This story about Betsy Beers and “Bridgerton” first appeared in the Race Begins issue of TheWrap’s Emmy magazine.
Executive producers Shonda Rhimes, Betsy Beers and Chris Van Dusen launched their first scripted Netflix series, “Bridgerton,” on Christmas Day 2020, a time when we all needed a little more cheer than usual because of our inability to be with loved ones during a pandemic-plagued holiday season. The show became Netflix’s most-watched series in its first month and earned a Seasons 2, 3 and 4 renewal by April.
TheWrap: What role did TV play in your life over the past year, and what role do you think “Bridgerton” played in other people’s lives amid the pandemic and social unrest?
Betsy Beers: My husband and I try to watch most stuff together. And we spent a lot of time watching documentaries and unscripted (shows). It was not only a period of time in which I could entertain myself with some of the amazing shows that people had created, but it was learning about the outside world through unscripted. And also going back and having the opportunity and the time to rewatch shows that we loved. I’ve talked to a lot of people about going back in time and getting to actually start something that people have talked about endlessly, and you never really got a chance to watch.
For “Bridgerton,” it was incredibly exciting that people responded in the way that they did and with the enthusiasm that they did. I certainly think that there was something about all those months of being isolated and separated and not being able to socialize and escape in different ways, that being able to enter a world which was both in another period but also totally constructed hopefully provided an enjoyable place to escape for just a little bit. I hope that we were able to provide a certain amount of escape, entertainment, distraction, contemplation at a point where we all really needed to get out of our houses.
Fans might have had a more intense, personal reaction to “Bridgerton” because they watched it during the pandemic—do you think that led them to have an even more extreme response to the news that star Regé-Jean Page would not be returning for Season 2, even though readers of the books know his character, Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, doesn’t appear very often after Book 1?
I’m going to be honest, I hadn’t thought about that before. But I think that’s really smart. And I think that is a really good point. I think that everything “Bridgerton,” many people had a very intense and connected experience with it, so I understand it’s difficult when a character that you love is not returning. But with the intensity that this show seems to have on fans, I certainly understand that it takes a while to wrap one’s brain around the fact that this is a different model. This is not the kind of show that we’ve done in the past with the continuing saga. It’s a new book every season. It’s a different and exciting way for us to have the opportunity to tell the story.
You’re in production on Season 2 now. With the first season wrapping before the pandemic hit, what has filming such a large-scale, opulent series been like this time around?
Our intent is for viewers to be able to watch and not feel like anything is being shaped by COVID. Obviously, there are safety precautions that continue to be put into place and safety measures that will always be in place. But I think we see our job as continuing to create a world in which an audience can leave the immediate concerns of present day behind them. So the intention is for it to feel seamless. Shooting with COVID, as you know, has its challenges. But from what I’ve seen so far, from what we have done in Season 2, it feels a lot like Season 1. Grand and beautiful. Things take longer and there are more protocols and precautions being put into place, but hopefully the end result will be as delightfully engaging and involving as Season 1.
Read more from the Race Begins issue here.