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Shonda Rhimes Highlights Diversity Ahead of ‘Bridgerton: Season 2’ Debut

Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of the hit Netflix series “Bridgerton” says fans of the show can rest assured that the March 25 debut of season two will include all the glamour of the balls, the beauty of the world, the stunning hair and makeup found in season one.

The first season of the period drama remains Netflix’s all-time No. 1 episodic series, with 625.5 million hours streamed over the first 28 days of release.

Shonda Rhimes

From Shondaland and creator Chris Van Dusen, the second season of “Bridgerton” is based on the Julia Quinn novel The Viscount Who Loved Me and follows Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey), the eldest Bridgerton sibling and Viscount, as he sets out to find a suitable wife. Driven by his duty to uphold the family name, Anthony’s search for a debutante who meets his impossible standards seems ill-fated until Kate (Simone Ashley) and her younger sister Edwina (Charithra Chandran) Sharma arrive from India.

Ahead of the release, Rhimes, in a Netflix Q&A, discusses “diving deeper” in season two, her decision to deviate from the book and make the Sharma family be of South Asian descent, and the importance of representation on and off screen.

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Netflix: When did you realize that the first season of “Bridgerton” had become a global phenomenon?

Rhimes: “It happened right after the show premiered over the holidays, and I started to get texts and emails from people telling me that they’d seen the show, and that they were excited about it. And then it felt like I wasn’t just getting a few texts and emails — I was getting every text and email possible telling me about the show, which was exciting.”

Netflix: Considering how successful Season 1 was, how has the creative team approached Season 2?

Rhimes: “We’ve upped our game a little bit in terms of how we’re telling this story. In the first season we had to introduce everybody to the world — and now people know what this world is. Now our goal is to just bring them in even deeper, give them more of a sense of what’s going on, and let them really see how this world works. And that’s exciting.

Netflix: “Bridgerton” does a fantastic job of creating a world that looks much more like our own with its inclusive casting. Can you talk a little bit about the conscious effort to make the cast multicultural and why that is so important to the show’s identity?

Rhimes: I’m not sure that it’s just important to the show’s identity as it is important to television and shows in general. The idea that we don’t create worlds that look like the world that we live in, and that we create false societies where everybody looks a certain kind of way or is a certain kind of color or whatever, feels disingenuous to me. It also feels like erasure. We’re just not interested in erasing anybody from the story, ever. In Shondaland, that is how we do; that’s just how we tell stories. While it’s important for Bridgerton, it’s important for every story being told. When you’re watching television, you should get to see people who look like you.”

Netflix: How has that representation been reflected behind the camera as well?

Rhimes: “In Shondaland, we make sure that the crew and the people behind the scenes are as multicultural as the people you see in front of the camera. We make sure that they are different in age; we make sure that they have different abilities; we like to make sure that our casts and our crews and our writers represent the real world. I think it makes for better storytelling, it makes for more authentic storytelling, and it makes for more complex storytelling. You want directors who reflect the world. You want people who have a view of the world that doesn’t come from simply one point of view. There’s nothing wrong with a white male point of view, but there are certainly many things right about the point of view of women of color, directors of color, artists of color, writers of color. That feels important to us to include in our world.”

Netflix: Can you go into a little more detail about the decision to make the Sharma family be of South Asian descent, and how their Indian heritage adds another layer of depth to these characters?

Rhimes: “Making the Sharmas of South Asian descent was actually a very simple choice. I wanted to feel like the world we were living in was as three-dimensional as possible, and I wanted to feel like the representation was as three-dimensional as possible, too. Finding South Asian women with darker skin and making sure that they were represented on screen authentically and truthfully feels like something that we haven’t seen nearly enough of. I felt like it was time for us to make sure that we were seeing as much as possible.

And it wasn’t just me. The entire creative team was excited and on board with this idea from the very beginning. And the idea that they are from another culture, we weave that into the story in a wonderful way to enhance the idea that the very English values of our characters are not necessarily the only values worth having. That’s reflected in Kate’s reaction to English tea — but, really, it is a very important way of making sure that we are including the world in this. Netflix has a global audience. That audience is the world, literally. I wanted to make sure that if you are watching “Bridgerton” from another country, you’re not thinking to yourself, “Well, this has nothing to do with me.” Well, absolutely it has something to do with you. The humanity in every character should feel universal.”

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