Wonderful interview by Valentina Valentini with Rupert about joining Bridgerton’s second season… but beware spoilers!
Find the interview on shondaland.com.
Rupert Young talks about joining the mega hit, and those spicy scenes between Lord and Lady F.
Bonus: There is also a Telegraph interview with Polly Walker (who plays Lady Featherington). It’s behind a membership wall, but this Twitter thread provides a good summary. Among other things, Polly says:
There’s not a lot of room for the exploration of mature love in the marriage mart world of Bridgerton. … it’s so good that they’ve shown that people over 25 have feelings, desires and needs.
Update 26 July 2022: I’ve now copied the full text of the interview below, with respect but without permission, for the sake of keeping a record.
‘Bridgerton’ Has a New Lord Featherington
Rupert Young talks about joining the mega hit, and those spicy scenes between Lord and Lady F.
By Valentina Valentini
MAR 30, 2022
When Lord Archibald Featherington (Ben Miller) was murdered for his bad gambling debts during the first season of Bridgerton, we were all a bit shocked with that salacious turn of events. But probably not half as much as Lady Portia Featherington (Polly Walker), who found out she was not only husbandless and her daughters fatherless, but all of them were penniless, to boot.
This season on Shondaland’s hit Netflix series, with the Featherington ladies left in limbo as to who will run their estate (let’s leave the tirade about why women weren’t allowed to control their own money and property in Regency-era England for another time, shall we?), they are told a few things: that a distant cousin of Archibald’s will be coming to take over duties imminently; that he, the new Lord Featherington-to-be, has been in America making boatloads of cash off precious-gem mining, and as soon as he arrives, they’ll be flush again; and that Philippa (Harriet Cains) — who was courted by Albion Finch at the end of last season and is engaged to him at the start of season two — would be able to give her future husband her dowry.
Cue Lord Jack Featherington: tall, lithe, and suitably handsome. Upon his entrance, as those who have binged (and re-binged) the series will recall, everyone expected a crotchety old man, but Jack (Rupert Young) was far from it. He strutted into his new home with his hunting trophies and guns, took over Lady Featherington’s quarters — because that’s his right — and he did it all with such charm that nary a fuss was made.
“I really enjoyed not knowing where his story was going,” says Young, a native Londoner currently co-starring in the West End production of Dear Evan Hansen. “I knew there was a slightly dodgy undertone to the character, but it was nice not reading that until later on so I could play against it.”
From a very early age, Young visited the West End with his family and took many trips to the cinema. He was always putting on plays with his siblings and making his parents watch in their living room. That love of performing segued into his schooling, and when he was 17, his drama teacher, who was directing him in a production of Guys and Dolls, told him that he should pursue acting professionally.
“I think, deep down, I always wanted to be an actor,” says Young, “but that maybe my family would go, ‘No, that’s a hobby.’ But they were actually very supportive and understanding of it. I don’t know if that’s because I wasn’t excelling at anything else.”
This deflecting of anything serious with a bit of comedy and humble charm is where it’s easy to see why Young was cast as Jack Featherington. But where Featherington has a bit of a dishonest streak about him, Young is forthcoming and candid about everything. With the second season of Bridgerton now streaming on Netflix, we got to chat with the Londoner about playing Jack, whether or not his love for Portia is real, and how he feels about his character’s banishment to America.
VALENTINA VALENTINI: I’m curious what the process was like to audition for and then get this role.
RUPERT YOUNG: It was last November, and we were deep in lockdown. I wasn’t sent scripts, but I was sent a couple of scenes to do. I read them and thought they were fantastic. I really connected with the material. I hadn’t seen any other people apart from my family for a long time, and my scene partner was sick of taping with me, so I filmed myself reading both parts. I watched it back and thought it was terrible. And I think I Googled “How do you act?” that night [laughs]. I nearly didn’t send it in. But I thought I should just do it anyway. And I heard nothing. So, after about a month, you put it into the cupboard of nos.
Cut to March, my agent phones me and tells me I have a callback for Bridgerton! That they want to meet me over Zoom next week. Now, this is March, after it aired and became this huge thing. I’d seen the trailer before I first taped, and now I had to quickly watch it. It had been on my list of Netflix things to watch, but now I knew I better watch it. And I loved the show, which put extra pressure on meeting [creator] Chris [Van Dusen] and [director] Tom Verica, which was the first audition I’d had for two years. So, that Zoom audition was weird, but then the next day they told me I had a chemistry read with Polly [Walker]. And a chemistry read over Zoom is always so weird. There was a delay too! But we had met once before, which made it a bit easier. And it was the very next day, and they called to tell me I’d been offered the part. I just couldn’t quite believe it. Three days later, I’m having makeup tests, costume tests, and meeting the cast. I was on set and had just finished watching and loving the show, and for the whole filming experience, I had such a joyous time, but it was so surreal.
VV: What’s it like coming into a show where the fandom is already so built in?
RY: I was on Merlin, and that show has a huge and incredibly supportive fan base, so I was aware of how strong fandoms can be. But coming to this show takes the meaning of fandom to a whole new level of excitement, especially with the fans who know the books already. I know there was no real information about my character leading up to the premiere, but the fact that I was going to be in the show got leaked early, and I was getting emails late at night about it. I was like, “It wasn’t me! I didn’t leak it!” I thought I was going to get fired, and there were huge publications trying to get bits, and when we were filming, there were paparazzi trying to get some insights. I can’t quite get my head around just how big it is.
VV: What were your conversations like with showrunner Chris Van Dusen about Lord Featherington and how to bring his character to life?
