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Interview | Luke Newton

May 13, 2024 16 min read

“It feels like the previous seasons have almost been prep”: Bridgerton's new leading man talks co-star jonathan bailey through season 3.


All signs have pointed to 2024 for the star as he ascends to international leading-man status for the third season Netflix's gargantuan regency drama. Co-star and Season 2 lead Jonathan Bailey checks in for a tête-à-tête, and from the blossoming of Colin and Penelope’s love story, the infamous Bridgerton ‘glow-up’ and whether Newton’s more of a Bond or Superman guy – there’s a packed agenda!





“Obviously, I'm always here for you, bro!’ Jonathan Bailey pledges when he sits down to chat with Luke Newton on the morning of his Man About Town cover shoot. It’s 10am and Bailey’s got a snappy 45 minutes for a pit stop to the North London photography studio, black coffee in hand, ahead of travelling to LA for the Oscars later in the week. Brothers on screen since Bridgerton’s 2020 debut, the kinship forged by the life-upending experience of starring in the record-setting period drama – devoured by 82 million households in the 28 days following the first season’s release – means the two’s real-life bond these days is naturally akin to the familial kind.

Bailey plays eldest Bridgerton brother Anthony in the rip-roaring account of Regency-era romance, and sagacious older-sibling wisdom finds its way into his and Newton’s real-life dynamic, too. He’s four years Newton’s senior but it’s the fact that, in its second season, Bailey led the show that particularly makes him someone for Newton to look up to. Never more so than at the moment, as Newton’s comparatively naive, boyish Colin Bridgerton takes up the mantle in upcoming Season 3 with his relationship with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), which simmered on the plotline’s fringes in previous instalments, making a timely migration to the story’s centrepiece.

To the naked eye, it was Bridgerton that made Bailey a figure of admiration for Newton, but the former’s thespian talents might have actually first piqued Newton’s interest all the way back in the ‘90s. Gavroche, the 19th-century Parisian street child in Les Misérables, could well have been the first intermediary for the pair. Bailey played the role, he thinks, in 1998, aged eight, in the West-End production which Newton travelled from Brighton to London to watch during his performer auntie’s run in the show from 1997 to 2001. “It was Gavroche that I saw and I was like, ‘I want to do that,’” Newton enthuses. “Well, do you know what? If it wasn't me [playing him], it might have been James Buckley from The Inbetweeners,” Bailey laughs, “because we worked together!”

A young Newton frequented several times in his auntie’s tenure, so romantics can permissibly conclude that his and Bailey’s paths intersected. Newton’s infancy at the time meant the production’s deafening sound effects left him somewhat panic-stricken, but not even that could curtail his infatuation with the spectacle he saw on stage. “I was like, ‘I'll put up with the terror of people being shot if I can see these people performing,’” he says. “And I think that's where the bug came from.”

That bug only grew and before long, he would be on such stages himself, via a stint at London School of Musical Theatre (LSMT) aged 20. Professional victories followed swiftly with a string of TV credits as well as castings in his auntie’s London theatreland stomping ground (in The Book of Mormon and last year, Neil LaBute’s dark comedy, The Shape of Things). However, there are few acting stages in the 2020s of the magnitude of Bridgerton, and no role bigger than the lead. Three seasons in, Newton’s primed to pick up the baton and handily, he’s got the likes of Bailey still in the ensemble to lean on for support.

Clutching a notepad, Bailey’s got a tall list of questions to get through and just three-quarters of an hour to do so. Where a good old brotherly catch-up is concerned, there really is no time like the present.


