“Bridgerton” Author Julia Quinn Visits Fordham


Julia Quinn (center), the author behind the “Bridgerton” series, poses with cast members of the smash-hit Netflix show. (Courtesy of Instagram)

On Wednesday, March 24, Fordham’s English department hosted a Zoom event with author Julia Quinn, the romance writer behind the novel that inspired Netflix’s smash-success Bridgerton. Mary Bly, the department chair, moderated the event. 

Quinn is a romance author whose works have graced the New York Times bestseller list 19 times and have been translated into 29 different languages. The first installment of her Bridgerton series “The Duke & I” was published in 2000 but was adapted for television by Shondaland Media in 2020. The story follows wealthy debutante Daphne Bridgerton and Duke Simon Basset. In classic romance genre form, they make a pact to pretend to court each other in order to throw off other suitors but ultimately have to enter into a marriage. The first season of “Bridgerton” was watched by a record-breaking 82 million households worldwide, making it the most-watched Netflix series of all time. 

Quinn told her audience of Fordham students and faculty that the opportunity to see her book adapted for the screen practically “fell into her lap.” She said she had not been looking to option her work for adaptation but was approached by Shondaland? Media and jumped at the opportunity. 

“It started with sitting in a Starbucks and drinking coffee and getting a phone call and promptly falling off my stool,” recalled Quinn. “I was fairly shocked.”

From there began the “very slow process” of adapting her novel into a television series. It was four years before “Bridgerton” became available for streaming on Netflix, said Quinn. For the first 18 months of the process, Quinn had to keep quiet about the adaptation. “My friends now know I really can keep a secret,” Quinn joked. 

When it came to creative control of the show, Quinn said she was ready and willing to hand over the reins. “One of the smartest things you can do is recognize smart people,” said Quinn. “I’m not going to tell Shonda Rhimes how to make television.” While Quinn did take on the role of consultant for the project, she said her contributions to the scripts were fairly minimal. 

The result was a television show to which Quinn is thrilled to be connected. “I felt the television series very accurately captured the emotional journey you go on when you read a romance novel,” she said. 

Quinn also expressed how thrilling it was to watch her work take on a life of its own as it became a television show and the surreal experience of visiting the set during production. “Everyone was like ‘Oh, it must be so crazy to see your characters come to life.’ And yes, that’s true,” said Quinn. “But the biggest thing was just the scope of it and to realize that hundreds and hundreds of people are working on this thing that started out just in your head.” 

Quinn said that some of the changes made to her story during the adaptation process really impressed her, especially the addition of the character Queen Charlotte, played by Golda Rosheuvel. Rosheuvel was one of several actors of color included in the show’s cast, which is more diverse than most romances fare, especially those set in the Regency era. The show reimagines Regency London as a setting in which Black and white people were treated equally and Black families could hold positions of wealth and power. 

As a white woman, Quinn said she has always been able to connect with the characters in romance novels. When the more diverse television series aired and she saw fans reacting to seeing Black characters in romance, she was deeply moved. 

“I love that ‘Bridgerton’ the television show has managed to create something where more people can see themselves in the story and see themselves getting the happy ending,” said Quinn. “I think that’s incredibly valuable.” 

Some Fordham students were curious about Quinn’s intentions when it came to writing “The Duke & I,” especially when it comes to feminist critique. Several of Quinn’s characters wrestle with questions of gender equality and sexism, most notably Eloise Bridgerton, who is uninterested in marriage and views it as oppressive to women. 

Quinn said while she didn’t set out to deliberately create an explicitly feminist work, her views on gender equality still inevitably showed up on the page. “I am a feminist, and I’ve always called myself a feminist,” explained Quinn. “I think my values come across. It’s not a deliberate thing. It’s just what happens.” 

Bridgerton has been renewed for a second season, which will be based on the second installment in Quinn’s book series, “The Viscount Who Loved Me.” While Quinn said she couldn’t reveal anything about the upcoming season (and admitted she doesn’t know much yet), she said she believes the second book is even better suited for adaptation than the first. “I’m just really excited,” said Quinn.