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'Bridgerton' showrunner Jess Brownell breaks down Polin's future, the return of Kanthony, and 'more conflict to come' in part 2

Olivia Singh   

'Bridgerton' showrunner Jess Brownell breaks down Polin's future, the return of Kanthony, and 'more conflict to come' in part 2
  • Showrunner Jess Brownell unpacked the biggest moments of "Bridgerton" season 3, part 1.
  • In a spoilery conversation, she revealed how Nicola Coughlan hid Easter eggs for fans in her dialogue.

Polin's season of "Bridgerton" has arrived, and their romance is heating up.

Season three of "Bridgerton" centers on Polin, the ship name of Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). The first four episodes of the season, now streaming on Netflix, culminate in Colin finally expressing his recently realized feelings for Penelope, leading to a passionate makeout session in a carriage.

Though part one concludes on a happy note, with Colin asking Penelope to marry him, their relationship will certainly have challenges ahead. Colin, much like nearly everyone in the ton, still has no idea that Penelope is the elusive gossip writer known as Lady Whistledown — and the secret is threatening to come out at any moment.

Showrunner and executive producer Jess Brownell sat down virtually with Business Insider to discuss how Coughlan and Newton embraced their leading roles this season, the return of Kate and Anthony Bridgerton (aka Kanthony), and why fans can expect more drama on the horizon when the show returns for part two in June.

The "Bridgerton" glow-up is such a real thing. What went into Luke Newton's transformation this season? Aside from different hairstyles and more unbuttoned shirts, did he have to do anything specific this season?

Erika Okvist, who is our hair and makeup department head, she's really clever about the length of eyebrows and sideburns and the way that they can emphasize a more mature, chiseled appearance. And a lot of it is costume, in terms of taking him away from the pastels and into a darker palette. But I'd like to think that a lot of it is story and his character as well, in terms of writing to a more confident, grown version of Colin. Luke Newton, I think, just naturally stepped into that story.

Nicola is this season's leading lady. Since she's played this character for two seasons now, did she get to weigh in on anything this season, whether it was a costume or a line that Penelope said, or did she just fully trust in the scripts?

Oh, absolutely. It was a collaboration. I really trust all of our actors to know their characters better than I ever can. I'm across 25-plus regular characters. Nicola, in particular, had fantastic ideas about costume and hair, certainly.

She also is really tuned in to what the fans want to see. And so she had a few suggestions for dialogue of little bits from the book that she knew the fans would like to see and then just some creative scene suggestions along the way.

Do you have any specific examples?

There's a moment in episode one when Penelope's finally telling Colin that she heard what he said last season. They have this confrontation, and when she walks away, she thought it would be great if she called him Mister Bridgerton, because that character has always referred to Colin by his first name, and she knew it was a fan thing that they wanted to see the 'Mister Bridgerton' in there.

So that was something that came from her. I think she also collaborated with the hair and makeup teams quite closely in terms of her look and wanting the hair to start loosening up over time, which I think really tells a lovely arc because Portia, her mother, always wanted her to have these tighter poodle curls. And so the loosening of the hair symbolizes a certain rebellion away from her mother.

Nicola was recently asked what she and Luke did to build chemistry, and she was like, 'Oh, we just stopped repressing it.' Having worked on the show since the start, was their chemistry apparent to you before the Polin storyline?

Absolutely. They're great friends and they have always supported each other so much and really championed each other. They're both very generous people and very generous actors in terms of building up their scene partner. I think it's difficult to come into a show, I imagine, where you have to do intimacy and not really know the person, but the two of them really leaned on their friendship.

Other Penelope-related things are happening outside her love story: Colin is determined to ruin Whistledown's life if he finds out her identity, and then there's Portia lying about Featherington's finances being in order. There's an esquire who's suspicious. What can you say about how these two subplots are going to play out in part two and factor into Polin, too, especially with the Whistledown part of it?

Part one of the season is really about the friendship between Colin and Penelope and watching it develop in new ways. It's about watching Colin help Penelope develop her confidence and start to put herself out there on the marriage mart at the end of part one.

There's a sort of completion of that arc when we head into the back half of the season. That's where some of these more global pressures come into play, including the fact that the Featheringtons are hiding great secrets and the fact that Colin is not a fan of Whistledown. That is a shoe that is absolutely waiting to drop. So although part one ends with a certain amount of closure and success for Penelope, there's more to come for her.