Blazer & trousers DOLCE & GABBANA, shoes GRENSON

Jonathan Bailey: Alright, bro. Lovely to see you as always. When was the last time we saw each other?
Luke Newton: When did I last see you? It was recently, wasn't it?
JB: I popped in to do a day of marketing for Season 3.
LN: Yes!
JB: And that was really interesting for me because, with pride, I see how brilliant you are generally but also what a leader you are, stepping right to the front and riding that wave of marketing. How does it feel?
LN: It is crazy! I was thinking, it's two years now since last season and the opportunities that have come up [this time around], the press bits and stuff, I've never had this experience.
JB: I've seen two episodes. They're so good! And I think you and Nicola have just brilliantly expanded into your roles. Does it feel that the nature of the marketing and the press [this time] somehow reinforces how the stories and the character are expanding with you?
LN:Yeah absolutely. It feels like the previous seasons have almost been prep which is kind of weird that they’re then documented and there forever on Netflix. And obviously, Nic and I never knew that we would even get to this [point]. I remember ringing my mum and being like, ‘I've booked this show and it's about these books, and there's eight of them, and one of them could be about me, but it's the fourth one in, potentially.’
JB: What I loved as well, having had the exact experience [of leading] with Simone [Ashley] last year, is that something sort of miraculous happens where the supporting characters don't actually know what you're filming. So it becomes like real life. And I forgot that it felt like a real privilege to have those secret things that only [me and Simone knew]. And [that extends also to the] directors because they are different every block [of filming]. How did you find the directors this year?
LN: I think they really picked the perfect director for each block and each part of the story. For example, there's one particular block that's more steamy than the rest and we had Billy Woodruff come in and film it whose experience was a lot of sexy music videos. So we got to do all the montage stuff and just completely trust that he would make it look really hot.
JB: And that's what you want!
LN: Yeah, exactly! So I feel like they were hand-picked not only for the show but also for that particular moment in the story. I think also the thing with Bridgerton is, as you know, you just trust it. That was hard in Season 1 because no one knew what it was. I remember you, me and Luke [Thompson] being like, ‘What's this going to be?’ And with Season 2, I just trusted it. So I just know as long as I understand what's on the page and I understand my role, I feel safe and happy. And that continued into Season 3.
JB: What's going to be so joyful for the audience and also for all of us [this season], is that we've known Colin and Penelope together from the get-go, and now you’re being given the platform to really expand [their story].
LN: And I think that's what's interesting about even watching Episode 1, because we sort of hit the ground running. I was kind of overwhelmed by watching Episode 1 because so much happens. And it's because everyone's got storylines that are continuing from last season. We're not introducing anyone new, there are new characters that come in but no one that's leading. So I remember seeing the first episode and going, ‘That is a lot,’ which I know fans will just love, because they've been sort of starved of the show for a long time, for two years. So now just to have all of that and the extra storylines from Queen Charlotte, it’s like all the worlds colliding in this fast-paced start for the season.
JB: Yeah, it's an explosion, isn't it? Have you hung out much with the Queen Charlotte leads, Corey [Mylchreest] and India [Amarteifio]?
LN: A little bit! Corey and I have the same stylist, so I often see him in fittings. And in the lead-up to doing the press tour [for this season of Bridgerton], I met up with India and I just wanted to rack her brains on what it would be like because with COVID, we hadn't got to experience it in that capacity before.
JB: They're good eggs. What scene out of this season, [mindful] of spoilers, would you want to go back to record just because it was so brilliant?
LN: I've talked about this a lot but the hot-air balloon sequence. I'd never done anything on that scale before.


Shirt, cummerbund & trousers DOLCE & GABBANA, shoes CHRISTIAN LOUBOUTIN.

