The producer of Netflix’s hit period drama Bridgerton said that some of the show’s actors of colour felt they would not have been given major roles if it was a period drama produced by a British company.
Speaking at the Evening Standard’s Stories Festival, Tom Verica, co-executive producer at Shondaland, the US production company behind the show, said: “A number of crew members and actors, people of colour who are in our cast, and it is quite surprising for me because it is very normal in America, [said] we would be the servant in the background and the fact that I'm wearing a royal uniform is freaking me out right now."
Asked about whether race would be discussed in Season 2, Verica said: “I don’t think it will be the main focus, not teaching about things but presenting it in a way, from a storytelling point of view which feels normative.
“[We are] striking that delicate balance. Definitely touching upon elements of that, especially the Queen Charlotte spinoff.”
The show, which reimagines Regency-era England as a place where black people existed as equals with whites, has been praised for its diverse casting.
Verica was on stage at the festival with the Bridgerton book series author Julia Quinn and Golda Rosheuvel who plays Queen Charlotte, to discuss the journey of the show from page to screen.
The three-day Stories Festival, in association with Netflix, is a series of talks and events celebrating story-telling held at Picturehouse Central.
Asked about whether race should be discussed more in the show, Rosheuvel said: “For me, I don’t need that. Just put black and brown actors on the screen and let them live their lives, let them be human beings.
“Black and brown people want to see themselves portrayed in romantic, scandalous and joyful ways.
“I hope the show’s success will change the conversation in British screenwriting. I hope people will now be less afraid of putting black and brown people at the forefront of period dramas and in other genres too.”
On playing Queen Charlotte, who some historians have claimed was descended from a black branch of the Portuguese royal family, Rosheuvel said: “It’s about taking that element of history and pushing the boundaries with it.
“It’s creating a space where actors of colour can play and using it to mirror the world we’re living in now.”
Season 2 of Bridgerton, which is about halfway through filming, is based on Quinn’s novel “The Viscount who loved me”, and will tell the story of Viscount Lord Bridgerton’s quest to find a wife. It introduces the Sharma sisters as potential new love interests, played by Sex Education star Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran.
Quinn also discussed the importance of the female gaze in the show. She said: “The press around Bridgerton is often about how it’s Netflix’s sexiest and raunchiest new show.
“In reality it’s not more raunchy than many other shows, it’s just that it’s shot through the female gaze with male bodies as a focus. Suddenly that’s raunchy, and there is an inherent misogyny in that.”
On whether the show was geared towards women, Verica said: “I’ve actually had more men than women who I haven’t spoken to in years who’ve contacted me saying ‘I was watching this with my wife but this is a great show, when is the next season coming?’”
Quinn added: “I have men say to me I’m a straight guy but my god that man is handsome.”
You can find tickets for the Stories Festival at stories.standard.co.uk