When Phoebe Dynevor was first cast as the lead in Bridgerton, she was taken for a costume fitting.
"I remember getting to this huge warehouse," she says, speaking from London, "and walking through, wondering where the Bridgerton costumes were being kept. Then I realized that the whole warehouse was just for this one show. Everything about Bridgerton is epic."
A 10-part series inspired by Julia Quinn's historical romance novels — and the first Netflix series from producer Shonda Rhimes's company, Shondaland — Bridgerton is a reimagining of Regency England on a grand scale. Dynevor plays Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the show's central family and thus first in line to be married off.
"The most striking thing about life back then [in the early 1800s] was not being able to make your own decisions as a woman," the actress observes. "There was no career for you — it was all about finding a husband who could look after you. The main reason I was so excited about doing the show was I knew that Shonda wouldn't let the women be without agency. That's not her style."
The show, which premiered December 25, is Dynevor's first series lead. Though she's been working in British productions such as Waterloo Road and The Village since she was 14 and has a recurring role in TV Land's Younger, this role marks a significant advance. "I knew before going in," she says, "that it was going to be big."
The series was filmed in the U.K. and wrapped in February, before the pandemic, which meant Dynevor was one of the few cast members to meet Rhimes in person. She was living in Los Angeles when she won the part, so she met Rhimes and showrunner-creator Chris Van Dusen at a chemistry read. "I was so nervous, I almost had to pretend she wasn't there because it would have sent me askew," Dynevor recalls. "I'm such a fan."
Her mother is an actress on the long-running British soap Coronation Street, and her father is a TV writer, so she's grown up with the business all around her. That doesn't mean her parents encouraged her to follow their lead.
"They knew how tough the industry is," she recalls. "They pushed me away from it. In my teenage years I wanted to prove to them that I really wanted to do it. When I got the call about Bridgerton, it felt as though everything I'd done in my career had led to that moment."
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 12, 2020
For more about the genesis of Bridgerton, click HERE.