Everything about Bridgerton, the new period piece from Shonda Rhimes’s production company, is over the top. From the sheer quantity of Regency costumes (there are close to 7,500 of them, according to costume designer Ellen Mirojnick) and the extravagant, gilded interiors, to the plot lines ripped from the pages of a romance novel, the show, which debuts on Netflix on December 25, goes out of its way to create a vibrant, fantastical world. While each aspect deserves its own deep dive, we chatted with production designer Will Hughes-Jones to find out what parts of the eponymous Bridgertons’ lives we can visit IRL. Spoiler: Most of the grand interiors were completely built out on sound stages.
“They were some of the biggest single rooms that I’ve ever built,” Hughes-Jones says. “They’re just like nothing I’d ever seen on a stage before and when the [filming] crews would come in, their jaws would drop when they walked onto them.”
But don’t worry, that doesn’t mean you can’t start planning a trip to the Duke of Hastings’s estate or the queen’s parlors for when travel restrictions lift. Just know you’ll have to traverse nearly the entirety of England—from Bath to London to York in the north—to hit them all. Here’s what Hughes-Jones had to say.
The costumes in the show are so extravagant. How did you go about finding places that let the characters stand out, but also could match that level of opulence?
Because it revolves around the Bridgertons and [rival family] the Featheringtons, it was a very tall order to find those properties—their houses. And to be honest, we built them. In terms of the Bridgerton House, the only interior [we shot on] location was the salon, or the entrance hall, and one of the wood paneled rooms—the rest of it, we built on a stage. And with the Featheringtons, the whole of the interior is a build and it was principally because of that very reason: we were never going to be able to repaint Grade I–listed properties and start changing fabrics on walls to get the color palette that we needed. So that was a very early decision that we made.
When we did shoot on location, we chose them very carefully. In order to create the illusion of the colorways being there, we put a lot of very big drapery in, lots of flowers, and lots of furniture that was in the right colors to portray the characters.
Two places that I imagine you couldn’t have built out were the parks where the cast promenades and relaxes. Where did you find those stretches of greenery?
For the [episodes] with the lake, our location team went hunting and found a place called Painshill Park, which is a public park in West London. It’s actually very close to the airport, so we had airplane issues when we were filming there. [In another early episode], there’s a shot that goes underneath a bridge and follows along the water’s edge before coming to our characters promenading and that was at Wilton House, which is down in Wiltshire and which we also used for the interior of Buckingham House. It was a fantastic location that gave us all sorts of interesting things: parts of the Hastings house were shot there, parts of Lady Danbury’s house, and the queen’s parlors. The gardens were an extra bonus—not just because they’re fantastic, but they allowed us to ride horses on their lawns.
What is it like to be able to use a single estate or property for so many different parts of a show?
Generally every property we filmed at, we had to create multi-use spaces, principally because of scheduling. It’s part of the game we have to play looking at locations, where we go, ‘Well, it can work for that, but what else can it work for?’ So, Wilton House—which is owned by the Earl of Pembroke—is actually a private house but they’re very used to filming. It’s the sort of place that you probably recognize from other shows. We used it for the exterior of the Hastings house in London, as well as for Hastings’s study. As I said, it was also used for the queen’s parlor—the scene with the contortionists was shot there—and for the society presentation from the first episode. We did a garden party in the exterior, too.
The home that stands out most to me is the Duke’s country estate where he and Daphne go on their honeymoon. It was stunning. Where was it filmed?
That is actually Castle Howard up in Yorkshire. It is one of the grandest country houses in the country. It actually took 100 years to build and, at the time, was a bigger palace than where the Queen lived. The beauty of the interior is just off the charts. We were very lucky to be able to film there, since the family that built it still lives there. And the dome, it was the first kind of dome in a private residence in England. When we started filming there, we all had our breath taken away by that dome. It was as if Chris [Van Dusen, the showrunner,] had written it specifically for this house when we turned up. It was just an absolute joy.
A lot of the homes used for filming are still used today as homes or private estates. What was the most surprising location?
For the ingenue ball we wanted a sort of ethereal quality, so we were looking for a location where we could sort of come from the heavens. [We found this] fantastic location with an amazing staircase that was—bizarrely enough—actually part of some council offices. But we did our thing and dressed it with lots and lots of beautiful white flowers, lots of soft, billowing drapes, and statues [to make it work].
What was the hardest for you to find the perfect place to film?
The hardest ones were the exteriors of the two main houses because they are so important to get right. There’s so much interaction between the two houses and they were really difficult to find. Although they’re on the square [in the show], they’re not anywhere close to each other in real life. The Featherington house is off of the Circus in Bath—it’s actually the [No. 1 Royal Crescent] museum on the corner. And the Bridgerton house is a standalone house that we ended up embellishing a lot with wisteria in order for it to fit the bill. It’s an English Heritage property called Ranger’s House just on the corner of Blackheath, overlooking Greenwich Park [in London]. They’re actually on opposite ends of the country.
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