Bridgerton Cast and Crew on Gender-Swapping Francesca’s Love Interest

Bridgerton surprised book fans by changing Francesca’s future love interest from Michael to Michaela, but the show’s creative team is excited about the meaningful swap.

Season 3 offered Francesca (Hannah Dodd) a much larger role — following a recasting — where viewers watched her fall in love with John (Victor Alli). Francesca and John ended the season as a married couple who were planning to make the move to Scotland.

Despite Francesca’s love story being based on Julia Quinn‘s book When He Was Wicked, the season 3 finale confirmed a shakeup when Francesca met John’s cousin Michaela (Masali Baduza), whose gender was swapped from the original character named Michael.

“Dearest Gentle Reader, I find myself suddenly at a loss for words,” Lady Whistledown (Julie Andrews) said in a voiceover as Francesca appeared visibly tongue-tied the minute she met Michaela. This interaction quickly intrigued fans who questioned whether it was a setup for a potential romance down the line.

Book fans already know that Francesca and John are (spoiler alert!) only married for two years before he dies. Francesca found love again when John’s cousin revealed their secret feelings for her. Before introducing Michaela, showrunner Jess Brownell confirmed plans to offer more LGBTQIA+ representation on screen after past seasons largely didn’t explore the topic.

“When we started talking about queer representation on the show, we started with a discussion that this is a show about happily-ever-afters, and that we’re not interested in queer trauma — that we really want to see queer joy,” she told Variety in June 2024. “And if we’re going to tell a queer story, we would like to find a way for there to be a happily ever after.”

Brownell acknowledged the potential obstacles for a same-sex couple considering the Regency era setting on the show, adding, “So we have done a lot of research to figure out how we can achieve that within the confines of our world. And after people see the next couple of seasons, I’ll be able to talk about that more.”

In a separate interview, Brownell teased Baduza’s involvement in the next season since the next Bridgerton lead hasn’t been announced yet.

“You’re going to see more of Michaela next season,” she told Entertainment Weekly. “I can’t say in what capacity, just in terms of not tipping my hand of where we’re going. But there is going to be a relationship between Michaela and Fran, as per the books.”

Making the Change for a Reason

Brownell discussed what led to the decision to bring a same-sex relationship onto the show.

“The first time I read Francesca’s book, I really related to it as a queer woman. Her book is a lot about how she feels different from her family and from people in society. For some of us, that is a part of the queer experience, not for everyone but for a lot of queer people. It was important to me in creating a queer character not to just drop in a queer character to check a box but to actually tell a story about the queer experience and what it feels like to be queer,” she recalled in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “So, it felt like Francesca’s book was actually a really clean one to adapt, and we do plan on following the book pretty closely. There will have to be some changes but not major.”

Fans, however, shouldn’t be worried about how Francesca and Michaela’s story will play out.

“Also, we have examples from history of women like Francesca, who have been able to sort out a kind of happy ending, and it was really important to me to be able to tell a story that ends in queer joy,” Brownell continued. “So that’s something that we plan to lead with when we do end up telling Francesca and Michaela’s story.”

Dropping Hints Early

“For Francesca, because she was so rarely in seasons 1 and 2, I did feel like we got to do a lot more invention and creation with her this season. It was exciting for me as a showrunner to almost get to start a character from scratch,” Brownell told Variety in June 2024. “And I hope that, if people watch what we set up with her from episode 1 in season 3, we’re planting the seeds of what we reveal at the end of season 3 from the very beginning. We really got to set it up exactly as we would like to this season.”

How the Story Will Work Around Francesca and Michaela

“I can’t say if it’s in season 4 or not, but yes, there will be a time jump. I mean, we also really want to honor John and Francesca’s relationship, which although we are telling a queer story with Francesca, I don’t think that that negates her genuine connection with John. I know a lot of people have really fallen for that relationship, and we in the room really cared deeply about that relationship and about their connection,” Brownell detailed to The Hollywood Reporter in June 2024. “I think 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. Both have value, and neither negates the other.”

She concluded: “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 with John.”

Offering More Representation

During the season 3 finale, Francesca’s brother Benedict (Luke Thompson) also had a personal awakening when he explored his potential sexual interest in men.

Thompson showed support for Francesca’s future love interest, telling Bustle in June 2024, “To welcome positive, happy queer love story lines [that aren’t] all about angst or tragedy or things going wrong, it’s a really lovely thing.”

The actor hinted at how Benedict’s understanding of his sexuality would evolve as well. “By our modern terms, the closest [descriptor] would be something along the lines of pansexuality — being attracted to the way that someone thinks and feels, regardless of gender,” he noted. “That’s a word that could be used. But what’s refreshing about it, certainly in the way that it’s being discovered at the moment, is that there is a sense of labelless-ness about it.”

Thompson concluded: “He seems to approach his feelings in a spirit of curiosity. There’s very little angst about it. It’s refreshing to see someone tackle that side of themselves without anxiety about who they are and what it means. Male sexuality, particularly, can feel boxy in the way that it’s explored. Let’s be clear, it was an extremely repressive period.”

Looking Ahead

In June 2024, Dodd shared her excitement about the vision for her season. “Jess had a Zoom with me and told me about the direction that they wanted to go in,” she told Tudum at the time. “I’m just so excited and really proud to get to tell that story. We’re so lucky to have Masali, and she’s the most beautiful person in the world.”

Brownell recalled more details about the chemistry read between Dodd and Baduza, telling Glamour, “After Masali left, [Hannah] said, ‘Well, that’s her.’”

The showrunner praised the newcomer for being “an incredible actress” with whom she spoke about “the weight and importance of her role.”

“She’s really stepped into it with wonderful energy. I can’t wait for people to get to know her more,” Brownell concluded. “I’m just sad that people are only getting to meet her for those 10 seconds at the end of season 3 because she’s incredible.”