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The untold truth of Bridgerton

After signing an enormous deal with Netflix in 2017, acclaimed showrunner and creator Shonda Rhimes — known for primetime projects like Grey's Anatomy, Scandal, Private Practice, and How to Get Away with Murder — has finally released her first project for the streaming service. Adapted from Julia Quinn's novels, Bridgerton is a soapy, steamy, gossipy spectacle set in Regency-era London's high society. Focusing on a few wealthy families and their romantic entanglements, the series dropped on Christmas Day of 2020 and was an instant hit for the streaming service, becoming one of the best and most acclaimed shows of the entire year.

With a diverse cast that includes Phoebe Dynevor, Regé-Jean Page, Nicola Coughlan, and Adjoa Andoh, Bridgerton — which was executive produced by Rhimes and created by her longtime protege Chris Van Dusen — left fans wanting to know more about the show and its aristocratic world. If you loved the series and want to learn more about one of Netflix's big 2020 hits, read on for the untold truth of Bridgerton.

(Be warned — major spoilers below.)

Bridgerton was a long time in the making

Rhimes first joined forces with Netflix back in 2017, and clearly, she considered her first move at the service very carefully. As it turns out, Bridgerton was a long time in the making, and the hard work between Rhimes and Van Dusen clearly paid off.

According to a feature in Shondaland, the online publication crafted by Rhimes' team, Rhimes herself gave copies of Julia Quinn's best-selling book series to Van Dusen, and the duo was enthralled by Quinn's stories and the world she'd created. As far as Van Dusen was concerned, he was hooked right away. "I've always loved period shows — the sets, the costumes, the rules — they're so rife with conflict," Van Dusen told Shondaland. "But at the same time, I think they're considered a bit traditional and conservative. With Bridgerton, I wanted to take everything I loved about a period show and turn it into something fresh, topical, and relatable." Clearly, Van Dusen has succeeded, and fans can thank Rhimes for gifting him with Quinn's books and getting the creative juices flowing.

Julie Andrews' off-set presence was a delight

Bridgerton is full of amazing characters, but one of the most exciting parts of the series for most of its fans is a character who never even appears on screen. Throughout the show, a mysterious gossipmonger named Lady Whistledown shakes up London's high society with a scandalous, semi-regular publication made in secret. Nobody knows who Lady Whistledown is, but clearly, she knows all of London's wealthiest families — as well as its monarchy — really well. Lady Whistledown is revealed at the end of the show's first season, but she's not voiced by anyone we see. Instead, the character is voiced by the legendary Dame Julie Andrews, who plays the role to perfection.

During a Q&A on Twitter, Van Dusen revealed that Julie Andrews recorded her voiceovers remotely, and evidently, the recording process was a "total riot." Unfortunately for the Bridgerton cast, most of them apparently haven't met Andrews in person, but here's hoping that Mary Poppins herself might be able to make an on-set appearance going forward.

Bridgerton's stars underwent a six-week boot camp

Bridgerton might look like a breezy, glamorous good time for everybody involved, but as it turns out, creating the entire world took a ton of work. In an interview with Harper's Bazaar, Phoebe Dynevor, who plays the Bridgerton "family diamond" Daphne — and makes her grand entrance into society in order to make a perfect marriage match for herself — revealed that the cast attended a boot camp to learn about every facet of Regency-era life.

After getting cast in 2019, Dynevor and Regé-Jean Page, who plays Simon (the Duke of Hastings and Daphne's eventual husband), were thrown directly into the fray, going through six weeks of costume fittings and training for their leading roles. "And then, as my schedule came in, horse riding on Monday and piano lessons on Tuesday and etiquette training," Dynevor told Harper's Bazaar. "I was like, 'Oh, okay. This is kind of crazy.'" Dynevor and Page definitely seem right at home in their roles as Daphne and Simon, but there's no denying that their hard work and dedication play a huge part in their success.

