The Write Stuff: The 'Bridgerton' Book's Journey To The Screen

Adapting Regency romances isn’t really a Hollywood thing. Usually, as Bridgerton author Julia Quinn puts it, “If someone wants to do a period piece, they want to do Pride and Prejudice again.” So what drew executive producer Shonda Rimes to Julia’s Regency book series? What made her think they would make good TV? On this episode of Bridgerton: The Official Podcast, Gabrielle Collins talks about the Regency romance genre with historian Dr. Hannah Greig, finds out what made Shonda “obsessed” with the books, and discovers what Julia thinks kept Hollywood from adapting modern romance novels until now. Judging by the success of the series, Bridgerton probably won’t be the last Regency romance we’ll see make it to screen. “Now it seems baffling that we haven’t done this before,” Hannah says. Regency novels are “almost written for that visual appeal; all that drama and excitement and escape and romance – all those elements that make great television.”

Shonda doesn’t usually read romance novels, but she came across The Duke and I somewhere and was hooked from the very first page. Then she visited London with her sister and daughter, and looked around Mayfair, thinking, “This could be such a great series.” Julia says she never thought her books, or honestly any historical romance, would be adapted for television. “Part of the reason….is that this is a genre written primarily by women, read primarily by women, edited primarily by women….women’s work and women’s joy have never been valued in the same way as men’s work and men’s joy,” she points out. “Interestingly, those are themes that I think come across in the books as well as in the series….What are you allowed to hope for and dream for? What defines your success? Where can you find your power and your agency?” 

With Regency romance novels, there’s a lot more to them than meets the eye, Hannah says. During the Regency period, women, including high-born ladies like the Duchess of Devonshire, or the most famous novelist of all time, Jane Austen, wrote romance novels almost as exposés of their society – they would even base their characters on real people, and “part of the game of the book” was figuring out who they were. But even modern romances are seriously underrated. “We shouldn’t underestimate the amount of scholarship that underpins those books,” she says. “It’s a world rooted in research.” Hear more about Regency novels, how Julia created the character of Daphne Bridgerton, why she gave up creative control of the writing, and much more on this episode of Bridgerton: The Official Podcast.

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