When Nicola Coughlan announced that “Bridgerton” Season 3 will focus on Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington’s love story, viewers couldn’t help but wonder why the show was straying from the Julia Quinn books it’s based on.
While the first two seasons of the Netflix hit followed the books — first focusing on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and then on Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathon Bailey), the third book is about Benedict. Jess Brownell, who stepped in as the new showrunner as Chris Van Dusen exited, exclusively shares the reasoning with Variety.
“I really feel like it’s Colin and Penelope’s time. Because we’ve been watching both of these actors on our screens since Season 1, we’ve already invested in them a little bit. We know who they are as people,” she says. “I feel like, especially in the last season, there are these moments of tension between them where it’s like, Colin walks up to the line of almost realizing that Penelope has feelings for him but doesn’t quite get there. Instead of treading water on that dynamic, we wanted to push it into their season. It really felt like the perfect moment to tee it up.”
For more on the new season and how much the show will stray from the books in other ways, read our full Q&A below:
Do you think that changing the order is going to change bigger picture elements and drift a bit further away from the books?
Well, we already differ from the books a little bit because we’re an ensemble show. The books really focus on one on one romantic pair at a time and maybe the siblings have a little cameo here and there but they don’t have full stories. In that way, even though we’re reversing the order of the books, I think all the people you would expect to see — Benedict, who is book three, he will be a vital part of Season 3.
We know Anthony and Kate are going to be be back. Are they going to be a big part of next season? What about Daphne?
We want to keep seeing all of our Bridgerton siblings. We feel like those moments when the whole family is together is what really makes the show and makes all of us, I think, want to be a Bridgerton. So yes, you will definitely be seeing Daphne, Anthony and Kate — how much, I don’t want to say quite yet, but you have to tune in.
Have you guys discussed if you’ll go back to Benedict or if next season would go right into Eloise?
So, you know, I think Shonda Rhimes has said publicly before that she wants to have eight seasons. We hope to get to tell every sibling’s love story and they will always be in each season.
The romances — and sex — in Season 1 and 2 were very different. As the relationship was very intense in Season 1, Season 2 was more of a slow burn. What can you say about how Season 3 will compare?
I feel like Seasons 1 and 2, our male leads had a lot of darkness in their pasts — Simon and his father and Anthony losing his father. Obviously, Colin lost the same father, but I think of Colin and Pen as being characters who bring a lot of comedy to the show. So I think we’re gonna get to play a lot of that this season. But I want to balance that out with quite a bit of sexiness and romance. I think that’s so important to the show. We’ll get the chance to go deeper with them and push them to more serious sides and see what that looks like, so you’ll be seeing new new levels.
Can you say a little about the themes you’ll be taking on with Pen and Colin?
I don’t want to say too much, but in general, we’re playing a little bit with the fact that this season is about two characters who are sort of stepping out of the shadows. Colin, as a third son who’s kind of been behind the scenes a little bit, and Penelope as Lady Whistledown, living this dual identity and in her public face, really living on the wall. So watching these two step into the sunshine and find each other will be really rewarding.
How was the shift been for you into the showrunner role?
I mean, it’s definitely been a learning curve. It’s my first time doing it, but it’s been the best possible environment to do it in. I’ve been at Shondaland for 13 or 14 years. Chris Van Dusen and I came up together and have worked together for over a decade and he’s been enormously supportive, which has been wonderful. Shonda and Betsy Beers and the whole Shondaland team have really held my hand when I’ve needed it along the way. So I feel very supported. I’ve been with the show since Season 1, and it’s my dream show. This would be top of my list of shows I would watch if I weren’t working on it. So I’m thrilled that I get to step into this role on this particular show.
What’s been the biggest challenge?
I think I wasn’t prepared perhaps for the level of outreach from the fans. I’ve always enjoyed being behind the scenes and when it got announced that I was stepping in, I became a little more visible and so people are reaching out but I’m thrilled about it. Honestly, they’re just so excited and it’s such a privilege to work on something that people care so much about.
So, throughout the books, Pen’s weight and weight loss is referenced multiple times, partially in an inner monologue way. Is that something that you guys will be touching on at all?
We think that Penelope is beautiful, and I don’t think it’s really a part of her story. Her being a wallflower in our show I think is about her level of confidence more than it is about her outward appearance. So I think that’s more what we’re playing with this season.
I’m sure when adapting a book, there’s a certain amount of pressure that goes into keeping the endgame the same, especially with romances, but we’ve seen that result in a lack of LGBTQ+ representation. Is that something you’ll be tackling?
Right now, I really am so focused on Pen and Colin and how we’re rolling them out that my head’s really in that in the day to day, but maybe at a later date that’s something we can talk about.
This interview has been edited and condensed.