1 of 5 | Simone Ashley (L) and Jonathan Bailey can be seen in Season 2 of "Bridgerton." Photo courtesy of Netflix
NEW YORK, March 25 (UPI) -- Season 2 of Bridgerton might not focus on super-couple Daphne and Simon, but series creator Chris Van Dusen promises it retains much of what initially drew viewers to the British costume drama while also introducing another exciting romance.
"Fans should expect a wild, wild ride in Season 2," Van Dusen teased during a recent panel discussion with reporters.
"We managed to take everything people fell in love with about the first season and put it into Season 2," he said. "It's just more -- more steam, more scandal, more sex, more sexy moments."
Debuting Friday on Netflix, the fresh episodes whisk viewers back to 19th-century Regency London, where the wealthy seek out appropriate mates at garden parties and formal balls under the gaze of scheming parents.
With Daphne and Simon happily married at the end of Season 1, the new season follows her brother, Anthony -- the eldest son and head of the Bridgerton family -- as he meets and interacts with the beguiling Sharma sisters, Edwina (Charithra Chandran) and Kate (Simone Ashley), newcomers to "the ton" or Britain's high-class society.
"We find Anthony at a point where he needs to find a wife. He commits to finding his viscountess, but he's taken love out of the equation. So, what could possibly go wrong?" quipped Jonathan Bailey, who plays the character.
"He's finally going to fulfill his duty, and we get to explore -- along with lots of other things -- his vulnerabilities and anxieties and, hopefully, understand some of his behaviors from the past."
Ashley and Chandran feared it would be a challenge to join a popular show that already had an established cast, but they said they were welcomed with open arms.
"It just felt really effortless and really genuine," Ashley recalled. "They're just lovely, kind people who just want to bring out the best in one another. I think what's so special about this show -- it just keeps growing, this Bridgerton universe. I was just really excited and proud to join it, really."
Chandran described the experience as "super nerve-wracking," but also conceded that "within a few hours of meeting everyone, it felt like we'd always been part of the family."
Ashley said the role gave her confidence and taught her not to be afraid of "owning my own voice."
"That was scary, saying it," she laughed. "But I'm owning it."
Representing their South Asian heritage as women also was important to Ashley and Chandran, they said, because it made them feel as though they were inviting members of their community into a foreign world where they could recognize themselves in these characters.
The actresses said they were moved to see their culture addressed on screen as the immigrant Sharma sisters celebrate traditions, such as Holi, in their new home.
"They are different not because of their skin color, but because they come from a different background and have different customs," Chandran said.
"They are trying to be as 'London' as possible, but what I love about the show is that in moments of deep sadness and jubilation, you see them reverting back to their culture," she added.
"Often, when you are people of color, the stories told are that of trauma, but what you see here is something that they are owning - joy and pride in their culture."
Anthony's brothers, Benedict and Colin, also will get plenty of screen time this season.
"Benedict doesn't really understand the marriage mart, so watching Anthony muddle his way through it is really useful," actor Luke Thompson said of his painter character.
"I guess that is what older brothers are for. Benedict is more sort of trying to find himself creatively this season. There's this kind of dichotomy that I identify with definitely about being in a creative job where you spend a lot of time thinking you're either wonderful or the worst actor in the world.
"Actually, Benedict goes through that. He is literally high on himself for much of the season and then has all of these doubts."
Colin, who is home from traveling, sees that even though his siblings aren't all settling, they do have ambition. Now, he's looking for what is next in his own life.
"For Colin, after the scandal of last year, he's returned to town with some interesting facial hair and a tan, which was nice," actor Luke Newton said.
"He's sworn off women for the time being and he's kind of looking toward business pursuits and he kind of wants to find his place within the family."
Fans should expect more warm wisdom, stern glances and gorgeous gowns from Queen Charlotte (Golda Rasheuvel), whose husband, King George III (James Fleet), is mentally ill.
Rasheuvel relishes showing Charlotte's humanity and vulnerability.
"I'm so grateful we have a queen who is three-dimensional," she said. "You see her in her wigs and gowns and all of her opulence, but you get to see her private life and what she is dealing with behind the scenes and to have that layer to play is really important and thrilling."
Prudence, the eldest daughter in the prominent Featherington family, still is on the prowl for a husband in Season 2.
"Mothers' main prerogatives are to get their children's futures secure. Prudence is really trying to do what she is told," actress Bessie Carter said.
Polly Walker admitted that Portia, Prudence's ever-direct mother, is concerned as her daughters age and their marriage prospects dwindle.
"She's looking at her watch. It's desperate times," Walker observed.
Season 2 is based on Julia Quinn's best-selling romance novel, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Produced by Shonda Rhimes, the show has been renewed through Season 4.
Van Dusen praised the source material, even though he departs greatly from it, saying it gives him the freedom to "limbo under" or "pole vault" over events, "depending on how creative or naughty" he feels.
The biggest differences between Seasons 1 and 2, Van Dusen said, are the characters at the heart of the stories.
"This season, we are with Anthony Bridgerton and his quest for love and he finds it -- or maybe he does not find it -- with Kate Sharma," he said.
"It's a new story and that was really part of the draw for me to sign up for a series like this as far as the ability to tell these close-ended love stories season after season, without having to come up with all these obstacles to keep our main couple apart.
"We can actually get them to their 'happily ever after' and it can be a satisfying conclusion every season."