RY: When I auditioned, I didn’t know exactly what the part was going to be. By the time I was doing the chemistry read with Polly, I was being told a little bit more — that he’s very charming but that there is a dark side to him. I’ve always been attracted to roles where you can see the humanity in someone who is slightly dodgy. If you know someone is the baddie from episode one, it’s not as fun as letting that play out. I’ve always been interested in that kind of evil in everyday life. In talking with Chris and Tom [Verica], I enjoyed the idea of exploring that and pushing to be as charming and supposedly perfect and the savior of the family, so that then there’s even more of a shock when you suddenly see the dodgy turns of the character. There are a lot of people in that society trying to see who is on top, and in the beginning, Jack is quite cynical toward this. But then you see him slowly getting into it. And I think deep down, he is a self-centered man just looking out for himself.
VV: Oh, interesting. I’ll say, Jack Featherington took up a lot more of my thinking space during this season than I thought he would. There’s that delayed introduction of him, but then as his arc unfolds, and it’s this sort of roller coaster, I realized that this is no throwaway supporting role.
RY: I’ll take that! Here’s the thing — Chris literally wrote the best opening monologue that I’ve ever had and probably ever will have. Jack’s entrance is so quick but so phenomenal. And I said that to him as well, that it’s so brilliantly written. I come down the staircase, and the Featheringtons have just come back from a party, and they’re expecting this older man, but there he is, just taking over with all that baggage. It was such a fun scene to play. Honestly, doing any scenes with Nicola [Coughlan] and Bessie [Carter] and Harriet and Polly were always just a joy.
VV: There really are no weak links on this show. Even though the two older Featherington daughters don’t get as much airtime, whenever they’re on-screen, you know it’s going to be funny.
RY: And the chemistry between them, it’s just amazing. I’ll say it again — that was one of those surreal moments, watching how well they play together. I loved that in the first [season], that sibling theme. Though Nicola is a bit on the outskirts, still you get that theme within their scenes. And it was so fun to go from watching those scenes to having a seat at the dinner table.
VV: What sort of research or preparation did you do to play Lord Featherington?
RY: Firstly, obviously, I went back and watched all the first [season] in slightly more depth. Then I thought about reading the novels, but my character isn’t in any of the novels, so I thought that might not help me. I had about two weeks from casting to the first day of filming, so there wasn’t a lot of time to go in depth. The most helpful thing was meeting the costume designer Sophie Canale and seeing what I would be wearing, and talking with the historical consultant and the language and dialect coach. Because it’s a modern take on that period, it was about trying to find the right level — it’s not about putting on a very heightened, posh voice; it’s about trying to find a naturalism within that modernized period approach. I tried to play him to be as open as I could. I mean, I knew where the character was, how he walked, how he talked, how he used humor, but I wanted to turn up on set with no preconceived notions about how to do a scene. And I always knew I was supported in finding the truth of each scene and each moment. Polly was really helpful in that as well because she is an incredible actress and a brilliant person; doing scenes with her, you always have to raise your game.
VV: Speaking of Lady Featherington, do you think that Lord Featherington’s attraction to her was genuine?
RY: At first, I thought, “Oh, well, he’s obviously playing a little game.” In the beginning, I didn’t want to know too much in advance — and you can’t anyway because they don’t give the scripts too far in advance — but when it came to this attraction, I wrote to Chris to double-check, and he said that it is genuine. I did believe that too, because at the end there, you can see he’s lonely. And I really wanted to get that across. He does think that the two of them can go off and be together — I think they both have this mutual love for each other, but it does turn very quickly. At the beginning, I’m not particularly nice to her. I do throw her out of her own bedroom and sort of take over and don’t talk to her. Then as they begin working as a team, suddenly that attraction becomes slightly more dangerous and slightly more exciting and real. Which then, at the end, it’s not just a guy going, “Okay, I’m leaving now. Sorry, it’s not worked out.” And this is probably for Polly to say, but that is not an easy decision for Portia to tell him to leave, because deep down there is genuine affection.
VV: When he says to her something like “Your confidence is admirable. I love a lady who seizes control,” I think I knew then that Lord F was going to be a hot topic of conversation amongst the fans.
RY: That did seem to come out of nowhere when I read it, because in one episode before, I’m being mean and saying I want to marry Cressida and all that. Then literally the next scene, it’s like, “Oh, hello there,” to Portia. But again, it was about making sure that it was played with truth, and I think he genuinely believes it. That was the hard balance to get right, making sure it wasn’t just someone blowing smoke up someone’s ar … you know, it wasn’t just him pulling out his moves. It was him going, “Oh, I’m seeing you for the first time and enjoying that.” I think it was the first time he really listened to her. Normally, he’s coming in and saying all the things and not listening to her.
VV: It’s probably the first time he’s listened to any woman.
RY: Yes. And I love that because that’s what is amazing about this show — we have these incredible, powerful women saying, “We could do well if we work together,” and it does open his eyes.
VV: How do you feel about Lord F’s fate? Being banished to America, as it were?
RY: Ooooo. It’s so hard because, as a viewer, seeing Portia sticking up for her children, it’s really beautiful, and you go, “That’s amazing.” As a viewer. But as an actor who loves the character, I was slightly wary of getting to that last episode. I didn’t want it. But, no, I think it’s definitely the right thing and a brilliant way to go in terms of storytelling. Also, I’m still alive. So, maybe there’s the hope … maybe in a couple of seasons he’ll come back with a trophy American wife and with his real birth certificate.
VV: Well, of course, you probably don’t know and couldn’t answer even if you did know, but is this the last we will see of Lord Featherington?
RY: Who knows? I hope not! Hopefully, people watching will demand that he comes back [laughs]. I haven’t met him, but I hear that Ben Miller, the original Lord Featherington, is desperate to come back. There have been some fantastic rumors — even though he potentially is dead, we didn’t actually see it happen! Maybe we can find him and have a spin-off together, something with the Featheringtons.