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Bridgerton’s Biggest Controversies: From a Controversial Sex Scene to Mental Health Struggles

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Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

Bridgerton was the talk of the ton when it premiered on Netflix — but not always for a good reason.

The historical drama, which is based on the book series written by Julia Quinn, follows the members of the wealthy Bridgerton family as they search for love in 19th century London. Bridgerton debuted in December 2020 with a focus on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page).

Season 2 offered Daphne’s brother Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) a chance to find love with Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley). Fans have since been on the edge of their seats waiting for Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) to take center stage with his complicated connection with Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan).

After the show’s overnight success, the Bridgerton universe grew with a spinoff titled Queen Charlotte. The series, which started streaming in 2023, took fans on a journey into the past to explore the origins of King George III’s (Corey Mylchreest) marriage to Queen Charlotte (India Amarteifio).

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Off screen, however, Bridgerton also made headlines for shocking actor exits, book to show changes and more.

Scroll down for details on the drama behind the hit Netflix series:

Rege-Jean Page’s Surprising Departure

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Liam Daniel/Netflix

Viewers quickly fell in love with Page and his character, Simon Basset a.k.a the Duke of Hastings, when season 1 of the Netflix drama premiered in December 2020. Simon found his happily ever after with Daphne Bridgerton and their son, Augie.

While fans were looking forward to seeing Simon and Daphne in future seasons, Netflix later announced that Page would not be reprising his role. The decision was surprising since all the characters made appearances in Quinn’s books even if they were no longer the focus of the story. Dynevor’s involvement on season 2 also made viewers question why Page opted out.

“It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end — give us a year,” Page said in an April 2021 interview with Variety. “[I thought], ‘That’s interesting,’ because then it felt like a limited series. I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit, and then the Bridgerton family rolls on.”

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The Controversial Sex Scene

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Liam Daniel/Netflix

Simon and Daphne’s love story ended in a good place but that doesn’t mean the journey was all smooth sailing. The fictional couple left a memorable impression with their many sex scenes. However, Daphne wasn’t exactly aware of how babies are made and she later found out that Simon lied to her about not being able to have kids.

She initiated consensual sex with Simon but then got on top so her husband could use the pull-out method to avoid possibly impregnating her. The scene, which was already a controversial part of Quinn’s novel, made viewers question why it was brought to life on screen.

“As a show, we’re very clear about this being a time when a woman was told that her sole existence was good only for marriage and childbearing, with no value outside of her role as a wife and mother,” creator Chris Van Dusen told Esquire in 2021. “That’s exactly what Daphne says in the pilot. When it comes to the topic of sex and the actual practice of making those children or being a wife, she’s kept in total darkness. Her own mother, we see, doesn’t even tell her the truth about the matter.”

Going Out of Order

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Courtesy of Netflix

Although the show is based on a book series, fans were in for a surprise when executive producer Shonda Rhimes hinted that there would be a shake up with the order.

“There’s 8 Bridgerton siblings so there are eight books. We are definitely planning on following each one of their romantic stories,” she shared with Entertainment Tonight in March 2022. “We are not necessarily going in order. But we are going to be seeing each of the siblings and their story.”

Benedict, who is the second eldest Bridgerton brother, was subsequently passed over as the season 3 lead. Instead, Colin and Penelope’s love story was moved further up.

Showrunner Jess Brownell clarified why Benedict’s story was put on hold, telling Variety in May 2022, “Well, we already differ from the books a little bit because we’re an ensemble show. The books really focus on one on one romantic pair at a time and maybe the siblings have a little cameo here and there but they don’t have full stories.”

Bridgerton The Controversial Bedroom Moment Between Simon and Daphne

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Removing Daphne From the Narrative

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Liam Daniel/Netflix

After returning for season 2, Dynevor dropped a bombshell in January 2023, telling Screen Rant, “Sadly not in season 3. Potentially in the future. But season 3, I’m just excited to watch as a viewer.”

Dynevor did not give a reason why Daphne wasn’t part of the next chapter and neither did Bridgerton’s creative team.

Ruby Barker Claims Netflix and Shonda Rhimes Didn’t Support Her Amid Mental Health Issues

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Liam Daniel/Netflix

Barker initially portrayed Marina Thompson on seasons 1 and 2 of Bridgerton. She later opened up about how a struggle with her mental health affected her future on the show.

“I just want to be honest with everybody, I have been struggling,” she said in a since-deleted Instagram video in May 2022. “So, I’m in the hospital at the minute, I’m gonna get discharged soon and hopefully get to continue with my life and I’m gonna take a little bit of a break from myself.”

Barker thanked Rhimes and Netflix “for giving me an opportunity, for saving me,” at the time. In October 2023, Barker walked back her supportive comments while discussing how she suffered two psychotic breaks.

“Not a single person from Netflix, not a single person from Shondaland since I have had two psychotic breaks from that show have even contacted me or even emailed me to ask if I’m OK or asked me if I would benefit from any sort of aftercare or support,” the actress claimed the “The Loaf” podcast. “Nobody.”

Barker claimed her first psychotic break — which occurred in 2019 — was “covered up” and “kept on the down-low” ahead of the show’s debut on Netflix. Her second health scare took place in 2022.

“It was a really tormenting place for me to be because my character was, like, very alienated, very ostracized, on her own, under these horrible circumstances,” she noted about how Marina’s story lines did nothing to help her mental health.

Netflix and Shondaland have yet to publicly address the accusations.

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