What’s it like to compete on a reality dating show set in the era of ‘Bridgerton’ and Jane Austen?
- USC Dornsife alumna Nicole Rémy starred in the Regency England-themed dating reality show The Courtship.
- Rémy and her suitors lived and dated as upper-class English men and women did during the early 19th-century era, the time depicted in the show Bridgerton.
- The men attempting to woo Rémy had to prove themselves through dancing, archery, calligraphy and other period-appropriate activities and skills.
Regency-era England makes an ideal backdrop for a love story, as demonstrated by countless romance novels, Jane Austen film adaptations and, more recently, the hit television show Bridgerton. The combination of the period’s dresses, dances, food and formality — and the carnal urges underlying it — have proven to be irresistible to writers and filmmakers. But was the reality of love in that time anything like our contemporary interpretations?
Nicole Rémy, who graduated from the USC Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in geodesign, discovered the ups and downs of dating in the early 19th century during her time as the star of The Courtship, a reality show airing on NBC last year.
In the program, Rémy and 16 men vying for her favor lived for several months in England’s Castle Howard. (Both Bridgerton and Brideshead Revisited have filmed there, as well.)
The contestants and Rémy lived as if they were in Regency England, a period that is much loved by the film industry. The show’s clothing, food and leisure activities were all authentic to the period, and the contestants had to court Rémy through the traditional means of the era, such as hand-written letters, dancing skills and etiquette.
Rémy says she didn’t have much time to learn about the history or even to prepare for the show.
“I went into it so quickly that I didn’t have a whole lot of time to think, which I think is better than if I had sat around for months wondering how I was going to act or what I was going to do,” Rémy says. “I watched Pride and Prejudiceand some other things to understand the time period, but it’s not like there’s a guidebook on how to act when dating 16 people at a time — on television, no less.”
Alum expands horizons while at USC Dornsife
Rémy says she was a quiet person when she was younger, but her time at USC prompted her to become more outgoing and prepared her for work in entertainment, both on The Courtship and in her subsequent role as an in-game television host for the Seattle Seahawks, in which she interviews fans and energizes the crowd on game days.
“At USC, I got involved in things that made me more extroverted. I was a Song Girl and president of my sorority,” she says. “These things helped me to lead, and to go on TV and talk in front of people. All of that translated into my role on The Courtship.”
But show business was not Rémy’s first stop after leaving USC Dornsife. After graduation, she worked in architecture, helping design commercial and residential buildings. But when the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in a halt in construction, she found herself looking for a change. She learned how to code and worked as a software engineer (a job she still holds as a freelancer) before landing her role on The Courtship.
Regency period lessons for today’s romance seekers
Rémy says she enjoyed participating in the show, especially activities such as archery and horseback riding.
There was also an episode featuring a bacchanal, what Rémy describes as “an 1800s toga party,” that she enjoyed because it allowed everyone to loosen the bonds of Regency etiquette for a night.
Another highlight was the clothing, Rémy says. While the men had a tougher road — swaddled as they were in multiple layers of wool and silk — the women’s dresses were a bit more fun.
“All of the costumes were couture gowns made from Italian silk and sewn by hand in Paris,” she says.
As for the romance? Rémy says she felt the present day could stand to borrow a few courting tactics from long ago.
“These days guys just send you some short text on a dating app. But back then men had to make an effort, and it’s nice having someone who will try hard to win you over and be a gentleman at the same time,” she says. “The guys on the show were constantly writing letters in calligraphy, which is so sweet. It means so much more than sending something as quick as a text or making a phone call.”
Rémy says she ended up falling in love with Castle Howard and wants to return with her parents one day. And while she didn’t end up with the winning suitor, she made friendships among the contestants and crew members that she hopes will last well into the future.