7 Questions with… Bridgerton’s Polly Walker: ‘Portia is like the Kris Jenner of the 1800s’

Golden Globe-nominee and Line of Duty star Polly Walker talks about Netflix’s bodice-ripping, steamy and glam new period drama Bridgerton.

By Alex Fletcher Published: 4 January 2021 - 2.45pm

What more could you want after your Christmas dinner than a steamy new period drama, full of steaminess, soapiness and glamour? Netflix’s Bridgerton looks destined to be the break-out hit of the 2020 holiday season.

Created by Shondaland and Chris Van Dusen – the team behind Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal – Bridgerton is based on Julia Quinn’s best-selling novels and take place in Regency London’s competitive marriage market.

Full of romance, scandal and wit, Bridgerton is going to be as moreish as that box of Lindt Lindors you scoffed on Christmas Eve.

Ahead the Christmas Day release on Netflix, we caught up with Polly Walker (Rome, Line of Duty) to talk about her role as Lady Featherington in the highly-anticipated new series.

1. How would you describe Bridgerton?

Polly Walker as Lady Featherington in Bridgerton Netflix

It’s a modern take on period drama. I think it’s fresh. It’s colourful. It could be a little challenging for some people, which is always a good thing. I think it’s bringing everything up to date. It’s not a stuffy period drama. It will appeal to a wide audience of people. It’s not just geared to one audience like women.

It’s pretty spectacular. Visually it’s a feast for the eyes. It’s got Baz Luhrmann-style colours. It’s not shy and retiring. And that’s nice, because we’ve all been living such weird lives at the moment. It will be a breath of fresh air.

2. Who is Lady Portia Featherington?

Polly Walker and Ben Miller in Bridgerton Netflix

A very complicated lady with many, many challenges thrown her way. If you look at her on face value, you would think she was just an ambitious, pushy mother. In those days the only way for a woman to get on was with a good marriage. To get on you were totally dependent on the man you chose. She’s a very devoted mother so it’s all about marrying her children off well.

She’s in a weird challenging marriage with a husband who is not very nice or helpful to her.

She’s not an eccentric, but she’s very out there in her fashion sense and the way she lives her life. She’s the Kris Jenner of the period. They are like the Kardashians our family. She faces a lot of criticism and judgement which hurts her a lot and I feel sympathy for her. I’m definitely on Portia’s side.

3. Did you enjoy the costumes?

Polly Walker as Lady Featherington in Bridgerton Netflix

These days with costume fittings you normally turn up, spend an hour and then forget about it. But with this show, I had to have a lie down afterwards. It was a four-hour session. They don’t do those sorts of fittings anymore, but they did on Bridgerton. It was an old-school Hollywood style fitting.

I’m a fan of what the costumes look like, but it was hard going sometimes wearing them. I’ve worn corsets before for work, so I knew what I was getting into, but with the big wig, all the jewellery, the long dresses, the gloves. Rather than worrying about the lines and everything you’ve got to do in the scene, you’re stressed out about whether you’ll survive the day in your outfit. If you needed a loo break it was a massive upheaval. Someone had to take you, someone had to help undress you. It was half an hour taking off all the costume – I didn’t drink any water all day, I was like a raisin by the end of it.

4. Why do you think Shonda Rhimes and Chris Van Dusen shows are always so popular?

They are obviously very talented. They’re just really clever and talented. They have the ability to tap into what people like to watch. They have the knack. Some people just have it and they definitely have it.

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5. How have you coped with lockdown in 2020?

I’ve been doing what everyone has been doing. The garden. Baking. Cooking. Trying to be structured and not wear pyjamas all day. Not good. I’ve been fortunate that I have been able to keep filming. I’ve been doing the latest season of Pennyworth, which I finished about a month ago. So I have been working in the second half of the year. I feel very lucky. I know it’s been horrendous for lots and lots of people. The sooner it gets back to normal the better.

6. Since you did Line of Duty do you get stopped and asked about Gill Biggeloe a lot? 

Polly Walker as Gill Biggeloe in Line of Duty BBC

I did actually last year. That was really nice. People really loved the show, so it was always positive. I’m not used to that. I did get papped a couple of times, which was a very strange experience. I was walking my dog in a tracksuit talking to my sister on the phone and was totally oblivious.  I just thought, ‘that man is taking a lot of pictures of the trees in Finsbury Park’. And then I realised and I just thought, ‘oh my God!’ I had to put my hood up and head home.

I did get recognised a bit on the Tube and people were always asking, ‘what’s going to happen to Gill?’ Obviously she’s living in some terrible house on some estate in Scotland with a different identity.

7. Did you always know Gill would be bent?

I didn’t know I was going to come back for the last season, but Jed called and asked would I be interested and that he had an interesting storyline for me. I assumed that it wouldn’t be me turning out to be a goodie. I don’t often get the chance to play the goodie. I was totally up for it. It’s such a brilliant show.

I would quite like to know if I learn anything about Gill or H or whatever in the next season. It’s a brilliant show, brilliantly written. It’s a shame to no longer be part of it and I’ll definitely be watching it.

Watch Bridgerton on Christmas Day on Netflix.

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