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‘Bridgerton’ Star Jonathan Bailey on “the Payoff of the Slow Burn” and What It Means for Future Seasons

The enemies-to-lovers storyline between Viscount Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley) has been the talk of the ton since Netflix released the second season of Bridgerton.

When the season begins, Anthony is in search of a wife — not true love — and Kate is looking for the perfect husband for her little sister, Edwina (Charithra Chandran). Anthony and Kate start off on the wrong foot when she overhears him talking to his friends about how he’s not looking for a love match, just someone who will be a good, kind wife. Kate wants more than that for her sister and what ensues over the course of the eight-episode season is Kate making it her purpose to keep Anthony away from Edwina.

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Along the way, Kate and Anthony remain at each other’s throats, constantly bickering and bantering, but they also come upon a strange and suprising attraction to each other that eventually leads to their marriage. That conflict, showrunner Chris Van Dusen previously told The Hollywood Reporter, was the heart of the show’s second love story.

For Bailey, the most attractive element of his character’s starring story in the series (the second season is based on bestseller Julia Quinn’s second novel, The Viscount Who Loved Me), was knowing that it was going to explore Anthony’s trauma and how that trauma plays a part in who he is today, why he’s not looking for love and his habit of self-sabotaging — a habit he and Kate share.

“Both of them have really denied themselves the hope and the faith of a love that is nourishing and nurturing and exciting and thrilling, as love seems to be for everyone else around them,” Bailey tells THR. “I think the fact that they sort of sabotage their own selves — and to be able to plot the journey of them overcoming the sorts of barriers that they put up themselves, whether it be through trauma or through responsibility — just to really unpack that and to allow an audience to follow it and to really go with it, I think that was the big accomplishment [this season].”

In the below chat with THR, the actor also opens up about his hopes for Anthony and Kate’s future, as Bridgerton has already been renewed at Netflix for two more seasons, and why this season didn’t lean on sex as heavily as it did in season one.

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Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton. Courtesy of Liam Daniel/Netflix

What were your expectations going into season two, given how popular the debut of Bridgerton was? What was that pressure like and, now that you’ve seen its success, how do you feel about it?

Oh, my God — just sort of thrilled. It’s such a personal thing, even with it being such an ensemble show, every single person cares so much about everything. From the character’s development to coming back and working with the crew; it’s one big family. I knew that, in the hands of [showrunner] Chris Van Dusen, and I knew from the original source material of reading Anthony’s book, that [the season’s tone] was always totally going to shift, because there was so much about Anthony that was unresolved and unaccounted for in his actions.

Psychologically, I knew that we were going to deal with his trauma, and I was really looking forward to that; knowing that was going to be something we get deep into and introducing Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma, just naturally it was always going to show how, in true romance genre, people come together in completely different ways. To know that it was going to be a psychologically driven season, I think, was always going to be appealing. So, it was good to lean into that.

But then everything else, you just put the blinkers on, and you just work and think about ways in which you can really believe what your character is doing, and completely trust in Shonda Rhimes and Netflix to do the rest. So much of the show is in the edit, as well as onset and the design and the choreography and all those things. We are incredibly well-supported. But now, yes, [I feel] incredibly relieved. You just want people to care for your characters as much as you do, and as Simone and I care about Kate and Anthony. To have a sense that people are really understanding them — because they’re confusing at certain points — is thrilling, because it sort of validates your understanding of humans, in a way.

In exploring that trauma for Anthony, (he watched his dad die, saw how devastated his mom was and vowed to never love someone in that way, so as not to break the way that she did if he were to ever lose the love of his life), what layers does that add to Anthony and Kate’s love story, and make it all the more surprising in the end?

With Anthony and Kate, it’s to accomplish a sense of positivity. I think both of them have really denied themselves the hope and the faith of a love that is nourishing and nurturing and exciting and thrilling, as love seems to be for everyone else around them and what they’re looking for for their siblings. That they sort of sabotage their own selves to be able to plot the journey of them overcoming the barriers that they put up — whether it be through trauma or through responsibility — just to really unpack that and to allow an audience to follow it and to really go with it, I think that was the big accomplishment. It’s in the writing, but it’s also when you get to work with someone and you click, and you can feel that you’re on the same page and operating at the same frequency. And that’s what it felt like. That’s the thing that we were setting out to accomplish for sure: the complexity of them coming together and what that meant.

