Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma and Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in
Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma and Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in "Bridgerton." Image Credit: Liam Daniel/Netflix

Viewers are no longer trapped at home, but Netflix is betting big that the opulent sets and elaborate costumes of its Regency-era hit show ‘Bridgerton’ will lure them back inside for a second round.

The Shondaland series was streamed in 82 million households in the first 28 days after its Christmas 2020 launch, making it Netflix’s best-performing show before it was dethroned in 2021 by ‘Squid Game’. Bloomberg got an early look at the first few episodes of the new season — and all the scandal, glamour, corsets, and orchestral covers of modern pop songs are back.

This time around, the show follows oldest Bridgerton sibling Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) as he sets out to find a suitable wife. He trains his sights on Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran), a newcomer to London, but his plans are hampered by her older sister Kate (Simone Ashley). Ashley and Bailey have the chemistry of a love story like Pride and Prejudice, and the duo carry the season.

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Simone Ashley and Jonathan Bailey at the world premiere. Image Credit: AP

In the Julia Quinn novels that ‘Bridgerton’ is based on, the Sharma sisters have the last name Sheffield, but the show changed it. “Making the Sharmas of South Asian descent was actually a very simple choice,” says the show’s executive producer, Shonda Rhimes. “I wanted to feel like the world we were living in was as three-dimensional as possible, and the representation was as three-dimensional as possible, too.”

Showrunner Chris Van Dusen says that “from the beginning, I wanted to make the period piece that I’ve always wanted to see. And that was very much an inclusive, multihued, multiethnic world where anyone watching at home could see themselves reflected on screen.”

But what does it take to create a glammed-up Regency universe for the show? The production design and costume teams are critical.

A flair for drama

A still from the show. Image Credit: Netflix

Every episode of ‘Bridgerton’ averages about 90 costumes, and often more. Episode 1, ‘Capital R Rake,’ features 146 costumes alone — and the team makes every item of clothing for the principal cast. A crew of buyers source fabrics for the designers, who create the individual looks.

It’s all about the details, according to costume designer Sophie Canale. “Each button is thought about. You’ll see the Bridgertons have silver buttons, the Featheringtons have gold buttons. All the men have watch fobs, and each ribbon is chosen to match their colour palette. There are just endless details, and so much thought and craft goes into every piece.”

To create a dress for Philipa Featherington (Harriet Cains) in a pivotal ball scene, the team used over 14,000 crystals in four shades of gold.

The show matches historical references with modern high-fashion touches: An outfit worn by Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) was inspired by a famous blue-and-silver John Galliano dress that Kylie Minogue wore on tour in 2005. “We’re not historically accurate, we are a pastiche of the period. And therefore, when it comes to the production design, we look at our historical references and then dial it up a few notches,” says production designer Will Hughes-Jones.

Attention to detail

A still from the show. Image Credit: Netflix

Part of that process included filming on location at grand English country estates. Some of the action in this season moves from London to the country. Scenes set at the Bridgertons’ ancestral family home of Aubrey Hall were filmed at Wrotham Park. Designed in 1754, the sprawling country estate in Hertfordshire is one of the largest private houses near London. It’s been used as a location more than 60 times, including for the 2011 version of ‘Jane Eyre’ and in multiple episodes of fellow Netflix show ‘The Crown’.

“We were there for a long time,” says Hughes-Jones. “We’ve pushed the space toward a more country feel, so there are a lot more tapestries, more wild flowers rather than the roses that we use in the town home,” he says. “The colour palettes in this show are so vibrant and rich in detail. We’re like kids in a sweet shop.”

That colour palette can be seen throughout the set design and costuming, with creatives taking inspiration from the pastels of Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film ‘Marie Antoinette’, which also mixed historical costumes with present-day fashion touches.

In January, Netflix forecast adding just 2.5 million subscribers this quarter, which would mark the slowest start to a new year for the company in at least a decade. The company raised prices in the US and Canada in January as well.

Netflix paid $100 million to Shonda Rhimes to join the streamer, and ‘Bridgerton’ was her debut on the service. “We’ve done a couple of extra-special, amazing things that I think fans will be excited about this season, but the reality of it is the glamour of the balls, the beauty of the world, the stunning hair and makeup — all the things that everybody has come to expect from the show,” she says. “The design, the gowns — it’s all still there. But we’ve upped our game a little bit in terms of how we’re telling this story.”

Fast facts about ‘Bridgerton’ season 2

-In a push for diversity, Simone Ashley, who plays the snooty Olivia Hanan on the Netflix show ‘Sex Education’, is the new arrival to shake up the Ton in London this season. Interestingly, the producers of the web series have taken some creative liberties with the adaptation, namely changing Kate’s ethnicity so her family would be of Indian descent.

Simone Ashley. Image Credit: Reuters

-‘Bridgerton’ season two is going to include an orchestra cover of the title track from Karan Johar’s ‘Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham’, which has been composed by Kris Bowers. Apart from this, the upcoming season will also feature a cover version of songs including Nirvana’s ‘Stay Away’, Madonna’s ‘Material Girl’, Rihanna’s ‘Diamonds’, among others.

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'Bridgerton' season two is going to include an orchestra cover of the title track from Karan Johar’s 'Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Gham'. Image Credit: Supplied

-Author Julia Quinn told Gulf News in February how much the new season has deviated from her book, ‘The Viscount Who Loved Me’. “I’ve seen the first two episodes already and it’s fabulous. Just like in the first season, there are some things that they’ve changed in order to make the story fit better but again, the characters are absolutely true to who they are. I just think if you’ve read the book, you’re going to love the show. And I think if you haven’t read the book, you’ll love the show and then hopefully go read the book.”

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Author Julia Quinn. Image Credit: Reuters

-A ‘Bridgerton’ spin-off is also in the works. In May 2021, Netflix announced that the ‘Bridgerton’ universe will expand with a prequel series centering on Queen Charlotte, Lady Violet Bridgerton and Lady Danbury, played by Golda Rosheuvel, Ruth Gemmell and Adjoa Andoh, respectively, in executive producer Shonda Rhimes’ hit period drama. The limited series will focus primarily on young Queen Charlotte’s rise to prominence, while also touching on the early lives of Lady Bridgerton and Lady Danbury, all of whom occupied key secondary roles in the first season of ‘Bridgerton’, starring Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor.

Bridgerton Image Credit: Netflix

-Fan favourite Rege-Jean Page will not return as Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings in the second season. No, he’s not dead; Page’s disappearance is mostly to do with the structure of the source material by Quinn. There’s also been speculation that Page wanted to move on to bigger and better things.

— By Bindu Rai, Entertainment Editor

Don’t miss it!

‘Bridgerton’ returns March 25 on Netflix.