Bridgerton's Regency-sized beds presented a problem

If you're a fan of Bridgerton, you know one big thing about the show — it features a ton of steamy, intense sex scenes, particularly between Daphne and Simon. While these scenes work perfectly on the small screen, they're also carefully planned and choreographed by the show's intimacy coordinator, Lizzy Talbot, who opened up to Vulture about some of the unexpected difficulties during her work on Bridgerton.

Between outdoor sex scenes, a particularly controversial moment between Daphne and Simon, and making sure the actors were always comfortable on set, Talbot certainly had her work cut out for her. However, one of her biggest challenges simply had to do with the size of the beds, which, in an attempt to stay grounded in the Regency era, were quite small. "One of the interesting things about Bridgerton was that so many scenes we did involving beds were on beds of Regency size," Talbot revealed. "These beds were not built for someone as tall as [Page], and he'd be hanging off the bed. That's honestly where some of the key choreography comes from, is positioning people on beds, and working out, 'Okay, if there's a roll-off here, how do we make it so he's not rolling onto the floor or his feet aren't hanging off?'"

One of Bridgerton's stars knew a big secret the entire time

As Bridgerton's first season draws to a close, the series revealed a huge secret — specifically, the real identity of Lady Whistledown. Despite Eloise Bridgerton's (Claudia Jessie) best efforts to unmask the gossipmonger, only viewers know that Nicola Coughlan's meek, sweet Penelope Featherington — Eloise's close friend and the frequently overlooked daughter of the wealthy Featheringtons — is responsible for Lady Whistledown's missives.

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Coughlan revealed that she had some advance notice for this twist. While perusing online fan forums centered on the books, she discovered that Penelope was Lady Whistledown and confirmed with Van Dusen that he would keep that plotline intact. "For me to know that was really important because it changes everything about her," Coughlan told EW. "It means that she's this crazy active listener all the time. She's the most low-status character in any room, but she's the most high-status as well, like she controls all of London society while being looked down on as this total wallflower. It hugely informed how I played the part." As for whether or not her co-stars were in on the secret, Coughlan said that she didn't want to ruin the fun for anyone who didn't want to know, but when people guessed correctly, she would confess pretty quickly.

The bumblebee in the series finale refers to a missing character

Throughout Bridgerton's first season, fans watch as the Bridgerton family matriarch, Dowager Viscountess Violet (Ruth Gemmell) and her children try to navigate London's high society, but it leaves one huge question. What happened to Mr. Bridgerton? Violet frequently references her husband, and it's clear that the two shared a loving relationship and enjoyed a happy marriage before his death.

However, the first season finale's very last moments may contain not just a huge clue about Mr. Bridgerton but also what could be coming up next on Bridgerton. As Simon and Daphne bask in their shared glow after Daphne gives birth to their first — and as yet unnamed — child, the camera pans to their mansion's windowsill, where a bumblebee takes flight. This bumblebee seems to be a direct reference to one of Quinn's books, The Viscount Who Loved Me, where readers discover that Mr. Bridgerton's death was caused by a fatal allergic reaction after a bee sting, making his oldest son, Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), the new viscount with brand new responsibilities. 

While Mr. Bridgerton's cause of death isn't in the first season, Anthony's reluctance to lead the Bridgerton family plays a huge role, so perhaps this bee indicates that Anthony will take center stage going forward. Whether or not Van Dusen folds this plotline into future seasons of Bridgerton remains to be seen, but book fans likely knew exactly what that bumblebee meant.

Bridgerton's costumes combine modern sensibilities and period-appropriate gowns

Part of the overall magic of Bridgerton is the intense attention to detail and fantastical world-building, created and crafted by talented production and costume designers working behind the scenes. In a featurette released by Netflix, costume designer Ellen Mirojnick reveals that while she tried to maintain historical accuracy overall, she also wanted to include some modern touches.

