It’s hard to remember December of 2020, as it was nestled between the horrors of lockdown and the false promises of a new year. But amidst the onslaught of zoom calls, Instagram filters, and generally bad vibes, one thing did give us hope, or at the very least, escape: Bridgerton. And, with season two’s release just around the corner, we caught up with the ever-charming Nicola Coughlan to chat about the show’s return, her love of fashion, and fame.
“I loved going back,” says Coughlan, “it’s a massive privilege to know that you’re making something that people have enjoyed”—82 million people to be exact. The Shonda Rhimes-produced period piece catapulted the actor into the spotlight, and when asked about the increase in attention that she’s received, Coughlan reveals, “it’s quite mad.” Despite having been somewhat sheltered from it during lockdown, “sometimes it can get a little overwhelming,” she admits. “I was in a coffee shop in Austin, Texas and these teenage girls started freaking out that I was there, and I was like ‘this is quite mad.’”
Bridgerton. Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 204 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
Season one ended with a major reveal about Coughlan’s character Penelope Featherington—a revelation that allowed the actor to change her approach to playing her in season two. “I was so excited about that because it opens up a world of possibilities and it allows the audience to go behind the curtain to see how she’s getting away with all of this, what she’s doing, [and uncover] this underworld of London that you haven’t seen before.” Where in season one Featherington was depicted as “this really shy wallflower”, this time around, Coughlan reveals that “you get to see all different facets of her personality, which was fun to play.”
Aside from showcasing a more complicated Featherington, many things inspired Coughlan about filming season two. “Whether it’s in costume, or set design, or the hair and makeup, everyone just cares deeply and really wants to make the best show possible—being around people that want to make something epic was amazing and so inspiring.” In fact, she even credits the show for inspiring her love of fashion and beauty. “Bridgerton was a huge part of me discovering and finding joy in using hair and makeup to express myself,” says Coughlan. “When I first started doing press tours, I found them super intimidating and I’d throw on whatever from wardrobe—I’d never feel that great. Eventually, I had a moment of reflection during one of the many amazing wardrobe fittings, having Mister Pearl create a corset for me and all these custom gowns, and I thought to myself ‘this is incredible, why can I not bring this into my real life?’” Overall, she says, “it’s just been really joyful.”
Bridgerton. Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 201 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2022
According to Coughlan, season two will continue to explore themes of love—including in friendship. “Everyone is worthy of love,” she says, “and love comes in all different forms. I think I’m a part of one of the biggest love stories in the show, which is Eloise and Penelope.” Ultimately, the future is bright for the Bridgerton star. “I’m so lucky that we have more of the show to come,” she says. “We’re in a very lucky position that there’s four seasons commissioned and that’s just astonishing. Also there’s a million and one other jobs that I want to do, so I kind of feel like I’m just getting started in my career, which is a really lovely position to be in.”