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‘Bridgerton’ Author Julia Quinn Gave TV Show Her Blessing to Gender-Swap Character for Queer Romance

Julia Quinn Gave Bridgerton Her Blessing to Gender-Swap Michael to Michaela

While Julia Quinn‘s readers were surprised by the twist at the end of Bridgerton season 3, the author herself had a heads up that a beloved character was being introduced as a woman rather than a man.

“The fact of the matter is, the fan base is not a monolith, and you’re never going to please every single side of the fan base,” Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell explained to Teen Vogue on Thursday, June 13. “In, for example, deciding to tell a queer story with Francesca, I spoke with Julia Quinn, I got her blessing.”

Readers know that Quinn’s book followed Francesca as she fell in love with Michael after (spoiler alert) the death of her husband, John Stirling. However, in the final moments of the season 3 finale, which debuted on Thursday, Francesca (Hannah Dodd) was flustered as her husband (Victor Alli) introduced her to his cousin, Michaela (Masali Baduza). Bridgerton will depict a queer love story when it comes time for Francesca to lead a season.

Brownell said that she and Quinn knew there would be backlash. “We talked about the fact that with almost any single book, there would be a side of the fandom that would be disheartened to see their favorite characters changed,” she noted. “I don’t think that there is any book that wouldn’t happen with, so for me, again, it came back to story, and it came back to character. Because Francesca’s book resonated [with me] in the way that it did, it felt like a natural adaptation.”

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She added that the change isn’t just for shock value or ticking a box on a checklist. “I didn’t want to just insert a queer character for queer character’s sake,” Brownell shared. “I want to tell a story that accurately reflects a queer experience, and the first time I read Francesca’s book, I really identified with it as a queer woman. Maybe not in the way Julia Quinn intended.”

Author Julia Quinn Gave 'Bridgerton' Her Blessing to Gender-Swap Character
Luke Newton, Nicola Coughlan, Shonda Rhimes, Jess Brownell, Julia Quinn and Golda Rosheuvel. Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images

Brownell continued: “Her book is very much about [Francesca] feeling different, and not really knowing why. In the book, I think it has a lot to do with her just being an introvert, but as a queer woman, a lot of my queer experience, and I think a lot of my friends’ [experiences have] been about that sense of feeling different, and navigating what that means.”

Prior to the second half of Bridgerton season 3 airing, Quinn warned readers that there was no rule that said the TV adaptation must keep the romantic pairings she originally wrote.

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Related: What to Know About 'Bridgerton' Season 4 — Including Who Might Be the Lead

“I have seen many online rumors that it is in my contract that they must keep the book couples. I’m not sure where this came from, as I have never said anything to that effect,” Quinn said in response to a fan via Facebook last month. “That said, I am confident that Shondaland is going to do an amazing job!”

Fans will have to wait quite a while to see how Francesca and Michaela’s story plays out. Brownell also confirmed that there will be another two-year hiatus before season 4, and it hasn’t yet been confirmed if Francesca or Benedict (who discovered his own pansexuality in season 3) will be the romantic lead.

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