Bridgerton renewed for series 2: How Netflix made a hit

By Annabel Rackham and Steve Holden
Newsbeat reporters

Published
image copyrightLIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
image captionDaphne and Simon are the main love interests in the show

It is a truth universally acknowledged that binge-watching streaming services is all that kept many of us going through 2020.

So it's no surprise that Netflix's Bridgerton proved such an instant hit with audiences when it was released at Christmas.

And even less of a surprise when it was renewed for a second series.

Set in 1800s London but designed for today's millennial and Gen Z audiences, the period drama is on course to be seen by 63 million households in its first month.

Radio 1 Newsbeat's been tracking down some of the people behind the show to try and learn the secret of its success.

Bridgerton is adapted from a series of novels by author Julia Quinn and produced by one of America's biggest executives - Shonda Rhimes.

"As soon as you turn it on, you hear the music and you see the costumes and cinematography it immediately pulls you in," Joy Mitchell tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.

Joy was part of the writing team that adapted the Bridgerton books into scripts for the show.

image copyrightJoy Mitchell
image captionJoy on the Bridgerton set

"It's this fun, steamy, romantic show that happened to come out at a time where a lot of people were stuck at home - it struck a chord and is the right show at the right time," she says.

Joy has worked on other historical shows like Deutschland 86 and The Letter for the King, but says Bridgerton was an exciting new challenge for her.

"We wanted to reach as many people as possible so they could enjoy the show - romance novels can be sold as just for older women but we wanted to write a show that would appeal to everyone."

'These people have been erased from history'

Another part of the show's success has been its treatment of racial diversity - not usually a feature of period drama, it's safe to say.

While there's obviously not much sign that the real-life upper classes of the 1800s were racially integrated, it's certainly true that people of colour were living alongside each other in London at the time.

"For me, I just wanted to normalise that Black and Asian people were there, that there were diverse people in England," Joy says.

"These people have sort of been erased from history and Bridgerton did it in a bigger way."

image copyrightLIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
image captionDressing up for balls is one of the most important parts of the show

Alongside the romantic storylines and sumptuous costumes, the show's soundtrack also became a major talking point.

It features a number of covers of modern songs by the band Vitamin String Quartet - including Shawn Mendes' In My Blood and Billie Eilish's Bad Guy.

"The sound we were going for was a bit more of a modern sound with the ensembles as opposed to something that sounded more classic," says Kris Bowers.

Kris is a well-respected film and TV composer, having worked on scores for Green Book, When They See Us and now Bridgerton.

"I think stylistically this is the most different thing I've done and I was really pleased to be given the opportunity to write music in this style and to do this show," he says.

Kris says using songs the audience were familiar with was important as it helped them understand the emotions that the characters were going through.

'Regal and classic'

image copyrightNetflix
image captionQueen Charlotte is seen in a number of incredible costumes in the show

One of the first scenes in the series shows a ball where the guests dance to a classical version of Ariana Grande's Thank U, Next as they look to catch each others' eye.

"I think about episode one, where Thank U, Next is playing and how so many people could relate to that song and relate to the people in the situation," Kris recalls.

He says one of the most important aspects was creating the music for Lady Whistledown - the narrator of the show, voiced by Julie Andrews, who holds the keys to all the gossip in Regency London.

"I first started with something really regal and classic," he says.

"The producers told me to really listen to what she [Lady Whistledown] was saying and how sassy she is.

"Keeping that all in mind, it took a few tries to write something that could really encompass all that, but it was really about trying to match the feeling of what she was saying."

image copyrightLIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
image captionIt's not currently known whether the show will be returning

And while Joy and Kris had very different parts to play in making the show a success, they're both on the same page when it comes to working on Bridgerton again.

There are eight books telling the story of the Bridgerton family - so there's plenty more room for more tales from 19th century London beyond series two.

Joy says: "There are books for every Bridgerton kid, there are places this can go and Julia Quinn has given us a roadmap already!"

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