How can a woman grab a dashing viscount’s attention in Bridgerton‘s 1800s London? Outrun him on horseback while riding astride like a man, then playfully brag about it after.
Such is the meet-cute for eldest Bridgerton sibling Anthony (Jonathan Bailey) and elegant, independent Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley). The pair take center stage in Season 2 of the smash drama based on Julia Quinn’s Regency-era romance novels. Though in their case, a third party complicates matters: Kate’s sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran).
Anthony, according to Bailey, had been feeling “defeated and lost” since his affair with an opera singer ended last season. In the show’s return, the known playboy decides to fulfill his duty and find a wife by attending the stream of society balls known as the marriage market. But he declares that love — unlike good manners, a “pleasing” face and a modicum of intelligence — is not a requirement for the mother of his heirs.
Anthony initially believes the charming Edwina is the most rational pick, yet his passion is reignited by Kate, much as he tries to ignore it. She finds herself drawn to him as well, but as the elder sister (considered an old maid since she’s still unwed at 26!), she wants to shield Edwina from an unhappy marriage with a man of rakish reputation. “On paper, Edwina is perfect,” Bailey notes, “but Kate and Anthony are drawn together like magnets, and his heart falls into Kate’s hands.”
A rocky path to love for Anthony and Kate serves the genre well. “Their relationship,” says executive producer Chris Van Dusen, “is charged, fraught, and more than a little scandalous.”
That situation could prove irresistible to Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), the writer behind the gossip purveyor Lady Whistledown. It’s a secret she tries to keep from everyone, especially best friend Eloise (Claudia Jessie), Anthony’s sister.
The quirky Eloise may be the most reluctant eligible young woman in London. “Watching her endure the world of the ton [i.e., high society] is one of my favorite storylines,” says Van Dusen. Annoyed by the courting rituals, she’s far more interested in detecting clues to Whistledown’s identity. That leads her to the scandal sheet’s printer, where she meets a shop assistant named Theo Sharpe (Calam Lynch).
An original character not in Quinn’s books, the endearing Theo is a working-class intellectual who desires equal rights for all, including women — a cause dear to budding feminist Eloise. Adds Van Dusen: “Theo expands this world in some amazing ways.” We can’t wait to see what Lady Whistledown has to say about that.
Bridgerton, Season Premiere Friday, March 25, Netflix