All anyone could talk about after binging the first season of “Bridgerton” were the steamy sex scenes between Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé Jean-Page).
But after Season 2 dropped on Netflix last Friday, expectant viewers quickly learned Season 2 contained barely any.
Star Jonathan Bailey, who plays romantic lead Anthony Bridgerton, stood by the more chaste season.
“What you lose in sex scenes you gain in a deeper human understanding, which hopefully enriches the world so that the future intimacy scenes won’t be the heavy feature, and (you) won’t have to lean on them as much,” Bailey, 33, says in an interview. “It’s right to surprise an audience and keep them on their toes a bit.”
Bailey adds that it made sense for the Shonda Rhimes-produced series’ longevity – there are six more love stories to tell, after all, as the series follows the rest of Julia Quinn’s novels – to add variety to the kinds of romances. This season follows Anthony’s courtship of Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), while he’s simultaneously wooing her sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran).
Review: ‘Bridgerton’ burns bright in Season 2, even with less sex and no duke
With one sex-positive season and one that’s all about a slow burn, who knows what a third will look like? All we know is that it will star the second-oldest son, art scholar Benedict Bridgerton.
“It would have been wrong for Kate and Anthony to have got physical any sooner than they did,” Bailey says. (The pair did not consummate their relationship until late in the season.) “And I think the payoff is really earned.”
Creator Chris Van Dusen adds: “We never do a sex scene for the sake of doing a sex scene, and we never will. All of the intimate scenes have a larger purpose. That was true for Season 1. It’s definitely true for Season 2.”
Season 2 focuses on eldest son/child Anthony and his quest for a wife, and explains how he became the Bridgerton viscount in the first place: the sudden death of his father after a fatal bee sting. The moment informs Anthony’s inability to be vulnerable – something that haunts him as he grapples with a tangled web of emotions surrounding his impending nuptials.
“It felt like I was stepping into a brilliantly complicated role as opposed to a romantic lead,” Bailey says.
More details on the season:‘Bridgerton’ returns with more secrets, scandal, seduction … and ‘a transcendent moment’
Bailey, who is gay, recognizes the power of him playing a straight character. Increasingly, people from younger generations are coming out as queer. But it wasn’t so long ago that doing so was met with ridicule and vitriol instead of praise and congratulations – especially in Hollywood.
“It’s thrilling to be able to step into a role that perhaps I’ve previously not felt was open, or I certainly didn’t have anyone filling this space when I was younger,” he says. “But it’s great to be able to be part of it and it’s joyful.”
Bailey has played characters like the queer role of Jamie in a West End production of “Company” and the straight role of aspiring journalist Olly Stevens in “Broadchurch.”
He hopes his “Bridgerton” casting will inspire other queer actors as they pursue their careers.
“Hopefully, Anthony Bridgerton will be a brilliant reference for any queer, young actor – with so many other brilliant actors who are also making waves, silently and some really vocally – that they’ll be able to say, ‘well, listen, I do want to go for that job because I know that guy is out and that’s absolutely fine,'” Bailey says.
And unlike Page, who left the series after one season, expect Anthony to return to the fold.
“I’m not going to miss a wedding,” Bailey says. “Let’s put it that way. As much as I’m needed, I’ll be there.”