In an interview with Awards Daily, executive producer, showrunner and creator of Netflix’s hit show Bridgerton, Chris Van Dusen, details the ways the book inspires how he is able to make changes in the adaptation, including some of the doomed love interests created just for the show. He also hints at future work to come and how Bridgerton was a gateway to making that possible.
AD: I read that Shonda Rhimes gave you the books to see if you were interested in making it into a show. Are you a fan of romance books in general? And do you think it’s a genre that you will come back to?
Chris Van Dusen: I am a fan of romance. I don’t think that my interests fall into one specific category or genre. The stories that really fascinate me are the ones that have interesting and complicated characters that jump off a page and grab me for some reason. The fact that these books were considered romance novels wasn’t really what I was looking at or what I thought was important. I just thought of them as really good books and found them to be an amazing starting point to create this period piece that I’ve always wanted to see.
AD: You have worked on original material as well as adapting other material. What is different for you in the writing process?
Chris Van Dusen: I think for me there are pieces I take from all the shows I work on. And I feel they’re always some more bigger, cinematic ideas that find their way into my work. It always comes down to character for me. Bridgerton is really a show about smart and funny and tortured people. I think all these characters’ lives are messy and their love lives are even messier. I feel like, at the end of the day, Bridgerton is very much a show that has women and men figuring out who they are and finding their agency, and they are all learning how to love and how to have relationships. It’s those kinds of characters and themes I’ve always been drawn to.
AD: For the stuff that isn’t in the book or isn’t a major part of the original story like Eloise’s hunt for a Lady Whistledown or Benedict’s artistic endeavors, where did you guys come up with some of those ideas?
Chris Van Dusen: I have assembled an amazing group of writers for both seasons and it’s really quite collaborative. What we always looked at when breaking these stories in the writing room was how to make them relevant today. Underneath all the glamour and the lavishness and this beautiful escapist world, there really is this running modern commentary about how in the last two hundred years everything has changed and nothing has changed. That goes for women and men.
AD: One scene in particular that I thought was a very interesting change from the book is Anthony’s and Kate’s intense moment with the bee. (SPOILER) In the book they get caught, but in the show, it’s just this intense moment between them. Do you remember the reasons you had for changing that scene?
Chris Van Dusen: That scene in the book is handled pretty humorously, and we took a different approach in the series. That is the first moment when Anthony and Kate both realize they have deeper feelings for each other. For us on the series, we consider the series the series and the books the books. It’s a given that there are always going to be differences from the source material with any adaptation. But we are really careful about that in the writing room; for us, it’s about capturing the tone of the books and the spirit of these characters. But most importantly what we are going to do is take every portion of the audience, whether they’ve read the books or not, on the same satisfying ride. Sometimes that means making surprising choices.
AD: With Anthony’s mistress Siena Rosso in Season 1, then Eloise with Theo Sharpe for Season 2, you gave us couples with fantastic chemistry who we know won’t get together. What was the reason for doing this besides potentially torturing viewers?
Chris Van Dusen: Hehehe. I think it’s all about the ride but it always comes down to character. With Anthony and Siena in Season 1, I knew that we were going to be focusing on Anthony in Season 2, so I wanted Season 1 to break him so we could put them back together again in the second season. His relationship with Siena left him at a crossroads at the end of the first season and it set him up for the second season because he’s completely turned his back on what he thought love was. Over the course of this season, he gets to realize what love really is and gets to have an actual loving relationship with Kate. The same is true for Eloise. Theo was a big part of her journey this season, and it’s my hope that we are able to follow up and continue that journey through future seasons in really interesting ways.
AD: So, here’s a fanbase question I’m certain anyone who’s interested in the show wants to know. What is Julia Quinn like?
Chris Van Dusen: Julia Quinn is amazing. It’s wonderful that we’ve been able to have her support from the very beginning. I know we sent her the first scripts for the first season and she read them and said she never would have thought to approach an adaptation like this but that it was the only way to do it. And just hearing that was such a vote of confidence. She has been an amazing supporter from the beginning, and we are lucky to have that.
AD: You have a new show you are working on—They Both Die at The End. What can you tell us about that?
Chris Van Dusen: Yes, so Bridgerton is obviously something I’m always going to be immensely proud of, and with the success of creating the show a lot of doors have opened up for me, and I couldn’t be more grateful or excited about what’s next. I am into a few projects right now and They Both Die at The End is the first one I have announced. I read that book years ago and I was really moved by it because it’s an incredibly powerful, romantic and funny love story. It’s a queer love story and is something I’ve been after for a while. I’m thrilled to be adapting it with the book’s author Adam Silvera. It’s incredible, it’s painful and beautiful at the same time.
AD: You mentioned there were some other things you were working on. Is that something you can share with us, or is that just kind of in development right now?
Chris Van Dusen: I can’t quite comment on my other projects right now but I can say I am pretty busy and will be for the foreseeable future, and I couldn’t be more thrilled about that.
All seasons of Bridgerton are streaming on Netflix.