Nicola Coughlan on Penelope’s Transformation in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 3

All eyes are on Nicola Coughlan as Bridgerton season three finally lands on Netflix. In it, her character, Penelope Featherington rightfully takes center stage. Each season of the Shonda Rhimes-created, Regency-era production, which is based on the Julia Quinn novels of the same name, focuses on one of the eight Bridgerton siblings, whose key concerns revolve around friendships, family, social standing and, of course, love. In the third installment, bachelor Colin Bridgerton (played by Luke Newton) finds himself falling in love with his long-time friend Penelope, who up until now has been relegated to the sidelines of romance, despite playing a pivotal role in the series as Lady Whistledown, the Gossip Girl-style observer of all the court’s drama.

Naturally, fans have already anointed Penelope and Colin with the ’ship name #Polin, and the chemistry between the two leads has contributed to a fun, buzzy press tour. At the world premiere of Bridgerton on May 13, held at New York City’s Alice Tully Hall, the Irish actress stunned in a white gown by bridal designer Danielle Frankel. “Nicola plays a character coming into her own, and this gown represents a tulip in bloom,” Frankel told W of the look, which Coughlan’s team styled with matching opera-length gloves, Chopard jewels, and a bold red lip. The look hinted at Penelope’s story, as she goes from wallflower to leading lady and, possibly, a bride.

How did you land on your premiere look and what story were you telling with it?

We have been to New York a couple of times this year, and my lovely stylist, Aimee Croysdill, spoke to me about Danielle Frankel, who’s recently designed pieces for Beyoncé. We went to her studio, and she just had so many incredible, incredible looks. Then we tried on this one dress, which we instantly knew would be it. It felt really right for what we wanted to do. Neil Young and Halley Brisker, who do my hair and makeup, were in New York with me, and we settled for a modern Marilyn look, a modern Hollywood setting. We took the look a little away from bridal and made it really cool and strong.

Was it perhaps a nod to the makeover Penelope undergoes this season?

It’s funny. We never try to make any literal references to the character because, personally, I love that separation between what is me and what is the character. The things that inspired us were the corsetry underneath the dresses, the structure, the beautiful necklines. On that level, we are pretty inspired by Penelope, and we wanted to make our press tour looks this time around to be distinctively different from seasons one and two, where I was a supporting role. It felt like it was time to take up space as a leading lady and dress for the moment.

Penelope goes through a big transformation this season, on all levels. What was that like?

To have my character go through such a major transformation was incredible. Sartorially, we had an incredible team led by John Glaser, who designed all the costumes so beautifully and sourced materials from all over the world. Emotionally, mentally, romantically, it’s such a journey for her. I mean, you meet her from the beginning, and she’s grown up a lot, but she has so much growing still to do, and to get to go through that journey with her is really thrilling.

What part of the season are you most excited for fans to see?

There are genuinely things in every single episode that I’m really excited for fans to see. I know that sounds really vague, but it almost feels like it’s eight separate movies, in a sense. Each episode has a distinct storyline and happens at a fast pace. There’s a part of me that’s really excited for the fans to see things from the books. It was exciting to bring those to the screen knowing that people have loved the books for over 20 years and have read them for so long. So those scenes, like the carriage scene, I’m so excited for them to see.

Is there a Bridgerton group chat?

There is a group chat! However, I get overwhelmed when there’s too many people, so it is muted. I do check in on it every now and again, though I’m not an active participant. But it is very lovely and supportive. Luke and I are together for a lot of the time at the moment as we’re traveling the world. We’ve been in Australia together, Italy, and we are currently in New York. We’re heading off to more places soon, so it’s been really lovely to have my friend by my side throughout this whole process.

Part one of Bridgerton Season 3 premieres on Netflix on May 16, 2024.

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