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Simone Ashley as Kate Sharma with Bailey’s Anthony in the finale of season two. Courtesy of Liam Daniel/Netflix

Did you to feel pressure to live up to the Duke and Daphne’s steamy romance, particualrly, since there are less intimate scenes this season?

Yeah, it’s interesting. I remember just sort of checking in. I remember talking to Chris Van Dusen quite early on and saying, “When are they going to get together?” And I think that was something that was always in the writers room. But that means it made sense. We got all the episodes for season one, so Phoebe [Dynevor] and Regé[-Jean Page] would have known exactly what was going to happen, but we were plotting the journey because we were given two scripts at a time for each block [in season two]. So, it was a surprise to us as well, but it meant that, I think, something is gained as well.

And it makes sense for what Bridgerton is setting out to do, which isn’t just one or two seasons. This is going to be a world that expands, and the delicate way in which all the siblings are a part of this ensemble, and how they’re going to come to the fore at different times, it’s brilliant. So, it’s important that we stepped away from it. I think it’s a really positive thing to show that Bridgerton isn’t just leaning on the physical act of sexuality, but also, perhaps in this way, more psychological, and it will continue to change going forward. You know, [Kate and Anthony] are married now, so we’ll see what happens in season three. We might not be clothed at all the whole season!

Simone confirmed to THR that Kate is going to be returning next season. What do you see for the future of Anthony and Kate?

What I hope for is that they will continue their joy that is found at the end of episode eight. I think that final shot of the two of them is one of my favorite in the series, just purely on the basis of wanting to see Anthony really happy, and I think he really is at that point. But there’s going to be complications. They’re not simple people. I know they will work as a unit, and I know he’ll be completely devoted to her, so I’m excited to see that and to explore. In the book and source material, there’s so much about her past and his past, so seeing maybe perhaps conversations where they acknowledge that further; and they have a really rich connection, just exploring that a bit further will be great. The payoff of the slow burn I think will continue for the years to come.

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Kate and Anthony Bridgerton Courtesy of Liam Daniel/Netflix

There’s been a lot of chatter online about the show. Do you read any comments or tweets? And, if so, has anything stuck out to you about how people are responding to this season?

I’m desperately trying not to at the moment. What have I read? Oh, I’ve read comments about sniffing. (Laughs.) You tell the story in the way that you completely understand it, and you believe it should be, and you find the truth in it. And then, of course, you think about what you sound like or what you’re actually doing, and so I quite liked the idea that someone’s literally just sort of thought about me sniffing her and whatnot. Sometimes you don’t think about the literal, so it’s quite nice that’s really taken off. You just hope that people are sniffing each other a bit more. I’m representing all the sniffers out there. (Laughs.)

This season is all about longing. The audience is kept waiting until almost the very end of the season to see Anthony and Kate finally have their happy ending. Do you wish they had more time this season as a couple?

I think it just shows the faith that they have in the fact that we’ve got more time. I think we do have more time with them. He’s the viscount. She will be the viscountess, and much like Phoebe wasn’t missing, they’ll be there to support the siblings in any which way, and that will involve exploring their married relationship. But the payoff, really, is that these two people, we know because of the romance genre and the trope of enemies-to-lovers, that they will end up together. It’s just the sumptuous sort of indulging in how that’s going happen and when it’s going to happen, and hopefully carrying with it a sort of gravity that is underpinned by pain and yearning. I think it’s great that we got there in the end and that we can look towards the people who they’re going to become, as well as the people who they are at the end of it. But the happiness and the joy in that final sequence is what it’s all about.

Interview edited for length and clarity.

The second season of Bridgerton is now streaming on Netflix.

Source: Hollywood

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