‘Queen Charlotte’ Creator Shonda Rhimes Went Off-Book to Explore ‘Amazing Colorblind Society’ With ‘Bridgerton’ Prequel

“Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” is not just a spin-off series of the Netflix hit.

Centering on the titular character as portrayed by Golda Rosheuvel in the original series, the prequel, which premiered Thursday, extends the frills and romance of the “Bridgerton” universe by taking audiences back to the origins of the epic love story between Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio) and King George (Corey Mylchreest) and the substantial challenges that threatened their happiness.

While Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” novels provided the basis for the highly-successful Netflix TV adaptation, series creator Shonda Rhimes went off book to build on the historical figure Queen Charlotte, whose coronation marks the start of “The Great Experiment,” a societal shift that integrates people of color into the fair-skinned ton. Whereas the background of this societal shift introduces a somewhat adjusted world when Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon (Regé-Jean Page) first met in “Bridgerton’s” first season, “Queen Charlotte” goes beyond what was on the page to envision the onset of this societal touchstone.

“For me, it was important that there be an origin — that we weren’t just presenting this amazing colorblind society,” creator Shonda Rhimes said during the spin-off’s Los Angeles premiere. “That felt ridiculous to me.”

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Amarteifio takes on the younger version of Queen Charlotte as she delves into her newfound royal role amidst a turbulent marriage, while Rosheuvel extends her character’s present-day predicament of succession — with both actors impeccably characterizing Charlotte’s signature attitude.

“The role is obviously a historical role that was in there, but I think it was Golda’s interpretation of that role that just catapulted interest in that character,” executive producer Tom Verica told TheWrap. “That was the jumping off point and I think a lot of people, even fans of the books, were really intrigued by that [and] it really gave us the opportunity to tell another part of that world even if it wasn’t part of the books and veer it off a little bit.”

The spin-off doesn’t close the door on the books, though, as Quinn and Rhimes worked side-by-side to craft the literary adaptation of the series, titled “Queen Charlotte: Before the Bridgertons Came the Love Story that Changed the Ton…” which is slated for release on Tuesday, May 9.

Releasing almost concurrently, Quinn noted the duo wanted to avoid “super spoiling” either the series or the novel for “Bridgerton” fans. Though Quinn did visit the set, she “didn’t really work on the show” as she adapted scripts from Rhimes into a new “Bridgerton” novel.

“The way it worked is Shonda wrote the scripts for the show and then gave me the scripts and I turned them into a novel,” Quinn told TheWrap. “I broke down the architecture of a script and rebuilt it as a novel and got to add in some stuff so you get to see what everybody is thinking.”

The spin-off also introduces fans to Brimsley and Reynolds, the Queen and King’s right hand men, respectively, as “Bridgerton” universe’s first queer characters. While Quinn notes that Rhimes was the deciding factor in including their sexuality, Quinn says she embraced the decision, noting that she gave Brimsley a first name after previously not having one.

“Our job as actors is to study human behavior, so I want to make sure that you turn up on set and find the truth of everyone as best you can,” Sam Clemmett, who plays the younger version of Brimsley told TheWrap. “I hope we did that really sensitively and beautifully and people see a lot of themselves within these characters.”

“Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story” is now streaming on Netflix.

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