Skip to content

5 Steps To Better Sex Scenes, The Bridgerton Way

Intimate Scenes, The Bridgerton Way

Anyone who’s seen Bridgerton – and who hasn’t? – can surely not have missed the intimate sex scenes the show is famous for. I was lucky enough to be in the audience at an exclusive screening of Bridgerton Season 3 Part 2 with Shonda Rhimes (Creator, Showrunner, Executive Producer) and Jess Brownell (Showrunner).

The Bridgerton team and Jessie gave us all a step-by-step guide to portraying intimate moments on screen.

The step-by-step process

Step 1: Talk to the actor! (OR for writers – think about the character and the specific intimacy that’s required for the story)

With Bridgerton they have the benefit of being able to speak to actors before anyone even puts ink on the page … And according to showrunner Jess Brownell, that’s exactly what they do. Finding out what an actor is comfortable with is a GREAT place to start!

But many of us who work as writers don’t have this option. However, the one thing we can ALL do is research. Many people gloss over sex scenes but how two people are intimate with each other can tell us so much about their relationship and their individual characters.

B2W Takeaway: Consider the options and how intimacy can help build character and tell the story.

Step 2 (my favourite!):  Begin to write the scene STARTING by looking for moments of consent. Build forward (and backwards!) from there

As a writer, thinking about how we make consent clear to the audience. This is really important if any intimate touching is being portrayed, either implied or more explicitly.

I love to see shows normalising consent. It is a myth that consent kills the mood. Several great recent shows have portrayed how seeking explicit consent can actually hugely increase her desire. This is because consent conveys

  • Respect
  • Safety and
  • Care

Normal People has an absolutely glorious consent moment in their first time. In the sometimes criticised 13 reasons Why consent clearly highlights Hannah’s different intimate experiences.

When kissing Clay, he asks Hannah “is this okay?” and she says “More than okay”. This means we physically see her desire for him increase … until the moment she says no. When she says ‘no’,  all intimate touching ceases.

But of course, consent doesn’t have to be words. In Bridgerton Season 3 episode 4, it was a very clear nod from a character as another lifts her skirt.

B2W Takeaway: Audiences seeing consent on screen is a great way to normalise getting and giving it in our own sex lives.

Step 3: Read the scene with the actors, director, intimacy coordinator, and necessary crew

Intimacy co-ordinator? You may ask. Didn’t people just use to write and shoot intimate scenes like any other? The answer to that question is yes. They did. But this is 2024 and we are all trying to do better than the horror stories of the past!

I was working on set a few years ago and when it came time for a sex scene it transpired there was no intimacy director. I offered to help out. The young female director blocked through the scene with the camera operator and then I was given time alone with each actor.

When everyone had gone, the actress told me she had said she had no problem appearing topless in the scene, but she didn’t want her legs shown. It seemed this somewhat unusual request had been forgotten and the actress “didn’t like to speak up” in front of everyone. We reworked the scene and it ended up being a beautiful and touching sex scene.

Bringing the actors and intimacy coordinator in early is a great way to get feedback on your work and check for any issues. They do this on Bridgerton with renowned fight director and intimacy coordinator Lizzy Talbot.

B2W Takeaway: Intimacy coordinators on set are now an essential part of any team. You wouldn’t do a dangerous stunt without a stunt coordinator. Don’t do intimate scenes without an intimacy coordinator!

Step 4: Clothed rehearsal where every single moment, movement, camera position etc is carefully mapped

Rehearsal for these kinds of things is crucial. Jess could not have been any clearer that these scenes are planned like a military operation. And that’s a good way to look at it. We have always used fight directors for stunts and fight scenes. No one would ever have suggested you just “stab a guy” so that we “get his reaction as a man, not as an actor”.

Jess also told us that this is a great opportunity for actors to feed back on the physicality of the moves. Is it actually possible to get that bit of clothing off while in that position? Does something feel unnatural and awkward?

The creative team are on hand to rework things and make sure everything is functioning. This is also where the camera operator gets involved. What are we actually shooting? There’s no reason for two actors to be half-naked together if the only shot is a tantalising bit of footsie sticking out of the duvet covers!

B2W Takeaway: Plan everything meticulously and get feedback from actors and the intimacy coordinator.

Step 5: Closed set shoot where everyone knows exactly what will happen. No surprises!

If you’ve never been on a set you may not know that they are usually big busy places with lots of people and lots of monitors. Everyone from Hair and Makeup and costume, to sound, lights, props, camera equipment, gaffers, grips, and assistants to a dog handler can be on set at any given time.

But when it comes to intimate scenes the number of people on set should be reduced to the absolute minimum. This will usually be director, camera op, sound, intimacy coordinator, and possibly one or two others – script supervisor, First AD or hair and make-up for continuity perhaps, although if possible, these extra roles should be done by monitor.

Bridgerton is a show made by a predominantly female creative team, and the female gaze in the show is striking. It is perhaps unsurprising then that they are also leading the way with the care of actors in intimate scenes.

Acting is a vulnerable job, but intimate acting is intensely vulnerable. Every respect should be given to these incredible artists, literally laying themselves bare, to explore every element of the human experience.

B2W Takeaway: Respect your actors. Keep them safe by reducing the number of people on set to the absolute “bare!” minimum

So, there you have it: How to get intimate … the Bridgerton way!

Thanks Lucy!

BIO: Lucy Linger is a writer/director whose stage play Offroading is on at the Old Red Lion theatre in London from 3rd – 14th September 2024. Lucy also works as a script doctor and writing coach, using her 20+ years in the industry to provide a holistic approach to your writing career. You can read testimonials from other writers on her website HERE.

Share this:

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *