Netflix recently released the first teaser trailer for its upcoming period drama series Bridgerton, and renewed buzz about the Shondaland show quickly followed suit. It’s the first series to come out of Shonda Rhimes’ nine-figure, multi-year overall deal with the streaming giant. The Hollywood heavy hitter is amongst the show’s executive producers, and Chris Van Dusen acts as showrunner for the upcoming series based on Julia Quinn’s bestselling novels.
Bridgerton centers on the eight siblings of the titular family as they all pursue true love in Regency London high society. The series follows the eldest sister, Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), as she enters into the “competitive marriage market.” She’s hindered by criticism from the elusive author of a gossip newsletter known as Lady Whistledown, voiced by Julie Andrews, and enters into a mutually beneficial arrangement with the Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page) that helps them both navigate said marriage market. But when the two develop unexpected feelings for each other, they have to figure out the truth of their complicated relationship.
Their story is not the only one covered by Lady Whistledown’s scandal sheet, and the teaser trailer begs for a Gossip Girl correlation to be made, with Andrews instead of Kristen Bell as the anonymous narrator and London socialites replacing Manhattan’s elite. The time period is of course a large differentiator, as the source material for Bridgerton takes place between 1813 and 1827. It was a time when members of London’s high society were predominantly white, and the upcoming period piece is a win for representation with its inclusive casting. Vogue may have said it best with, “[Bridgerton] will see black and mixed race actors playing lords and ladies alongside their white counterparts.”
Bridgerton comes in the wake of Armando Iannucci’s recent adaptation of The Personal History of David Copperfield, which had its U.S. release this August. The film features a diverse cast led by Dev Patel in the titular role, a character most often portrayed by white actors in previous on-screen adaptations. The well-received iteration of Charles Dickens’ classic work demonstrates the importance and viability of inclusive casting within its genre. “In the U.K. in particular, we have this enormous industry of making period drama,” said Iannucci during an NPR interview. “And I think it’s important, if we are going to keep making these stories, that we draw from 100 percent of the amazing acting talent available to us.”
It may be no surprise that the upcoming period drama series is doing just that, coming from Shondaland. In the words of IndieWire, “Rhimes is no stranger to opening doors for actors of color, and this looks to be a fantastic way to highlight how actors of color can and should be in any genre.” When Netflix drops Bridgerton on December 25, keep an eye out for performances from names like Adjoa Andoh, Ruby Barker, and Golda Rosheuvel amongst others on its impressive cast list.