The last week has been a big one for “Bridgerton” star Jonathan Bailey. Since Season 2 of his Regency-romance drama dropped on Netflix March 25, millions across the globe have watched the actor – as Anthony Bridgerton – traverse an emotional rollercoaster that led his character to a happy and loving ending.
And while his show set a record for the streamer, clocking 193,020,000 million hours watched globally (making it the most-viewed Netflix English language TV title in its premiere weekend), Bailey is still making time to discuss the series with press, even if he has to fit it in a very rock star-esque way – after spending nearly two hours on stage (in the London production of “Cock”).
“I feel like this is the perfect time because I’m always slightly wired and I feel like I’ve had about seven coffees when I come off stage,” Bailey tells TheWrap as he chats via Zoom after a performance.
With no minute to spare then, TheWrap gets down to peppering the actor with detailed questions about Anthony Bridgerton’s Season 2 storyline — one that saw his character broken down and rebuilt as he let go of deep traumas from his past connected to the death of his father, and managed to become a man who opened his heart to love — and about what’s next. But first, we decided to ask a couple of fun questions.
TheWrap: What is the strangest place you have seen your face because you’re all over merch now? And, by the way, I did do some searching before I talked to you, and I saw Regé-Jean Page as a car air freshener (Note: unofficial merch).
Jonathan Bailey: Are you kidding? That’s amazing.
But let’s talk about you, Jonny Bailey.
I wonder. … I don’t know actually. … I’ve seen [myself], maybe on a pencil? … Seeing yourself on, like, a Monopoly board is kind of weird. I mean, weird and because it sort of taps into like your childhood psyche. It feels like something is happening and the world is being morphed and you’re being gaslit. But yeah, I don’t know. I’ve yet to see anything even more peculiar than that, but I’m sure it’s out there. Maybe I should have a look.
Or not. Let someone else do that for you, perhaps. So here is my second ridiculous question before I get into the [plot] bits. So, Anthony was able to lift Kate up when she was dead weight, passed out, in a dress, soaking wet, heavy coat, but he had to take his cravat off, his coat and take the suspenders down to get out of a lake. Explain.
(Laughs) Yeah, I mean, very good. It was obviously psychological, like, I was trying to reflect previous traumas of, unpeeling his layers that he’d—No, I don’t know. I’ve got no way to answer that. I think it’s about, oh, I don’t know, actually. … You’ve got me stumped. It was instinct.
Ha! So, switching gears, “Bridgerton” boss Chris Van Dusen told me that you and Ruth [Gemmell, who plays matriarch Violet] got a standing ovation for the scene in the finale between the two of you (where she tells him Kate is awake). And I want to talk to you about doing that scene. Ruth told me that working with you is–
Yeah. Really special.
— wonderful because you’re such an instinctive actor. She says you’re very charismatic and extremely generous.
Aww. Yeah, well, I mean, it’s incredibly special. And also … I feel like it’s instinctive, but yeah, there’s something really alive and brilliant about working with Ruth, and she’s so bloody smart. But it was quite emotional, actually. There were a couple of times where we had to, especially in this season, in the flashbacks … we did quite a few of them in one day, and at the end, I did go downstairs, I think it was after the moment he finds out he’s a Viscount for the first time, and I remember trying to eat a packet of cheese and onion crisps (laughs). And she was sat there … and she’d been ’round the corner, and she was like, ‘Are you’re all right?’ And then I just burst into tears. … And that was obviously quite a private moment, but it was just like a real team thing. And when you’re playing these sorts of parts it’s so brilliant because with Ruth, and all the siblings, we click anyway, but it’s just an extraordinary thing to then be able to develop that in playing sort of mother-son or sibling relationships.
But the last scene, yeah, we just knew that it was an important scene and it felt like the end of their arc because that’s an incredible love story, between Violet and Anthony and that I think that’s going to continue now that he’s found his Viscountess and how that’s going to affect her going forward. But yeah, I think she’s the most important person in his life before he meets Kate and it’s going to be interesting to see how that happens because they’ve got this sort of weird, sort of barrierless, codependent thing going on because of the trauma and they’re united in that. So, it was always going to be a scene that we wanted to get right for sure.
Now that Anthony’s gone through this emotional intelligence journey, which is what I think is a big part of Season 2, that he’s grown–
Yeah, yeah, for sure.
Who do you think he is now? As he goes forward? Because you mentioned to the Netflix crew [at the premiere] that you do expect to be back. How do you think that’s going to shape him going forward, this new emotional intelligence?
I think he’s going to be devoted to Kate. … He’s going to protect her at all costs. And I think he’s just going to cherish every single moment with her. And I think that might bring about some problems (laughs) because, I don’t know, if she needs to go, you know, be in another room and he won’t be able to handle it. So maybe there’s a bit of that, but also, he’s going to be an incredible father. And I just think he’s going to be able to, for the first time in his life, see qualities in himself that he so depended on and admired in his father. And I think that’s going to really help him grow even further because, I think, he’s never really felt that he’s been enough. And I think Kate is the person who’s showing him that he is. And I think he’s going to thrive. And I just can’t wait for them to have a baby. Baby Edmund, I think, is the first that’s to come if it’s according to the books, but maybe they’ll have octuplets. Maybe they’ll flip it on its head.
In reverse [alphabetical] order. So, you are coming back then in some sort of capacity.
100%. … I’m going to be there for when I’m needed, but also, you know, there’s no way I’m not going to be at the weddings of — from everyone from Claudia Jessie, and Luke Thompson, Luke Newts, down to Will Tilson and Florence Hunt. … I love them all.
I actually thought Edwina and Anthony had a little bit of chemistry. That little moment at Aubrey Hall, where they’re joking over books — that was kind of a cute moment. Did you think they had chemistry, or it was just like, they were just getting along?
No, I think they did. … They are both, at the beginning of the series, they’re both committed to finding each other, and what they represent. On a surface level, and on paper, they deliver what they’re looking for. She’s looking for a man of honor and duty and he presents to her a version of himself that isn’t real. And Kate can see through that, so that’s why they end up with authentic love. …
Edwina is bright and he holds her in really high esteem. His behavior is only because he’s completely fallen for the older sister in it, and he’s in danger of feeling something because he wants to take love out of the equation, as we understand why. And … with Edwina, I think there is a part that manages to thaw because I think he really does believe in that moment that he could continue and survive and thrive with a loveless but pleasant marriage. … But there wasn’t love in there. So, I think chemistry … Anthony does have chemistry with sort of everyone but chemistry is different in different ways, isn’t it? I think he made it very complicated because he presented a version of himself that wasn’t so true and I think that’s where that chemistry lay. So it wasn’t really deep-founded chemistry. It was surface level.
“Bridgerton” Season 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix now.
(This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)