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‘Bridgerton’ Star Nicola Coughlan Teases Penelope and Colin’s Season of Romance

Plus, will Lady Whistledown be able to keep her secret in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3?


With a new season of Bridgerton almost upon us, Lady Whistledown has not yet put pen to paper this year… but Penelope Featherington’s portrayer Nicola Coughlan is already talking! FIRST for Women went straight to the source to learn everything Bridgerton fans need to know about Penelope and Colin’s steamy Season 3, premiering May 16 on Netflix.

Plus, after spending two seasons as a Bridgerton wallflower and ton gossip, Coughlan opens up about the transition to becoming a leading lady and building the romance with leading man Luke Newton, who plays Colin.   

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Nicola Coughlan reveals Penelope is done pining for Colin in Bridgerton season 3

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, Season 3, 2024
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, Season 3, 2024Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

If Season 1 was about passion and Season 2 was about longing, Nicola Coughlan previews that Bridgerton Season 3 is all about the romance.

“You see two people who are destined for each other finally realizing that,” she teases to FIRST. “And that’s just gorgeous.”

When the marriage mart resumes, however, these two still have a long way to go.

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“Penelope is a true romantic, but at the beginning of the season she realizes that it’s all pointless because she’s been in love with this guy who doesn’t love her back and slagged her off,” Coughlan reminds. “So she comes back with this new attitude.”

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Until now, Penelope has been a most reluctant debutant. While others shopped for matches at the marriage mart, she has only shopped for gossip to feed her alter ego, Lady Whistledown. That’s about to change.

“She’s decided she’s going to grow up,” Coughlan previews. “She’s going to do this. She’s going to get a husband!”

Nicola Coughlan teases Penelope’s ‘humiliating’ start in Bridgerton S3

The actress who plays Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Having been crushed by Colin, Penelope is keeping her goals simple. She’s determined to land a nice guy who won’t ask so much of her that she has to give up being Lady Whistledown. With her eye on a new prize, she gives herself a major makeover…only to find her superficial glow-up isn’t enough to do the trick.

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“Penelope presents herself to the world as this ‘new me’ and tries to flirt with men… and realizes that she cannot do that, has never done that and has no ability to do that,” Coughlan says. “And that sends her twenty steps back. It’s just humiliating.”

Humiliating for Penelope…but a blast for her portrayer!

“I loved getting to play the humorous side to Penelope because I always feel she’s going through so much,” Coughlan says. “To actually get to play how goofy she is and how unable she is to speak to men was so much fun.”

The actress teases Penelope and Colin’s power shift in Bridgerton S3

While Penelope has zero flirting game, Colin’s game is surprisingly strong. After a summer of travels, his return to the ton sets all the debutants abuzz – except his old pal Penelope, who gives him the cold shoulder.

Intent on winning back her friendship, he offers to teach her how to land a man… only to have it work too well for his liking.

“I spent two years standing across from Colin in ballrooms being like, ‘I’m so sad, he’s dancing with Cressida,’” Coughlan says. “Colin has moments in this season when he’s really sad that Penelope is getting attention from other men, and I went, ‘Yeah, it doesn’t feel nice, does it?’”

Nicola Coughlan in a scene from season 3 of Bridgerton, 2024
Nicola Coughlan in a scene from Season 3 of Bridgerton, 2024@bridgertonnetflix/Instagram

While Coughlan admits she enjoyed teasing her leading man about the power shift between their characters, she’s seriously thrilled to have Newton as her partner in romance. 

“We both so believe in Colin and Penelope’s love story that we really are invested in it,” she explains. “I’ve been super lucky having Luke, from Season 1 all the way up to now, to talk about it with. It’s been amazing.”

Nicola Coughlan taking center stage with Luke Newton in Bridgerton S3

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Having read Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mister Bridgerton, Coughlan and Newton knew they’d eventually have their characters’ love stories brought to the fore. That doesn’t mean they were entirely ready for it.

“There are so many scenes that are really iconic to the fans — like the carriage scene, and the mirror and all of that,” Coughlan says, referencing the book. “Luke and I joked about that stuff at the very beginning. It was hilarious to us as babies in Season 1, because we were nowhere near having to do it.

“But as the time crept closer,” she admits, “it became less funny and more stressful.”

In fact, right before show runner Jess Brownell told Coughlan and Newton they’d be the focus of Season 3, the actress had been celebrating her life as a Bridgerton wallflower.

“I had had a chat with Claudia Jessie (who plays Eloise), saying, ‘Isn’t it fun to play the weirdo in the corner character? It’s just so much less pressure,’” Coughlan recalls. “And then I got the call. ‘Yeah, you’re going to be center stage.’ It was kind of terrifying. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it right away, but once I chilled out, I knew it was going to be amazing.”

The actress talks creating the romance with Luke Newton in Bridgerton S3

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Bridgerton, 2024
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Bridgerton, 2024Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

After two seasons, the dynamic between longtime friends Penelope and Colin changes this season – and it was an adjustment for Coughlan and Newton.

“When we had to shoot our first romantic scene where I sort of became mesmerized by his eyes, we had the worst fit of giggles in the world,” she shares. “And it just became more and more ridiculous as it went on. I couldn’t look at him.”

Ultimately, as seen in the clip above, they were able to make the shift from pals to romantic leads. 

“We’ve taken it really gradually,” she says. “Luke and I have really deep trust in one another, and that has made this the best experience.

“Having him as a partner in this is huge, because Colin has a transformation as well,” she adds. “We would talk to Jess about each block of episodes, and we’d ask, ‘Okay, what’s this block about? How does the relationship change?’ We wanted to make sure their relationship is evolving.”

As for the rest of Penelope and Colin’s steamy scenes?

“The love scenes in this season are written so beautifully,” Coughlan previews. “I’m excited to see them.”

Nicola Coughlan spills the tea on Lady Whistledown in Bridgerton S3

The actress who plays Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bridgerton, 2024Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix © 2024

In the midst of her romantic journey, Penelope is also grappling with her alter ego, Lady Whistledown.

“Penelope, she can no longer deny the consequences of her actions,” Coughlan says. “For the first two seasons, she was very divorced from that. But now she’s having to acknowledge, as a lot of us do in life, that all the disparate parts of us are still us. It’s merging for her and it’s uncomfortable. Growth is uncomfortable.”

As Lady Whistledown’s column continues to blow up people’s lives in Bridgerton Season 3 and Penelope searches for a husband, the weight of her secret identity will only become heavier.

“She can’t let people love her when she’s hiding such a huge part of herself,” Coughlan explains. “It eats away at her, more so than ever. She can’t hold this in forever.”

Audiences already know Bridgerton season 3 will bring Penelope and Colin together, but sorry, Dear Readers – FIRST for Women won’t spill the tea on whether Lady Whistledown can make it through this year’s marriage mart without being discovered.

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