Netflix Scandal Reveals Shonda Rhimes’ Abusive Behavior

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Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton Season 3 first look Netflix

Credit: Netflix

Netflix and Shondaland are under fire after recent shocking allegations which can change the platform’s fate forever.

In recent years, Netflix, which once held unquestioned dominance in the streaming content industry, has faced formidable challenges from platforms such as HBO Max (now rebranded as Max), Disney+, Amazon Prime, and Hulu.

Shonda Rhimes with actors Ellen Pompeo, Kerry Washington, Viola Davis
Credit: ABC

Last year, it was reported that Netflix had shed nearly a million subscribers, and shareholders were expressing discontent with CEO Ted Sarandos. However, the tables have turned, with Netflix now posting remarkable growth figures, including the addition of nearly six million new subscribers and a substantial increase in its free cash flow from around $13 million to an astounding $1.3 billion.

This impressive turnaround can be largely attributed to the popularity of their original content, which has gained significant traction over the years.

Notable examples include hits like Stranger Things, Squid Games, Love is Blind, Sex Education, Wednesday, Black Mirror and many more.

One series that has experienced explosive popularity, making waves in headlines worldwide, is Bridgerton created by Shonda Rhimes. Rhimes, formerly known for her dedicated work with Disney through ABC, where she had successful shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder, all of which achieved dominance in the Thursday night cable TV lineup.

Bridgerton character Simon and Daphne
Credit: Netflix

In 2017, Shonda Rhimes was in the midst of renegotiating her contract when she reached a breaking point in her dealings with ABC executives. While in the midst of these negotiations, she made a request for an additional all-inclusive Disneyland pass for her visiting sister.

Despite facing repeated refusals and resistance, the executives eventually agreed to provide Rhimes with the pass for her sister. However, upon her sister’s arrival at the Disneyland gates, along with her children and nanny, they found that the pass was not valid.

She then engaged her legal team to facilitate her transition to Netflix. This decision ultimately resulted in Shonda Rhimes securing an impressive deal with Netflix valued at over $300 million.

Queue: Bridgerton, a show that would sweep Netflix users by storm, and change the platform’s success trajectory to shoot even higher.

nicola coughlan as penelope featherington in bridgerton season 3 first look Netflix TUDUM
Credit: Netflix

It is the first scripted show from Shondaland produced exclusively for Netflix and is based on Julia Quinn’s book series. The story unfolds within the competitive social milieu of Regency-era London’s high society during the annual social season, where young nobility and gentry make their debut and seek suitable marriages.

The series’ inaugural season premiered on December 25, 2020, with the second season following on March 25, 2022. By April 2021, Netflix had confirmed its commitment to produce a third and fourth season.

In May 2023, Queen Charlotte: A Bridgerton Story, a spinoff series with six episodes focusing on the character Queen Charlotte from Bridgerton, (albeit a lot younger than the current Queen Charlotte viewers were used to) was released, further solidifying the Bridgerton franchise.

Notably, the series achieved higher viewer ratings than the third season of Stranger Things on Netflix.

luke newton as colin bridgerton in bridgerton season 3 first look Netflix TUDUM
Credit: Netflix

The show features the Bridgerton siblings – Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth – as they navigate the intricacies of London’s high society in their quest for love, all while dealing with friends and rivals.

Some fall in love, some discover deception, and all around, the show encapsulates viewers into a world where drama appears at every turn, exactly what one would expect for a Shondaland show.

Now, one of the actors from the franchise is speaking out on how Netflix and Shondaland treated her during filming.

Pop Base (@PopBase) shared, “‘Bridgerton’ actress Ruby Barker calls out Netflix and Shondaland for not supporting her when she suffered two psychotic breaks due to the show:

“Not a single person from Netflix, not a single person from Shondaland, since I have had two psychotic breaks from that show, have even contacted me or even emailed me to ask me if I’m ok or if I would benefit from any sort of aftercare or support”

Barker played Marina Thompson from 2020-2022 and appeared in nine episodes of Bridgerton. 

Ruby Barker, an actor from Bridgerton, has publicly criticized Netflix and Shondaland for their lack of support during two episodes of severe mental distress that followed the massive success of the romantic series.

In her role as Marina, a Featherington cousin who becomes a social outcast due to her scandalous pregnancy in Regency-era London, Barker disclosed that her initial psychotic break took place in 2019, shortly after completing production on Bridgerton season one. The second episode occurred in 2022, and Barker expressed that she received “no assistance” from Netflix.

Barker blames the character’s isolated nature for her steady mental decline. In a podcast, she said, “Not a single person from Netflix, not a single person from Shondaland, since I have had two psychotic breaks from that show, have even contacted me or even emailed me to ask me if I’m okay or if I would benefit from any sort of aftercare or support.”

bridgerton full cast
Credit: Netflix

The star continued, “During filming, I was deteriorating. It was a really tormenting place for me to be because my character was very alienated, very ostracized, on her own under these horrible circumstances. When I went into hospital a week after shooting Bridgerton season one, it was really covered up and kept on the down-low because the show was going to be coming out.”

The Netflix star noted, “In the run-up to the show coming out, I was just coming out from hospital, my Instagram following was going up, I had all these engagements to do… My life was changing drastically overnight, and yet there was still no support, and there still hasn’t been any support all that time. So I was trying really, really hard to act like it was ok and that I could work and that it wasn’t a problem.”

It seems Ruby felt forced to continue on with the show’s promotion, “It’s almost like I had this metaphorical invisible gun to my head to sell this show because this show is bubbly and fun. I don’t want to come out and poo poo on that because then I’ll never work again.”

You can watch the full interview below.

With the show recently receiving disappointing news that a third season would not be released this year, this new scandal will surely cause Netflix’s PR team to do some cleaning. It seems that other actors from the show have yet to comment on Ruby’s experience or their own.

Interestingly, the character of Simon Basset played by Regé-Jean Page was a fan favorite who only lasted one season, as the actor left the show. He noted he did not want to be pigeonholed as an actor, but perhaps his on-set treatment may have played a silent role.

Are you a fan of Shondaland and the Bridgerton series? 

 

 

 

 

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