Shonda Rhimes called Penelope and Eloise's dynamic "the second love story of the season." By the end of part one, they're still not on the best terms, but Eloise is keeping the Whistledown secret for her. How are they going to repair their friendship in part two?

I think whether or not they will repair their friendship is up in the air. We've seen some moments of softening between them in part one, but Eloise has no idea that this thing has been brewing between Colin and Penelope.

And if I'm putting myself in Eloise's shoes, I would feel a way about my former best friend getting together with my brother. So I think that might set them back even more. And Eloise is also aware that Penelope is Whistledown, and she will be aware that Penelope is potentially hiding that secret from Colin. So I think there's more conflict to come, unfortunately.

I want to talk about Kanthony. Seeing them enjoying marital bliss and extending their honeymoon after being enemies and squabbling was such a delight. What was the thought process behind that being their journey, at least in part one?

It felt right that they are putting themselves first after seasons of watching, at least Anthony, and certainly Kate last season, putting everyone else first. So we knew if we kept them around for too long, we would have to mire them in conflict somehow, either between each other or with their siblings, to motivate story. And it just felt like we didn't want to do that with them.

So we get to check in on their marriage, we get to see how they are, see how much better they're doing, send them off. Then we get to focus on Penelope and Colin, which is the way of the season, and they'll be back for more in the back half.

Eloise's sudden friendship with Cressida is a bit surprising, especially to Pen. So is Eloise's decision to adhere to some of society's rules because she was so against them for a long time. How did you land on that being Eloise's storyline?

Eloise has, I think, been stuck in a pattern in seasons one and two. She's been very rebellious and outspoken, but at the end of season two, she got herself into some trouble as well as her family, almost. So it felt like entering the season, her attitude might be more, "If you can't beat them, join them."

She's a little bit defeated. Some of her fight has gone and she's lost her best friend. So it felt like putting her into an upside-down world, in a way, was a great way to give her character a chance to grow and to also express where she's at emotionally.

Fans are convinced that season four will be about Benedict. I know you can't speak on that theory, but can you share how we'll continue to see Benedict grow and lay the foundation for his eventual marriage, should that time come?

This season is very much about Benedict figuring out a little bit more about what he wants from life. He spent a lot of time existing somewhere between society and not society, and I think he hasn't quite figured out how to merge his multiple selves. But his relationship with Tilly Arnold this season is really helping him figure out how to deal with society's conventions and when to push back. So that's something that we'll carry on into season four.

'Queen Charlotte' being sort of the precursor to this season did reveal lots of details about Lady Danbury and Violet's backstory and their dynamic. In part one, we have Lady Danbury's brother coming into the picture. There's some flirtation with Violet. How is that going to cause some tension this season?

The spinoff provided us with these great backstories for these characters, for Danbury and Violet, and certainly for the Queen. And so we wanted to carry that into season three.

Picking up on some of Danbury's personal backstory, bringing Marcus Anderson into the fray is a way to continue exploring her childhood and exploring a little bit about why she is the way she is. Obviously, she's not a huge fan of Violet and Marcus having a flirtation, so that will provide an obstacle. But honestly, Violet is her own best obstacle this season because she hasn't dated in a very long time. So she's going to be a slow mover, I would say.

She's too busy setting up her kids for marriage.

Exactly. And she'll never give that away. That is definitely her pride and joy.

The Mondrichs really go from working class to nobility this season, and they struggle with that; they want their old life. What was the goal of their storyline this season, and what did you want to illustrate through their arc of going from working class to high society?

The Mondrichs are a writer's room favorite. I feel like they really bring depth to the world because they didn't grow up with money. And so for most of us in the audience, they're our POV into this world.

But we found as we were coming up with story for them that sometimes it was hard to serve their characters because they existed outside of our world. So this season we've brought them closer into society. We wanted to see the ways in which entering society places pressure on their family life. But of course, ultimately love will win out.

They learn that they can be rule breakers, too, and not follow all the rules.

Absolutely. The story for them in the back half becomes about navigating which rules they can break and which rules they can't. While I think they've enjoyed finding out that they can break a lot of the rules in the first half, they'll find out that there is a limit to that.

"Bridgerton" season three, part one is now streaming on Netflix. Part two will be released on Thursday, June 13.

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