Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton and Victor Allie as Lord John Stirling in Bridgerton season 3

‘Bridgerton’ Author Julia Quinn Breaks Her Silence on Season 3’s Big Gender-Swap

Bridgerton author Julia Quinn has broken her silence on the major gender-swap reveal in season 3 of the Netflix series after backlash from fans.

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Bridgerton book spoilers ahead!

Recently, Bridgerton wrapped up its third season on Netflix. Although the season’s main focus was Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) and Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), it also began to set up the stories of several other Bridgerton siblings, including Francesca (Hannah Dodd). Season 3 saw Francesca take on a bigger role in the series as she made her societal debut and quickly became acquainted with Lord John Stirling (Victor Alli). The pair began a quiet romance, and by the end of the season, it seemed they had received their happily ever after.

However, readers of the books know that their story doesn’t end there. In the books, Lord Stirling dies unexpectedly, shortly after their marriage. After several years, Francesca finds love again with Lord Stirling’s cousin, Michael Stirling. Hence, in Bridgerton season 3, viewers anticipated Michael’s entrance to foreshadow his eventual relationship with Francesca.

Instead, they were surprised to learn that Michael is actually Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza) in the show. The decision to gender-swap the character means the show may be gearing up for an LGBTQ+ romance. While many were excited by the change, the decision sparked some backlash and controversy, leading Quinn to directly address the matter.

Julia Quinn confirms her support of Bridgerton’s season 3 twist

Recently, Quinn took to Instagram to address Bridgerton season 3’s major change to Francesca’s story. She acknowledged some of the surprised and disappointed fan reactions to the introduction of Michaela. However, she stressed that the decision wasn’t made without careful consideration on her part. Although she is “deeply committed to the Bridgerton world becoming more diverse and inclusive,” she knows “switching the gender of a major character is a huge change.” Hence, she didn’t immediately agree to the suggestion and requested more information.

She had a long discussion with showrunner Jess Brownell about the change. Her biggest concern wasn’t necessarily the gender-swap but that the spirit of Francesca’s original love story with John wouldn’t be lost. Quinn wrote, “It was extremely important to me that Francesca’s abiding love for John be shown onscreen.” This point was equally important to her when writing Francesca’s book, He Was Wicked. She revealed that she actually fought to include the first four chapters of the book, which established that her love for John was real and allowed for more complexity in her relationship with Michael. Fortunately, Quinn confirmed that she is currently confident that Francesca’s Bridgerton season “will be the most emotional and heart-wrenching in the show.”

She even expressed excitement that Lord Stirling is getting more onscreen time to make his passing even more impactful. Ultimately, she concluded that she was grateful for her fans’ feedback. However, she had a request for them, writing, “I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward.” Her statement is important, as fans of the source material should feel comfort knowing Bridgerton’s original creator is on board with the change.

Quinn’s statement also provides interesting insight into how changes like this come about when shows have an opportunity to be more inclusive. Often, the “anti-woke” mob tries to frame as if the creative teams on TV/film adaptations just act of their own accord and choose characters at random to change for the mere sake of it, without consulting anyone or considering the story at hand. However, Quinn openly challenges that perspective by demonstrating how much thought and discussion really goes into these changes, as the showrunner sought explicit approval from the author, and the pair heavily considered the spirit of the original story. Meanwhile, the author’s approval should dispel any lingering concerns.

Quinn is ultimately the highest authority on all things Bridgerton, and if she is confident Francesca’s story will be just as powerful with the gender-swap, it’s a strong indication the show made the right choice.

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Rachel Ulatowski
Rachel Ulatowski is a Staff Writer for The Mary Sue, who frequently covers DC, Marvel, Star Wars, literature, and celebrity news. She has over three years of experience in the digital media and entertainment industry, and her works can also be found on Screen Rant, JustWatch, and Tell-Tale TV. She enjoys running, reading, snarking on YouTube personalities, and working on her future novel when she's not writing professionally. You can find more of her writing on Twitter at @RachelUlatowski.