Shonda Rhimes was on vacation when she came across the first Regency-era book Bridgerton book series, The duke & me, by Julia Quinn. She quickly got down to business.
“I immediately went out and bought all the rest of his books,” Rhimes said in a recent interview. “His way with words is delightful. I thought, ‘These are characters I would like to get to know. They had a universal feeling for them and I thought they would make amazing television.”
Rhimes passed the books on to fellow television producer Chris Van Dusen, who was also stunned.
“I took them home and fell in love with them from the first moment I read them,” he said. Van Dusen then created, executive produced, and served as showrunner of the series for Netflix.
Bridgerton was the first of Rhimes’ series to debut on Netflix as part of its deal with the streaming service and chief content officer Ted Sarandos – and it set the bar high. Debuting on Christmas Day 2020, the show – starring Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in Season 1 – was a hit.
“I got an email from Ted Sarandos saying ‘Great job’ which I thought meant great job. And then maybe a week or so we started getting the numbers and I really understood what ‘great job’ meant,” Rhimes said. . “I was just excited to have a show on Netflix.”
“Bonkers”, says the author of the show’s effect
For Quinn, life was pretty good before Rhimes and Van Dusen called in 2017, but it’s only gotten better since then. She was making a good living as a historical romance writer with a sequel. The show, she says, changed everything to “bonkers.”
“I can’t think of a better word. I used to call it ‘surreal’ for a while, but now we’ve gone from surreal to just bonkers. Every day it seems like something new and amazing is happening in the Bridgerton world.”
Quinn also serves as a consultant on the show and jokes that it’s the “easiest” job ever. “I see the scripts and I’m like, ‘This is great! Nothing to say!'”
Season 2 of Bridgertonadapted from the second book, The viscount who loved me, now playing on Netflix. The new episodes follow Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest of the family, who enters the social season with the intention of finding a bride. Page, whose career exploded thanks to the series, did not return for season 2. Dynevor appears in a supporting role.
Each book in the series focuses on a different member of the Bridgerton family, and the show’s seasons follow suit. There are eight books in the series, plus an epilogue book with a short story titled The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After.
A limited prequel television series, written by Rhimes, is also in development about the origin story of characters Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury and Lady Violet Bridgerton.
Quinn is also experiencing a renewed interest in the Bridgerton books.
“Romance writing is like a balloon. Eventually you stretch the balloon as far as you can go, and it’s really hard to get people to come in and get into the balloon. And people off the balloon don’t ‘ve never heard of you, which is totally fine. Bridgerton just popped the balloon,” Quinn said.
“Suddenly all kinds of people who had never picked up a romance novel or a historical romance novel were reading them. In April 2021, all eight books were simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list.”