'Queen Charlotte' author Julia Quinn on writing explicitly Black characters for the first time with Shonda Rhimes, screen-to-book changes, 'Bridgerton' season 3, and her secret cameo
Warning: Minor spoilers for "Queen Charlotte" season one and its tie-in novel
Julia Quinn told Insider that she used Shonda Rhimes' scripts to write a new book.
Quinn also said she had to be sewn into a dress for her first "Bridgerton" cameo.
In her latest novel, "Queen Charlotte," Julia Quinn had to work with characters she didn't originally create for the first time in "Bridgerton" history.
Earlier this month, Netflix premiered a new "Bridgerton" spinoff, "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story," which doesn't adapt one of Quinn's eight novels in the series, but instead tells a wholly new origin story set around actor Golda Rosheuvel's beloved character, Queen Charlotte, in the Netflix show.
This time, Quinn had to reverse-engineer her writing to adapt show creator Shonda Rhimes' scripts into a book, which is co-authored by Quinn and Rhimes, and is available in bookstores now.
"Queen Charlotte," in its novel form, is not an exact replica of the series. For example, it focuses — save for two small scenes — almost exclusively on the young Queen Charlotte's marriage, coronation, and relationship with King George III. Meanwhile, the show has two timelines: one following the young queen, and the other, the older queen. And the book even delves a little deeper by incorporating moments and scenes that were cut from the TV show.
Here, Quinn speaks to Insider about working alongside Rhimes on the novel, how she came up with a first name for "Bridgerton" fan-favorite character Brimsley, and her first "Bridgerton" cameo.
Julia Quinn decided early on not to have a dual timeline in the 'Queen Charlotte' book
The "Queen Charlotte" novel is a perfect companion piece to the new Netflix series since it often shows a different point of view to what we see on screen. You wrote the novel based on the script, but how did you decide what to keep in the book and what to change?
I had to take things out, but then I was able to add things or flesh things out that you can't necessarily do in a show because, for one thing, in television, the scenes aren't as long. You don't go into people's heads. I got to go in their heads.
I got to give Brimsley a first name. That was really fun. I kept emailing everybody going, "Does Brimsley have a first name? Does anybody know if we ever gave him a first name?" And finally — it took a while — people were like, "No, I don't think he does." And I was like, "Yes!"
It taught me a lot about what makes a good script, too. I obviously read all the "Bridgerton" scripts, but I never had to analyze them the way that I analyzed these scripts. I had to really dig in and pull out pieces and try to fit them. It was a puzzle, and it used a very different part of the writing brain than I'm used to.
The book is more chronological than the series. We see King George's point of view from the beginning of the novel, rather than it being a plot twist, like it is in the TV show. The novel also leaves out some storylines from the series, such as Lady Danbury's affair with Violet Bridgerton's father. How did you decide the timeline for the novel?
The first big decision was not to include the [later] timeline. I just didn't think I was going to have enough room in the book to do all of it, but I wanted at least the Charlotte and George arc to read like a romance novel — like what you get in a Julia Quinn romance novel.
We all know what's gonna happen to him, but we don't necessarily need it in our faces as we're watching them fall in love. And then, after that, I really wanted to run chronologically in a way that it didn't in the show. Especially because I was going to be in four different points of view, and I didn't want George to come in halfway through.
I ended up not including the whole subplot about Agatha and Violet's dad, mainly because I had taken out the other timeline — I felt like so much of that had to do with her later friendship with Violet.
Since Queen Charlotte's wedding was in 1761, Violet's inclusion in the "Queen Charlotte" show makes her almost 20 years older than fans previously thought. Did this influence your decision not to include Violet in the novel, since the previous books establish that she was born in 1766?
No, it was really what worked for the story. Already, the timeline was off even before they did "Queen Charlotte."
If you look at the "Bridgerton" show, Queen Charlotte should be older than she is. So, they were already fudging all the timelines. And I think the showrunners are very upfront about that.
It's like a soap opera where somebody goes away to summer camp and comes back and they're like 25.
To what extent did "Queen Charlotte" showrunner Shonda Rhimes allow you to choose what to cut from and add to the story?
I pretty much had free rein. For the larger things, I checked it out first, because I honestly didn't want to put in a ton of work on something and then have someone be like, "Whoa, no, you can't do that."
Before I really got moving on the fact that we weren't going to include Violet's dad, I emailed Shonda and I said, "I think I'm gonna leave this out because X, Y, Z," and she was fine. She's like, "No, no, you know how to write a novel. You do what you do best," which was incredibly gratifying especially because I admire Shonda so much.
Quinn said that the history of Reynolds, the king's secretary, was cut from the 'Queen Charlotte' series despite being in the original script
How did you settle on Bartholomew as Brimsley's first name?
It just seemed right. I was just like, "Bartholomew Brimsley. Well, there you go. That's his name."
When I introduced him in the very beginning of his chapter, I felt like I had to put his full name. And only once did anybody ever use it. I think one time Reynolds goes, "Bartholomew," and so that was this moment of intimacy because nobody ever called somebody's first name. I don't think Reynolds got a first name though.
