Mr. Malcolm’s List Director And Cast Share Why Their Regency Romance Is Actually Not Inspired By Bridgerton’s Success

If discussing a regency romance with diverse casting, we must be talking about Bridgerton, right? Actually, it’s no longer the only one. Recent release Mr. Malcolm’s List follows suit with the hit Netflix series by expanding the genre with more inclusion in its casting (alongside charming us with a sweet love story). But while it may seem like Mr. Malcolm’s List might be a reaction to the success of the Shondaland production, the reality is that the movie has a more unexpected backstory. 

CinemaBlend recently spoke with Mr. Malcolm’s List stars Zawe Ashton and Theo James and asked if Bridgerton had any affect on the making of the movie. Here’s what  told us: 

Zawe Ashton: I actually based my performance on Regé-Jean Page as the Duke [Laughs]. Well, the proof of concept film, the short film of Malcolm's List actually preceded Bridgeton series one. So, it was already happening.
Theo James: But you know, something that has a diverse cast, is in the same period, that then becomes a massive juggernaut. I mean, it's only good news really, because it helps all the causes, you know? So yeah, but it didn't really have any direct impact, but it was just pleasant to see.

Mr. Malcolm’s List started as a book written by Suzanne Allain, and it was adapted by the author. When director Emma Holly Jones heard a reading of the script in 2015 on an episode of the Black List podcast, she decided she wanted to make it her first feature. In 2018, Jones shot the Mr. Malcolm’s List short (with much of the cast in the actual film) and it hit over 2 million views after arriving on the web in early 2019 . Discussing the project's history and the possible link to Bridgerton, Jones recently told us,

We were making and developing Mr. Malcolm’s List when we'd already made the short film when Bridgerton was announced. I really never paid much attention to [Bridgerton]. I just thought its existence was only a good thing. I think they have obviously a lot more money than we did and a lot more marketing money. And I think they opened this genre up to a lot of people around the world. I think their presence in this space is only a good thing for us, but creatively, no. I think it was better for me to just focus on what I was doing and remain in my headspace and my vision for the film. So no, it didn't have any influence on me whatsoever.

So Mr. Malcolm’s List was in the works and pushing the envelope in the regency period romance genre before audiences fell in love with Bridgerton and it became the phenomenon it continues to be. The similarities are noticeable, and yet the two projects both came up around the same time with no real link to one another. 

In addition to upcoming Marvel star Zawe Ashton and Divergent’s Theo James, Mr. Malcolm’s List also features Freida Pinto, Ṣọpẹ́ Dìrísù, Oliver Jackson-Cohen and Ashley Park. The movie centers on Julia Thistlewaite (Ashton), who feels humiliated after the titular Mr. Malcolm (Dìrísù) rejects her after a date due to a secret checklist he has for his would-be wife. Julia recruits her childhood friend, Pinto’s Selena, to deviously embody the perfect woman in an effort to get back at Mr. Malcolm. 

After you check out 2022 movie release Mr. Malcolm’s List, now playing in theaters, we can of course look forward to the next Bridgerton season, which will feature Penelope and Colin’s romance (based on the Julia Quinn book, Romancing Mister Bridgerton). It’s certainly exciting to see the regency romance genre not only become popular again with these recent titles, but tell new stories within the genre that we've never seen.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.