JB: It's heroic.
LN: Yeah, it was treated like a stunt! And it’s a moment that is about a turning point in Colin and Pen's relationship, but actually, they're not together, and we film everything together, Nic and I. They’re good at expressing their emotions to each other, but this was the first time that something sort of kicks off. And we had crazy weather. We were like huddled up in tents.
JB: I was in Canada filming at the time, but I remember someone sent me a video – I can't remember who, but I'm sure it was legitimate and it was okay to do – and everyone was just like, ‘Woof!’ Because [it looked] knockout. And also, it's a moment where all of your preparation, physical transformation and what you want to see for your character [comes together].
LN: Yeah. I think that’s it because it's less about me being like, ‘Oh I love being a hero.’ It's more about the fact that Colin hasn't had that moment. He's been the young, naive boy. It was the moment where I went, ‘Oh he's a leading man.’ That’s where it changed because particularly at the start of the season, he's still a very emotional, sensitive guy. So to have that moment was like, ‘Oh he's got it in him.’
JB: And also you've got it in you! What drove you through as you approached the season? Did you know what you were going to achieve or did you doubt that you could do it and that's what drove you?
LN: A question that I always get asked is if I’m ready to step into the leading man position. But, as you know, coming from theatre and especially growing up in theatre, I had so many opportunities to be a lead just obviously on a totally different scale. So it kind of blew my mind that I'd be doing this on-screen, for millions of people to watch, in a different genre. And I think it was the challenge of incorporating the experience that I've already had as a lead, but in a completely different capacity. It was like a flip of a coin where I was like, you've suddenly got to essentially be a different character.
JB: It’s brilliant to talk about theatre because I saw you in The Shape of Things, and you were knockout. So that job almost was like full circle, wasn’t it? You were going back to where you started.
LN: Yeah. And within that character, he’s playing multiple versions of himself. I remember my first day on the play, I was as nervous as when we started shooting because I’d not been in a rehearsal room in so many years for theatre. I’d also [previously] been in a rehearsal room for musical theatre, where songs are first. You get in and sit down and learn all the harmonies together and it gives you that sense of company. Whereas for this, there were only four cast members, two of them were seasoned pros in plays, so I was very overwhelmed. And also just by the amount of text because on a day on Bridgerton, I maybe could do three lines or one. In a family scene, I could say one line, and that could be my whole day.
JB: That's absolute hell. It's the worst. Spending the whole scene just going, ‘What does my voice even sound like?’ And then you squeak.
LN: And then you can't remember the one line that you've got to say. But at the same time, [the play] was just like the most rewarding experience. Just being on stage and being able to develop that performance over months of doing the show, getting feedback and working with the director. And also just all of the prep work that I do for something on-screen, I had to do it in a rehearsal room with three other actors. And you have to be so open and they have to say, ‘I don't think that works,’ and you go, ‘Well, this is my idea that I've had from home from reading the script.’ but for some reason it doesn't work with them. It makes you really stripped back. It felt like going back to college.
JB: And it's the antithesis of Bridgerton, getting to tell the whole character arc in one night! We need to talk about theatre and discipline, because one thing that I've noticed about you is, obviously your ability to have a really good time on set, but also your discipline. And I feel like everyone talks about the glow up and that's becoming a thing, isn't it? Do you feel that going to do The Shape of Thingssomehow affected your process for this season?
LN: Yeah, absolutely. And Nic and I talked about that at the end of Season 2, before we even knew storylines and before we knew that it was about glow-ups or we knew that there was going to be that element in the show. We knew that we wanted to be in a really healthy place where we had the stamina that we could get through it. And I knew from you that it's a long old slog, like 10 months including prep, and the days are long and you're in from the start to the end and it's back to back. And that's where the clock started turning of having this sort of physical transformation to get ready for the show as well.
JB: And the more energy you have, the more you can maximise the actual joy of it.
LN: Exactly. You don't want, at the end of the day, for it to be sluggish.



JB: Totally. And I found doing Season 2, that I developed really strong relationships with crew members, in a way that is only comparable to doing a play. Is there anyone who you formed really strong relationships with?
LN: Dougie [Hawkes] from costume.
JB: He's lovely, isn't he?
LN: For this season, Doug wanted to create a wardrobe for Colin rather than particular looks for each scene. He was like, ‘I just want you to have a wardrobe where we can go, on the day, ‘That goes with that, that goes with that.’ It made my life a lot easier because I wasn't in fittings all the time. But also it felt truthful. So I had a good, close relationship with Doug, and then obviously, as you know, hair and makeup is like your team, isn't it? You spend most of your year with that person.
JB: They see you at your most vulnerable! And back to The Shape of Things –will we see that play on Broadway?
LN: Oh my God. That's the dream.
JB: I think [Adam] is a real knockout part for you to play.
LN: I remember when I first read it I was like, ‘I don't think that's me.’ And I think it's also that thing of people seeing you differently to how you see yourself. I read it and was like, ‘I think I'm better as a Phil.’ And I remember even in rehearsals I'd be like, ‘I'm struggling with this.’ It wasn't until my first preview and putting the costume on [that it felt easier]. I feel like, for me, that's where it really starts. So now I know that I should be like, ‘I need costume earlier on.’ I need to know how [a character] feels physically because then I can match it.
JB: Well we should get that show to Broadway. I want to go and see it. And we need to talk about physicality. I was thinking before this interview, ‘What do I want to see bro do?’ And I want to see you dance and sing because I think people won't know this about you, but you've worked for so long and in so many different ways and much of that has been linked to singing, as well. And, now you've teetered off away from singing for a bit to go and smash acting, but you can move too which we sort of see a bit of in Bridgerton. So I want to see you do a lot, but it feels like it's coming.
LN: I'm sort of looking into that at the moment!
JB: Is there a part where you feel like the three things could come together? Or is there a future in music?
LN: Well, I keep watching documentaries about music artists and their rise to fame and how they cope with that. And it helps me learn and go, ‘Oh, I know that I wouldn't do that,’ or ‘That's similar to me in terms of private life and how I’d want to conduct that.’ And so, because of that, I've now been fascinated by the life of a musician. And growing up, I was in a couple of bands and I explored going into music, but there was always this draw into character. And I feel like if I did [music], I would have become another version of myself, which a lot of artists do, like a character. So I felt like I needed to do acting first. And also I knew that I could incorporate music in. I could potentially play a music artist at some point. And I think that is kind of something that I'm looking for now, and even recently there's been a few things that have popped up that I've been looking into that could work out.
JB: Basically, you want a part that's going to allow you to sing at the O2 Arena for one night?
LN: Yeah, exactly! [laughs]