We learn more about Reynolds in the book than in the series, especially the moment when he tells Brimsley about being assigned as a playmate to King George as a child.
Well, here's an interesting tidbit that comes from the script. And for some reason, it didn't end up in the show. I embellished it a little bit but it really comes from the script. And when I watched the show, I remember finishing being like, "Where was that conversation?" I'm looking at the script, I'm like, "I know that was here." I don't know why that didn't end up in the script.
Were you told why it never made the final cut?
No, but I never asked. Who knows? Probably time. I do wonder if they got it on film somewhere. I'd be excited to see whether it was filmed because I think it's a beautiful moment. I wish I'd made that all up. I love that backstory.
Another interesting contrast between the book and the series is the portrayal of Lord Danbury. In the book, we only see him through Lady Danbury's eyes, and it is a more gentle portrayal of the character than in the show. Did you have this in mind when you were writing the novel?
His character was probably part of the book that I had the most input from Shonda about. You've got the points of view of two Black women, but you don't see that much sort of Black manhood. And one of the things that Shonda talked to me about was wanting to really show this nuance with Agatha. I mean, she really didn't like this guy, but she understood what he had been going through, and she hated how he had been treated.
I was very conscious when writing him to have that little spark of sympathy in her, and wondering what could he have been if he'd ever been allowed to shine.
I really worked hard on it because, obviously, I don't have the experience of a Black person, and so that is something that I really did turn to Shonda for advice on. It didn't occur to me how much we needed to bring it in, and she really helped me understand that.
The "Bridgerton" book series has been criticized in the past for not being diverse. What was it like to bring both race and LGBTQ+ representation into the book series for the first time?
It was thrilling, honestly. I think for a long time, too, I really thought, "I can't put Black characters in the books because I don't wanna whitewash things. I don't wanna sanitize traumatic past."
And so, I am incredibly grateful to the world of Shondaland for showing me how it can be done, and for inviting me to take part in this project where I can do this, and work with Shonda, and grow so much as a writer and a human.
Quinn said she decided to cameo in 'Queen Charlotte' at the last minute and had to be sewn into a dress
I think you've mentioned before a Lady Featherington or Violet Bridgerton spinoff series. Who would you most like to see in another "Bridgerton" spinoff book or series?
I'd be excited about any of the characters, honestly. I love the Mondriches, too.
I'm afraid to say anybody specifically because I'm afraid people think I know things and I do not. Sometimes people think, "Julia Quinn's leaving hints on her website in secret code." I'm really impressed you think I'm that smart, but, no. I'm not leaving any secret hints in any way.
Season three of "Bridgerton" is currently in production. Have you read the scripts yet?
I have read it. It's amazing. I can't tell you anything other than that.
When season three was announced, it was revealed that the show will focus on Colin and Penelope, rather than Benedict, who is the next brother in line going by book order. How do you feel about that?
I think they had just felt they had laid down so much groundwork because we already know Penelope.
We haven't met Benedict's love interest. I suppose people are gonna say, "They could have introduced her." But the fact of the matter is, we haven't. And what I try to tell people is, look, once a character has their season, we don't see them as much, right? So, if you love Benedict, you want him to wait as long as possible.
He could be the last one...
Well, I don't know if he could go after Hyacinth and Gregory because they're so little, but still, push him back so we get more Benedict this way.
I noticed that in the show, there's a scene in episode two where Violet Bridgerton is playing with two babies. We have already been introduced to Simon and Daphne's first child in season two. Is this confirmation they've had another baby?
I think that must have been. I honestly can't remember if it's mentioned in season three, but I think it was just sort of like, that's how time goes.
But I will show you one thing that you clearly missed: My cameo.
I missed that. Which scene were you in?
I'm in episode six. It's the scene where Agatha and Adolphus are walking and she sees Lord Ledger and gets kind of upset. I'm just on a bench gossiping, but you definitely see me.
What was it like to be able to finally appear in "Bridgerton," and did you request the cameo?
It was super fun. I will tell you, it was hot. Do you remember that heatwave England had last summer? It was actually right before it, so it was not as bad as it could have been, but that week was really hot and everybody was complaining about the heat.
I don't wear wigs and stuff, so it was an experience. They literally had to sew me into that gown.
It was a total last-minute thing. My son is actually in it with me, and he was going to do it. And then at the last minute, I was like, "Oh, I'll do it too." I hadn't wanted to before because it actually takes a lot of time and I want to be able to see everything. [I live] so far away from where they film, so I don't get to go very often. But that time I decided to because I had more time on set than I've had before.
Do you think you'll make an appearance in the flagship "Bridgerton" show?
I don't know. If I play the same person, they have to really age me. Definitely not in season three, because they finished filming, and I didn't do it.
"Queen Charlotte," written by Julia Quinn and Shonda Rhimes, is available to buy at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores. "Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story" is available to stream on Netflix.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Read the original article on Insider