"This interpretation of 1813 needed to be an overview of ... how can we add modern elements to it?" Mirojnick said in the featurette. "We've made it more luxurious and more sumptuous, and we've introduced a modern color palette but really trying to stick to the basic foundation of the 1813 silhouette." Elements like glitter, which certainly weren't around in 1813, also play a fun role, providing some fun and purposeful anachronisms for fans.

Mirojnick left no stone unturned. Sharp-eyed viewers will notice that the Bridgertons always don subtle, soft pastels, while the flashy Featheringtons can be found in bright, eye-catching colors as a contrast. Meanwhile, Bessie Carter, who plays Prudence Featherington, says that Mirojnick showed her a lookbook for the season, illustrating how Bridgerton's take on period clothing would be different. For each outfit, there was an accurate version, a "high fashion" version and a "Shonda" version. Bridgerton's costumes are a vital part of the show, and it's clear that the work that went into them was well worth the effort.

One of Bridgerton's stars had some on-set mishaps

The world of Bridgerton seems effortlessly elegant at all times, but according to star Nicola Coughlan, the on-set experience had some fairly messy moments. In an interview with Good Morning America, Coughlan revealed that her diminutive stature caused some actual injuries on the Bridgerton set.

Since Coughlan is quite a bit shorter than pretty much all of her co-stars, the crew of Bridgerton tried to amend the on-camera angle by putting her in very tall heels. However, this presented an unexpected issue, as Coughlan, who's just 5'1", is terrible at walking in heels. "They sort of looked at me and thought, we need to put you in heels so that you're at eye level with everybody else, and I sort of agreed, just trying to be amenable and, you know, a nice actor ... and then arrived on set and on the first day and fell over three times in the heels," Coughlan said, laughing.

However, the heels ended up having some pretty dire consequences. "Once was holding a dog and once was holding a parasol, which, I fell and stabbed Claudia Jessie, who plays Eloise, right in the hand and drew blood," the actress admitted. "So they got rid of the heels. It was day one! But they didn't fire me, thank goodness." Clearly, Coughlan's height difference wasn't more important than minimizing blood loss on set.

One of Bridgerton's stars shares an on-screen talent with his character

Throughout Bridgerton's first season, each member of the title family gets some time in the spotlight, including Luke Thompson's Benedict, the second-born son. Benedict's storyline is pretty interesting, as he doesn't have Anthony's heady responsibilities, preferring to spend his time at illicit parties in the company of decidedly lower-class men and women. Benedict also displays a serious artistic talent, using these parties to find live models to sketch. As it turns out, Thompson and Benedict have that talent in common.

In an Instagram post thanking and appreciating everyone in front of and behind the camera, the on-screen duke of Hasting himself, Regé-Jean Page, included a perfectly sketched drawing of the leading man laughing. At the beginning of the caption, Page confirmed that the sketch came from Thompson, and that it's not the only one. As he wrote, "Luke Thompson drew us portraits as wrap gifts." Thompson is clearly a talented actor and artist, and the fact that he thoughtfully sketched his co-stars makes him even more endearing.

Bridgerton hides several modern covers in its classical music

There's no question that Bridgerton is one of the most modern period pieces around, and amongst its purposeful historical inaccuracies, the show's soundtrack contains a ton of huge pop songs ... adjusted for an early 1800s setting.

In case you didn't catch all of the covers of classical music covers found in Bridgerton, the show hides some of the biggest pop hits in recent years in its string quartet performances. In the pilot, Ariana Grande's massive 2019 hit, "Thank U, Next," can be heard played by a string-based orchestra during a high society event, and Maroon 5's "Girls Like You" can be heard later in that same episode as Daphne is besieged by eligible men hoping to win her hand after her public dance with the duke of Hastings. 

Throughout the rest of the season, Billie Eilish's "Bad Guy" and Taylor Swift's "Wildest Dreams" — the second of which plays during one of the series' steamiest moments to date — are covered by strings, showing off the series' clever modern sensibilities in a perfect way.