Bridgerton Author Addresses Fan Backlash Over Michaela Stirling 5

[This story includes spoilers for Bridgerton season three, part two.]

Julia Quinn, the author of the Bridgerton novel series, is addressing fan “disappointment” over the gender flip of a major character in the show’s season three, part two, finale.

In the final moments of Bridgerton season three, fans are introduced to the character of Michaela Stirling (Masali Baduza), the cousin of Francesca Bridgerton’s (Hannah Dodd) husband, John Stirling (Victor Alli). Those who are familiar with the books know that John’s cousin, Michael, becomes Francesca’s second husband after her first one died from a ruptured cerebral aneurysm.

For the screen adaptation, showrunner Jess Brownell changed Michael to Michaela, introducing Bridgerton‘s eventual first same-sex relationship, and some fans have expressed their surprise and disappointment over the major change.

In a lengthy social media post, Quinn addressed the feelings fans may be having over the change, noting that she was also a little hesitant when Brownell brought the suggestion to her.

“Anyone who has seen an interview with me from the past four years knows that I am deeply committed to the Bridgerton world becoming more diverse and inclusive as the stories move from book to screen,” Quinn wrote. “But switching the gender of a major character is a huge change, and so when Jess Brownell first approached me with the idea of turning Michael into Michaela for the show, I needed more information before conferring my agreement.”

She continued, “I trust Shondaland’s vision for Bridgerton, but I wanted to be sure that we could remain true to the spirit of the book and of the characters. Jess and I talked for a long time about it. More than once. I made it clear that it was extremely important to me that Francesca’s abiding love for John be shown on screen.”

Quinn explained that when she wrote When He Was Wicked, the book that details Francesca and Michael’s relationship, she fought to include Francesca and John’s love in the first four chapters because her publisher was worried it would take away from Francesca and Michael’s eventual relationship.

“But I felt that if I didn’t show how deeply she loved John, and how deeply Michael, his cousin, also loved him, then their feelings of guilt at falling in love with each other after John’s death made no sense,” she said. “I didn’t want to just tell the reader that they loved him. I wanted the reader to feel it.”

However, after speaking with Brownell on several occasions, the author noted that she’s “confident” that when Francesca and Michaela’s story comes to life in Bridgerton, it will be the “most emotional and heart-wrenching” installment of the show, just like the novel was. She even pointed out that John’s death may even hit harder in the show than in the books because he’s getting more time onscreen than he ever did on the page.

She concluded her post by thanking the readers and fans for their feedback and added that she is touched by their commitment to the characters. “I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward,” she wrote. “I think we are going to end up with two stories, one on page and one on screen, and they will both be beautiful and moving.”

Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton and Victor Alli as John Stirling in Bridgerton season three.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

In a conversation with The Hollywood Reporter following Bridgerton season three, part two, Brownell explained that she got the idea to change Francesca’s love interest to a woman when she read the book and related to it as a queer woman. She noted that even though there will have to be some changes, they plan on adapting the book pretty closely.

The showrunner also has plans to honor John and Francesca’s relationship, like Quinn shared that she wanted, pointing out that just because she and her writers room chose to tell a queer story with Francesca doesn’t mean that her connection with John wasn’t genuine.

“Hopefully, it’s a lovely statement on the fact that relationships based in companionship, respect, friendship, trust and shared interests are just as valid as relationships that are super passionate,” Brownell said. “Both have value, and neither negates the other. So we’re absolutely not denying the connection that Fran and John have, and when we tell the Francesca and Michaela story, we would definitely want there to be a time jump to give Francesca some time to earnestly mourn what she had.”

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