Luke Thompson isn’t feeling the pressure. Yes, season one of “Bridgerton” came out of nowhere and was quickly consumed by over 82 million households, with expectations for season two building as soon as the first season concluded. But the “Bridgerton” brother takes it all in stride.
“I mean, that’s sort of the lovely thing though about it, which is that a lot of people ask if there’s a little bit of pressure or expectation, but actually for me it’s the opposite,” Thompson says over the phone. “I think before we knew what the world of ‘Bridgerton’ was, that was when there was the sort of sense of, ‘Oh God, how is this all going to fit together?’ But now, because everyone’s sort of taken that world to their heart in such a big way and in such a global way, which is so exciting, it’s actually strangely more relaxing, because now we just have to inhabit and develop the world that we’ve now, all of us have now created. It’s actually, in a strange kind of way, that’s sort of the effect it’s had on everyone who’s a fan of the show. It’s something to lean on — it’s been such a support for us to sort of work from, rather than something to be felt we have to live up to.”
Thompson plays Benedict Bridgerton, the second eldest brother who this season supports his sibling Anthony in his quest to find a wife, and embarks on his own journey of becoming a trained artist (with a little bit of romance along the way, of course).
Thompson recalls receiving a few scenes, falling for them and sending back some tapes, and then admits to forgetting about the whole thing.
“I think I expected it, because of the scale of the show, I really expected it to be five, six, seven rounds, but that’s just not what happened,” he says of being cast after just a few rounds, without having met much of the cast and crew. “Now I’m not sure if that’s what happened for everyone, but I think it’s actually a testament to the fact that…I don’t think I did anything, I read scenes to the best of my ability, but I think the fact that the casting team and obviously the producers just knew exactly what they wanted. They were confident enough, they just said, ‘Yeah, we’ll take him.’”
While Anthony has the pressure of carrying on the Bridgerton legacy, the next eldest brothers Benedict and Colin are able to live a bit more freely — which Benedict takes advantage of by pursuing his love of art in season two.
“I think as an actor, I think it’s probably why I’m an actor in the first place: it’s all a big game of what you reveal and what you hide. Actually what you hide is just as important as what you reveal. I think a character like Benedict, what’s so fun about him is that he has this sort of mystery,” Thompson says. “Partly the mystery is because he’s not front and center. He’s sort of leaning in the back of the ballroom with a grin on his face, judging people, having those sarcastic thoughts about people. He’s available a little bit to the audience, but not fully, and so that’s so fun to play, because it means you can really relax into it. There’s no pressure to sort of reveal everything in one season. You feel like you can really take the time and build and develop the character very slowly, and particularly I would say that the character is a little bit of a mystery to himself and to other people.”
Thompson, 33, was born in the U.K. but raised in France, where he lived until age 20, when he returned to the U.K. to study acting.
“I don’t know if there’s something about different languages, and the power that words can have over you somehow, and can define or open up your personality. I think that feels very…I’m a different person when I speak English or when I speak French. I don’t know if that was then a factor maybe in me finding acting, because I think acting is all about words that are not your own opening up different sides of you, and opening up different changes in you that maybe you didn’t know you had, or you haven’t fully experienced,” he says.
“Bridgerton” hits a sweet spot for Thompson, presenting him with a role that he never saw coming and one that continues to surprise.
“I’ve learned, partly through acting, to not really have too many plans. I would never have dreamed that something like ‘Bridgerton’ would happen. I’m always attracted to learning new things. I think learning to be on screen, it’s definitely something I’m interested in, but I never expected or thought that was something I’d do,” he says. “Often the biggest pleasures in life, particularly in your career, are the biggest surprises, the things that sort of take you by surprise, and that’s exactly what happened. Now I’m sort of on this big journey with this show, which I just love, and I’m completely taken by.”
And though he’s been sent the new season already, he’s planning to spend this weekend at home binging it just like the rest of us.
“It’s funny how I always start, whenever they sent through the episodes of the series, and it’s the same with other people I gather when they watch it, which is you watch one episode, and you can’t help yourself,” he says. “You’re suddenly five episodes in, you know what I mean?”