Dame Julie Andrews returns to the small screen on Christmas Day as the voice of an anonymous and mysterious gossip writer.
Dame Julie is the voice of Lady Whistledown in Netflix’s new romantic period drama Bridgerton, described as Gossip Girl meets Downton Abbey.
The drama is the first series from Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal creator Shonda Rhimes’s production company Shondaland, after her lucrative deal with the streaming giant.
Here is what you need to know about Bridgerton:
What is the premise?
The series follows Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne Bridgerton, the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, as she makes her debut on Regency London’s competitive marriage market.
Although it initially appears she has a wealth of options in the early 19th century capital, her brother begins to rule out her potential suitors, prompting the high society scandal sheet written by the mysterious Lady Whistledown to cast aspersions on Daphne.
However, sparks fly between Daphne and the rebellious Duke of Hastings, played by Rege-Jean Page, and they find themselves engaged in a battle of wits while navigating society’s expectations for their futures.
Who are the cast members?
As well as Dynevor and Page, the series also stars Derry Girls actress Nicola Coughlan, Broadchurch star Jonathan Bailey and Vanity Fair actress Claudia Jessie.
Silent Witness star Golda Rosheuvel will also appear as Queen Charlotte while EastEnders actress Adjoa Andoh plays Lady Danbury.
It is based on a series of books
Julia Quinn has written more than 30 historical romance novels – twelve of which have been the Bridgerton series.
The first one was The Duke And I, which was published in 2000 and formed the basis for this adaptation by show creator Chris Van Dusen. Van Dusen landed his first writing gig on Grey’s Anatomy.
Zimbabwe-born Page, 30, who plays Simon Basset, the charming and mysterious Duke of Hastings, said: “We bring in 21st century ideas and concepts and look at the world through this lens”.
It is far from old-fashioned
While Bridgerton is drawing comparisons to Jane Austen novels, the series is by no means stuck in the past.
The dialogue is sharp and snappy while the ballroom scenes include classical interpretations of pop songs – including tunes by Ariana Grande and Taylor Swift.
And the show boasts an eye-popping look thanks to its vibrant set and costumes.
Female sexuality is at the centre of the story
Dynevor, 25, said she knew the women in Bridgerton would be “empowered and have agency” thanks to Rhimes’s involvement.
The Waterloo Road star, whose mother Sally Dynevor, plays Sally Webster in Coronation Street, said the show presents Daphne’s sexual evolution as a young woman “in a time where she didn’t know anything about sex”.
Dynevor added: “She had to learn it from whoever she was lucky or unlucky to be matched with, depending on the person.
“But I think that was a story that I hadn’t necessarily seen told before.”
It is an inclusive cast
Van Dusen said he did not want to call Bridgerton’s casting “colourblind” but added race is part of the show’s conversation.
Coughlan, who plays book-loving Penelope Featherington, said the series’ diversity is “one of the biggest strengths”.
She added: “I think ‘colour conscious casting’ is such an important thing and it should happen more in the industry, because art should be about expression and about what the world could be, and people should need to see themselves on screen. So that’s a thing that really drew me to Bridgerton.”
Bridgerton is on Netflix from Christmas Day.