Spoilers for the Bridgerton season-two finale, “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” below.
Eloise Bridgerton is the future, whether she knows it or not. Sure, she’s a “lady” who has a carousel of chiffon frocks on rotation and never had to endure real difficulties in her life, but her distaste for society still makes her a wildly endearing character in the Bridgerton pecking order, especially when she verbally spits on the idea of giving any man any attention for anything. She wants to read her books! And ideally find some other philosophical treatises to consume on the rights of the fairer sex!
But it’s not all peachy for Eloise in Bridgerton’s second season. Despite a lad at the printing press proving to be a worthy romantic foil, Eloise learns in the finale that her best friend, Penelope, is actually the scurrilous Lady Whistledown, a betrayal that culminates in what appears to be a friendship-ending fight. Claudia Jessie, who portrays Eloise, recently spoke with Vulture about whether she thinks their BFF status can ever recover, the joys of Eloise’s physical performance, and the likelihood of polyamory in the Bridgerton universe.
One of my favorite quotes from the season is when Eloise’s brother tells her to “stop being so you.” He couldn’t even verbalize how she was a different woman of this era. How do you see her in a modern lens?
She’s a sign of what was to come. There are badass women all throughout history who’ve been working very hard to make it a safer and more equal place for all of us. Eloise is that beautiful, fresh, young mind who quite rightly is thinking about her right to autonomy and freedom and not to be a property of a man and to want to earn her own money. These are all very reasonable things! I guess the backdrop makes it scandalous. There’s humanity in comedy that connects people to anything. We can break an awkward moment with a joke, and it connects us. The audience connected with her through that, with how funny she is. I do love that quote. “Stop being so you!” So many characters have that tension where they can’t express themselves. It’s great for the audience because you’re like, Just tell them how you feel! Now kiss! Eloise doesn’t have that problem. She doesn’t get it. What do you mean I have to do this? It doesn’t make sense to her. She, and also Penelope in a way, are signs of what’s to come.
How do you think Eloise makes the world a safer and more equal place?
Her outspokenness. There’s a scene I love this season where Eloise is sitting with some debutantes and they’re all complaining about the social season and their suitors. And she goes, “Why don’t you just say no? And you wonder why you’re so miserable? What are you doing?” I don’t think women need to do anything. I don’t think women need to be each other’s heroes. I think they should be able to exist and be free and do what they want to do. It’s enough to just hear it. Eloise doesn’t need to be anyone’s hero. It’s enough to have an example of someone thinking a bit differently. There’s been a template that the women have all followed, but it’s not the template; it’s a template. Eloise has a good way of being like, “There’s also this.” And I think that’s enough.
Eloise dances with a suitor for about 60 seconds before handing him his ass. I know it was short, but Regency-era dance is so beautiful. Did you have to do dance training?
I love dancing so much. When we’re on set, the cast really gushes over the dancers. Every time the dancers come into work, we’re their biggest fans. It’s like One Direction walked into the room and there are screaming girls everywhere. That’s the standard response. They’re here — oh my God! They’ll learn about three dances per day. It’s pretty wild. I had four or five rehearsals for that one dance. It’s a whole piece of choreography. I loved the process despite being nervous, but Eloise is a bit clumsy by nature. I liked that I got to unsubscribe a little bit and be a bit clumsy. It was still beautiful, though. My favorite thing is to watch the dancers during the rehearsal before we attempt it. A lot of us have cried when we watch them perform to the music.
I’m curious how you think Eloise’s personality reflects in her clothing. She strikes me as having a more comfortable wardrobe than the other society women.
You’re not wrong at all. A lot of the women in the show are quite bare and like to show a lot of arms and chest. Eloise is quite structured and tailored —
— almost like a 19th-century Diane Keaton?
You’re bang on. She has waistcoats and jackets! I like her delicate pastels. There’s a firmness to the cut and the style of her clothes. Unless she’s going to a ball, it’s not fussy. It’s not glitzy. It’s quite minimalist. It’s absolutely reflective of Eloise. She’s very cool, and her clothes are cool within the period. Like, she’s not wearing a backward cap like Bart Simpson. She’s a bit of a maverick. She’s quite slouchy, too. Even the way Eloise walks is very limby.
She has such a distinctive physicality.
It’s very intentional, and the clothes flow nicely around the choices I make.
What choices do you make?
I wanted to make her physically big. I wanted to make her walk differently. I want you to believe that this is a teenager in this world. When I was a teenager, I don’t think I was trying to be proper. I was slouchy and probably a bit miffed off going through puberty and all of that crap. I wanted you to know that Eloise was young and was actively eschewing etiquette from her environment. You know those car-dealership blowup things? That’s what I do to Eloise. Because she’s so expressive and has no filter, of course she would be like that physically as well.
So basically Eloise is to Bridgerton what Roman is to Succession with their posture.
There you go! I’m slowly making my way through Succession. My boyfriend is making me watch scenes that he loves, mostly with Brian Cox. We all love Brian Cox.
I also like how Eloise was even more unfiltered while sneakily meeting that printing-press guy.
This romance is such an important part of the show. It’s more interesting to me how Eloise does romance than the idea she just goes doe-eyed. She’s like, Oh, yeah, I guess I am having these weird feelings. I guess I’ll go tell him. She’s pragmatic and isn’t going to change. What she wants is an equal. You know when she sort of tells him that she likes him, and it’s sweet and lovely? Even when she’s messing up, she’s obviously messing up. She’s not trying to cover everything up. She’s as goofy as always. I think about Eloise and what I was like as a teenager. I was nowhere near as cool as her. I love her.
During their big fight after the Lady Whistledown reveal, Penelope chastises Eloise’s lack of ambition and says something to the effect of “All you ever do is talk about doing something.” Do you think that criticism is valid?
It’s interesting to think about. Because since Eloise never suspected her best friend, she was completely unfiltered in the past about how she felt about Lady Whistledown. She admired her. She talked a lot about how amazing she is and how they should aspire to be just like her. Penelope knows how much Eloise loves Lady Whistledown and how much she probably wanted to be her. So, yeah, there’s definitely truth to it. That’s why the scene is so good. If you think about what’s led to that point, it’s the biggest shock to their system ever. It’s shattering.
I would love Eloise to find a clear objective and focus on one thing. I’d love to see Eloise get political. Out of everyone, you’d want to see it with her. She wants to contribute to society in a different way.
What does “political” mean to you for 1813?
We’re getting around to voting. That would be quite cool. And also the institution of marriage. It’s just an exchange of wealth, money, and status. It’s a moneymaking machine. Eloise exploring that would be really interesting. If you’re not the property of your father, you’re the property of another man. God, I would love it if she got political.
Bridgerton has already been renewed for two more seasons. I’m excited for the eventual Eloise romance season, knowing it’s destined to be unconventional.
Romance is important. But imagine if she just … had a boyfriend. Or a girlfriend. Or a partner. And that was it. Not that they’re definitely going to get married, but she has a lovely person she spends lots of time with because she loves them. She gets to change the pattern of “You have to get married in a month.” Imagine if she starts the trend of just having a partner.
Why stop there? Give her two partners.
If anyone can introduce the throuple or the concept of polyamory into Bridgerton, it’s going to be Eloise.