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Jonathan Bailey on His 'Erotic Energy' and a Career Moment Shaped by 'Justin Timberlake in Double Denim'

Jonathan Bailey got candid with Phoebe Waller-Bridge about his "dirty, filthy habit" as an actor and more

<p>Kevin Mazur/Getty</p> Jonathan Bailey attends the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 07, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.

Kevin Mazur/Getty

Jonathan Bailey attends the 81st Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 07, 2024 in Beverly Hills, California.

Jonathan Bailey has undeniable sex appeal — just ask his Crashing costar and creator Phoebe Waller-Bridge.

The Fleabag creator-star can say from firsthand experience that Bailey, 35, is “a chemistry machine” — and she did, to his face, during a cheeky Interview magazine chat published on Monday.

“There’s this incredible erotic energy that people are so excited about,” Waller-Bridge, 38, said of Bailey’s performances in Bridgerton and in Fellow Travelers. Bailey gave the credit right back to Waller-Bridge, attributing his “understanding of tension” to his days working on her 2016 U.K. sitcom.

Bailey described playing Sam (whom Waller-Bridge described as “sex-obsessed”) in Crashing as “being on the constant edge of an orgasm and also hysteria,” and Waller-Bridge agreed the one-season wonder had “a kind of wild, beautiful energy.”

Related: Jonathan Bailey Says 'Tantalizing' Season 3 of Bridgerton Is 'Bringing the Heat' and Left Him 'Beaming'

<p>Courtesy of SHOWTIME</p> Jonathan Bailey as Tim and Matt Bomer as Hawkins "Hawk" Fuller in 'Fellow Travelers'

Courtesy of SHOWTIME

Jonathan Bailey as Tim and Matt Bomer as Hawkins "Hawk" Fuller in 'Fellow Travelers'

During filming, Bailey felt like he was surrounded by “the right group of people [and] led by the right people.”

Waller-Bridge countered, "It doesn’t come from Crashing, it comes from you. I think you’re the king of tension. I think you understand what that is."

Bailey asked, “I think you can give yourself butterflies, can’t you?”

She followed up, "Is that what you’re looking for, the butterfly all the time?"

He answered in a typically sensual fashion: "Yeah, I’m always looking for my butterfly farm. The misty, slightly smelly greenhouse full of butterflies."

Related: Ariana Grande Enjoys Wimbledon Outing with 'Wicked' Costar Jonathan Bailey — See the Photos!

And though Crashing had a limited run of just six episodes eight years ago, Waller-Bridge managed to excavate an especially timely pop culture revelation from Bailey about one of his character choices.

When she mentioned the frosted tips Sam sported and asked if they were Bailey's own idea, he answered, “I had this conversation today. I think it’s in the script. But my reference picture was Justin Timberlake in double denim.”

<p>Ray Burmiston / Channel 4 / Courtesy Everett; Kevin Mazur/WireImage</p> Jonathan Bailey as Sam in 'Crashing'; Justin Timberlake during The 28th Annual American Music Awards in 2001.

Ray Burmiston / Channel 4 / Courtesy Everett; Kevin Mazur/WireImage

Jonathan Bailey as Sam in 'Crashing'; Justin Timberlake during The 28th Annual American Music Awards in 2001.

Waller-Bridge didn't recall the peroxided style as part of her script, to which Bailey joked he maybe just “[wanted] bleach blonde hair.”

Waller-Bridge then shared that Sam is a character she holds “closest to my heart because, in so many ways, he represents how I feel about maybe my inner life. I just love him so much, and your ability to play every single little corner of him that I dreamed of."

Related: 'Bridgerton' 's Jonathan Bailey Ensured Costar Simone Ashley 'Felt Safe' While Filming Sex Scenes

Thinking back on his past, the 2024 Critics Choice Award winner called his passion for Shakespeare a long-held "dirty, filthy habit" and opened up about expectations he scarcely dared to have when he was growing up.

Admitting he “never thought I would be able to” play a leading man role, Bailey explained, “I’ve realized that I’m completely in awe of other people and performances and creative endeavors. I go to the theater and I love a performance and I’m like, ‘How do they do that? I can’t see the seams.’ So therefore, I feel like I must be driven by that. And when something comes my way, there’s a fear that it won’t work.”

In general, he finds his best work comes when he feels “free.” Otherwise, “I panic or get really scared,” he admitted.

“I’ve definitely been in environments where I don’t feel free, and then you give the worst performance of your life. What I’ve found in the last few years is that, of course, you have to adapt so quickly to work out what you need in order to be able to be free.”

Liam Daniel/Netflix Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley in 'Bridgerton' season 2
Liam Daniel/Netflix Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley in 'Bridgerton' season 2

Bailey, who is gay, previously opened up to PEOPLE about how he picks and chooses the roles he plays, calling his decision to costar with Matt Bomer in Fellow Travelers a "no-brainer."

"I had looked for these gay stories, a sweeping gay love story, and I hadn't really seen them," he said of the romantic period drama, which spans from conservative Senator Joseph McCarthy's communist trials in the 1950s to the 1980s AIDS crisis. "This ticked every single box, and it's something I know I'll be proud of for the rest of my career."

The ability to be choosy is new to him, too. "Having always waited for auditions and projects to come, I just have that footing now to have choices, which is incredible and so special, because it's not a very common thing," he said. "I have a responsibility therefore not to waste that."

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Fellow Travelers can be streamed on Paramount+, Bridgerton and Crashing are both available on Netflix.

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