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JB: There's a lot of actors also who seem to find their music careers in their 50s. I know Jeff Goldblum's done it and Damian Lewis. Maybe that's something that we can look forward to? I've also got some simple questions too. Chaos or structure?
LN: Oh… it's almost a mix of the two, but if I had to choose, probably structure. I feel like when I was younger, I would have just picked up my bags and just gone [anywhere]. But now, what I love about this job is being able to hone in on those things that I love like bits of structure. And actually, it's about working out things in my life that I need structure with and things that I can be kind of chaotic with.
JB: Because one affords the other, doesn't it? And actually, the brilliance of the art comes from the chaos.
LN: Totally!
JB: I also think now, looking back, what's amazing about leading Bridgerton for a season is that it forces you to really lock down. You can't socialise in the same way. All the things that you use to keep yourself grounded or you enjoy or release energy from, you can't do. And it's such an amazing thing to experience in your life once because then you learn things about yourself and what you need.
LN: You do. Obviously, on set, you're surrounded by people, you're supported, but you do get that feeling of coming home at the end of a day and going, ‘My social battery's at zero. I can't see anyone.’ And then you are totally isolated. And it just becomes about the next day.
JB: Did you ever play The Sims growing up?
LN: Yeah.
JB: It’s a bit like being a Sim, isn't it? You're like, I'm down to the red [energy bar].  
LN: Totally.
JB: What is your optimum moment in terms of you being able to deliver in the day? Do you like mornings? Do you like after lunch?
LN: I love night shoots.
JB: That's the chaos in you.
LN: I think it is. Because also, I'm a night owl, I’ll be up.
JB: Is that an anxious thing?
LN: I was just going to say, not even from anxiety, I’ll just wake up at like 8 o'clock at night and I'm like ready to go.
JB: Do you know what? Maybe you should be a music superstar. That would really suit you! Anyway, let's talk a little bit about training. Do you see yourself as someone who's trained?
LN: It's a really difficult one because it depends. Studying at LSMT, it was crammed in. We did three years in one. It's a really intensive course. Not to say that it felt rushed or anything, but it just felt like information overload. Particularly at, like, 20 years old. I was one of the youngest in the year.


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JB: It's almost like you’re not developed enough to take it all in at that age.
LN: Yeah. I really feel that I would actually benefit more as an older person going to that college. But at the time, I didn't want to be stuck in training.
JB: And you knew your vocation by that point. What was the first memory of wanting to perform? Was it actually performing or was it the want to get on stage?
LN: Well, ever since I can remember, I just was obsessed with character. And that's where the drive, even with music, has come up. The drive to be an actor has always been there. In my childhood, I probably spent more time pretending to be a character than I was myself. But my aunties were both on the West End. They were performers. And I would go up to London, we grew up in Brighton, to see them in musicals. And I think I was like six years old and I saw them, or even younger, in Les Mis’.
JB: Which we think I might have been in with them!
LN: I text my auntie about it. So she said she started in 1997.
JB: She was there just for one year?
LN: No, she did ‘97 till 2001.
JB: I was definitely on stage with her.
LN: Well, yeah it would have been within that time. We saw it many times, so I would have definitely seen you. I'm going to get my auntie to dig out one of the programmes and see it.
JB: That would be hilarious. So you had it in your blood?
LN: Yeah. And I remember moments, like hating the bangs in the show, because I was so young, but I so wanted to see it still. So each time, I knew that they were coming, but I didn't care. But despite doing musical theatre, I always knew that acting was at my core and my aunties were amazing singers and vocalists, and I was always really intrigued by that, but I knew that I wanted to go into screen at some point. It was just a question of how I would get there really.
JB: And do you think the screen found you?

Read the full interview in our Spring/Summer 2024 issue — out now!


Bridgerton Season 3 part 1 premieres May 16th on Netflix, followed by part 2 on June 13th



Photography by Kosmas Pavlos
Styling by Luke Day
Interview by Jonathan Bailey
Words by Andrew Wright
Editorial Director Charlotte Morton
Editor Andrew Wright
Creative Director Jeffrey Thomson
Art Director Michael Morton
Fashion Director Luke Day
Production Director Ben Crank
Production Assistant Lola Randall
Grooming by Sandra Hahnel using Augustinus Bader, Rodial Beauty, OUAI Haircare, Dyson Hair Pro
Photography Assistant Luke Johnson
Fashion Assistant Zac Sunman
Post-Production Alexandra Heindl Szinyur

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