phenomenal because you kind of step into that world, especially on Merlin where I got to wear chainmail, have sort of fights and sit on a horse and ride into a castle and make it look like I wasn’t terrified being on a horse. Me and my good friends, who are the other knights, got to do what I used to pretend to do when I was five, you know, have sword fights and kill the bad guys. That’s when you go ‘this job is so fun when you get to just play’ and do things that your five-year-old self would be jealous of”.
You mentioned earlier being on stage, but how does being on stage compare to being on screen? Do you have a preference?
“I’ve been really lucky that I’ve been able to do both, and I’m currently doing a show which I’ve been doing pre-lockdown. It’s so different because on TV and film, it’s so in the moment. You learn your lines at home, you get on set, you do a scene and then maybe six months later you watch that scene which someone has edited. They might have chosen a take you weren’t happy with, you kind of do the scene and then it’s gone”.
“There’s nothing you can do, whereas in theatre, especially now, I think I’ve done over 300 performances of the same show, you get to have nights where you go, ‘that didn’t quite work’ or ‘what happens if I try this’. You constantly develop and try to find ways to keep it fresh and natural. But I love the collectiveness of the theatre, when everyone is experiencing the same thing that night. Hearing people laugh together or cry together, there’s something that is so unique about that, it’s just that one night which is brilliant”.
“Whereas in TV, you don’t get to experience what the audience is feeling in the moment. I mean, you get the feedback on social media, but I think that’s not always the same as actually having a sense of it. I think they do very much go hand in hand, and I think I’ve really tried to bring what I do in theatre onto screen in a way”.
A parallel to the direct response of the theatre is probably something like Gogglebox, especially as they watch Bridgerton on that as well
Yeah, you’re right. That’s why those shows work so well because you get to see what the audience are thinking. That’s weird now, because I do think we watch TV in a very different way, it’s almost like you’re watching what people are saying about the thing you’re watching. So we’re kind of disconnected sometimes to what we’re watching, we might love it, but you’re constantly doing other things, whereas in theatre, you pretty much have to sit there and watch what’s in front of you.
When you’re doing the same performance every day, do you ever get to the point where you think you’ve perfected your performance?
“I don’t know if you ever feel you’ve perfected it. There are days you come off and go, ‘oh, that was that was good’. But on the flip side, you do something that works really well and the next night you go ‘oh they’ll love this bit’, and then no one laughs or you don’t feel the audience are with you. I think it’s about keeping it fresh”.
Was there any crossover regarding the adaptation of ‘Dear Evan Hansen’? Were you asked to appear in it?
“No, so we had heard that it was happening. The only crossover we had was, Katelyn Deaver, she came to see our show when she was in London. I think a few of the cast probably wrote to the producers and went ‘oh, any chance if I could be in the film?’. I watched it, on fast forward on a plane just because I didn’t want to be swayed too much, but luckily it’s very different. I personally really liked the film, but I think that it’s a very complicated and quite dark story, you almost need to see it live because then you aren’t going along with the main character”.
What’s next for you? Are you gonna try and go back on screen or stay on stage?
“I think when the stage show finishes, I’m definitely going to take a break from the stage. The impact of doing six days a week, having one day off. I’m so lucky, but in terms of family life it’s quite intense and also waking up every day going ‘oh is my voice OK? Can I sing?”.
Do you know if you’ll be making a return to Bridgerton? You were cast off to America in the end, but you never know.
“I don’t know yet, they’re doing a spin-off now, they’re not filming the next series for a couple of months, so I’m waiting to hear either way. I’m still alive so I’m hoping that I make another appearance at some point”.
Here’s hoping for a American spin-off with you at the helm
Thank you! Let’s really push for that!