Jonathan Bailey on Leading ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2 and Passing the Baton to Luke Newton for Season 3

TheWrap Emmys Magazine: The Netflix series star reflects on the challenges of playing Anthony in the second season

Jonathan Bailey (Jason Hetherington)
Jonathan Bailey (Jason Hetherington)

A version of this story about Jonathan Bailey and his work in “Bridgerton” first appeared in the Comedy & Drama Series issue of TheWrap’s awards magazine.

“Bridgerton” hasn’t left Netflix’s global Top 10 list since Season 2 premiered at the end of March. And for Jonathan Bailey, whose brooding, romantic male lead, Anthony Bridgerton, unexpectedly finds love with Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), that meant a continuation of the “Bridgerton” mania that had followed the show’s record-breaking 2020 Netflix release. 

But things were also different for Bailey, for whom “Bridgerton’s” second season was a breakout. He turned a character known primarily for his 19th-century patriarchal views and an inability to deal with emotions into one who developed a deep emotional intelligence. His eight-episode journey included finally processing past trauma (the death of his father), and falling in love with Kate, the fiery sister of his perfect match on paper, Edwina.

“This is why ‘Bridgerton,’ I think, is brilliant, but also the romance genre is great, because there are high-stakes narrative constructs that happen for the characters to fall in love,” Bailey said. “And for Anthony, it’s grief, isn’t it? The thing that I was threatened by and excited by, I suppose, but scared of is the clarity with which he has struggled with grief, and the role of men in quite a feminine sort of TV series, and wanting to really deliver on that.

“But also, I was in fear of creating something with another actress or actor that was palpably believable, because romance and sexuality and sensuality is really the most honest and extreme thing we can experience,” he added.

Jonathan Bailey (Jason Hetherington)
Jonathan Bailey (Jason Hetherington)

Bailey got to work with most of the cast in Season 2, and they all heap praise on him. Golda Rosheuvel, who plays “Bridgerton’s” Queen Charlotte, said he’s “exquisite” as Anthony; Adjoa Andoh, who plays influential elder Lady Danbury, called him a “terrific, nuanced actor”; and Ruth Gemmell (Violet Bridgerton), who shared with Bailey those heart-wrenching mother-son scenes that explored the pair’s grief, said working with him was “wonderful,” adding he’s not only “an instinctive actor” but “extremely generous.”

Though flattered to hear the praise, Bailey quickly deflected in that English way, commenting instead on the kinship among the “Bridgerton” cast. 

“They’re all theater actors,” he said. “I’ve seen Golda and Adjoa and Ruth on stage many times, and we’re all the same tribe, really. There’s a lot of theater actors in ‘Bridgerton,’ and I think that’s what connects it. Although we’re all very different in who we are, there’s an understanding and an approach that I think makes sense why we all enjoy working with each other so much.”

Although Bailey won’t don the cravat of the male romantic lead in Season 3 — that honor goes to Luke Newton, who plays middle sibling Colin — he’ll return in some capacity as the Bridgerton family patriarch. And he does it stepping back into the waistcoat and britches of a character Bailey realizes has impacted him. 

“I’m the youngest of four,” the actor noted. “I’ve never seen myself as the eldest in any situation, but that’s changed. You do learn a lot about yourself through playing countless different characters. And through sweet, sweet Tony I’ve learned a lot about grief. There’s an alchemy that happens, if you’re the right person. But, you know, let’s not pretend that there haven’t been hundreds of times where I haven’t been the right person.” 

Although Season 3 will be a yet another new experience for the actor, Bailey is very much looking forward to Newton’s turn as romantic lead as the middle Bridgerton brother finds love with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan).

“I think it’s great. I’ve experienced supporting Phoebe [Dynevor as Daphne in Season 1] and loved that and I’ve experienced supporting Simone as she came in and Charithra [Chandran] and having that amazing experience. And yeah, I can’t wait,” he said. “And I’ll be so proud to watch Luke take over ‘Bridgerton’ baton. And yeah, I couldn’t wish for anything else. And also, it’s really important to be there because obviously, [Anthony’s] the older bro, but to make space and to make sure that they have their amazing sweeping love story as well.”

Read more from the Comedy & Drama issue here.

Jill Greenberg for TheWrap