Shonda Rhimes was on vacation when she came across the first book in the Regency-era “Bridgerton” book series, “The Duke & I,” by Julia Quinn, and quickly got the hang of it.
“I immediately went out and bought all the rest of his books,” Rhimes said in a recent interview. “His way with words is delightful. I thought, ‘These are characters I would like to get to know. They had a universal feeling for them and I thought they would make amazing television.”
Rhimes passed the books on to Chris Van Dusen, who was also dumbfounded.
“I took them home and fell in love with them from the first moment I read them,” he said. Van Dusen then created, executive produced, and served as showrunner of the series for Netflix.
“Bridgerton” was Rhimes’ first series to debut on Netflix as part of its deal with streamer and chief content officer Ted Sarandos, and it set the bar high. Debuting on Christmas Day 2020, the show, starring Regé-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor in the first season, was a hit.
“I got an email from Ted Sarandos saying ‘Good job’ which I thought meant a great job. And then maybe a week or so we started getting the numbers and I really understood what great work meant,” Rhimes said. “I was just thrilled to have a show at Netflix.
For Quinn, life was pretty good before Rhimes and Van Dusen called in 2017, but it’s only gotten better since then. She was making a good living as a historical romance writer with a sequel. The show, she says, changed everything to “bonkers.”
“I can’t think of a better word. I was going with surreal for a while, but now we’ve gone from surreal to just bonkers. Every day, it seems like something new and amazing is happening in the world of “Bridgerton.” »
Quinn also serves as a consultant on the show and jokes that it’s the “easiest” job ever. “I see the scripts and I’m all, ‘That’s awesome! Nothing to say!'”
The second season of “Bridgerton,” adapted from book two, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” is now streaming on Netflix. The new episodes follow Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest of the family, who enters the social season with the intention of finding a bride. Page, whose career exploded thanks to the series, did not return for season 2. Dynevor appears in a supporting role.
Each book in the series focuses on a different member of the Bridgerton family, and the show’s seasons follow suit. There are eight books in the series, plus an epilogue book with a short story called “The Bridgertons: Happily Ever After”. A limited prequel television series, written by Rhimes, is also in development about the origin story of characters Queen Charlotte, Lady Danbury and Lady Violet Bridgerton.
Quinn experiences a renewed interest in the “Bridgerton” books.
“Romantic writing is like a balloon. Eventually you stretch the balloon as far as you can, and it’s really hard to get people to come and get into the balloon. And people off the balloon don’t ‘ve never heard of you, which is great. ‘Bridgerton’ just popped the ball,” Quinn said.
“Suddenly all kinds of people who had never read a romance novel or a historical romance novel were reading them. In April 2021, all eight books were simultaneously on the New York Times bestseller list.”
Quinn also told The Associated Press why she structured her series the way she did and what else is coming.
AP: The success of the series surprised a lot of people. What did you think?
QUINN: I was confident that we were going to have, at the very least, a respectable performance. If for no other reason there are millions of romance readers dying for something like this. I didn’t even know it could be that big.
AP: How has the show’s popularity affected book sales?
QUINN: My publisher printed a whole bunch of new books with Regé and Phoebe on the cover, and they sold out instantly, and then all the titles sold out. It was just frantic. It got to the point where all of the company’s resources were directed towards reprinting these books. Thank goodness for e-books. We can foresee there would be some demand but no one thought they were going to do what they did and the last thing I want to do is print all these books and waste all this paper if no one wasn’t going to buy them. I felt like I was getting emails every other day from my publishing house with the print schedule because for publishers right now all the printers have come together and it’s really difficult. You have to reserve your slot with the printers, and it’s really difficult. But, yes, the books just exploded and not just in the United States. It’s a global thing.
AP: How did you decide to create a series about a large family where each book follows a different member?
QUINN: Romance series is really more of a collection of spin-offs than sequels. So it was nothing new. It’s new to TV, though. And, you know, that was something that a lot of viewers didn’t understand. When they heard that Regé was leaving, everyone was like, ‘Oh my god, the show is going to fall apart without him.’ And of course all novel readers say, “Well, you know, we’d all like him to continue as a supporting character” – which he is a supporting character in the next book – but that’s a very minor part. Romance readers said, “Guys, that’s not how it works.” We always knew we would have two different tracks next time.
AP: What is your next book?
QUINN: The graphic novel “Miss Butterworth and the Mad Baron” comes out in May.