Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan reveals her ‘disbelief’ at being the ‘leading lady in a romance show’

Nicola Coughlan has revealed that she’s in “disbelief” at being the “leading lady in a romance show”, ahead of season three of Bridgerton – saying people assume she finds herself “hideous.”

Coughlan’s character Penelope Featherington has appeared as a supporting character in the first two seasons of the hit historical romance series but will take centre stage this summer, with Penelope exploring her love story with Colin Bridgerton, portrayed by Luke Newton.

In an interview with Harper’s Bazaar, she said: “I’m in disbelief that I’m the leading lady in a romance show. And it’s not because I find myself hideous, as some people have assumed when I say that.”

Speaking on her role in Bridgerton, the Irish actress said: “Pen was a supporting character, the oddball in the corner, but this time she’s very much centre stage.”

“The only issue with this is that ‘oddball in the corner’ is actually a niche I do very well. I’m comfortable there! Strange girl no one pays attention to? Where do I sign up?”

Nicola Coughlan will star as Penelope Featherington in series three of Bridgerton (LAURENCE CENDROWICZ/NETFLIX)
Nicola Coughlan will star as Penelope Featherington in series three of Bridgerton (LAURENCE CENDROWICZ/NETFLIX)

The 37-year-old is currently starring as Maggie in the Channel 4 comedy series Big Mood, alongside It’s a Sin actor Lydia West.

Big Mood follows best friends Maggie and Eddie as they navigate their friendship in a landscape of increased work, life and mental health pressures.

The journey to stardom wasn’t easy for Coughlan, with her breakthrough only coming in 2018 when she starred as fan favourite Clare Devlin on Lisa McGee’s smash hit sitcom Derry Girls.

“When I look back at my life over the last few years, it’s hard to fathom how much it’s changed”, she said. “In 2017, I was working part-time in an optician’s, about to turn 30, living at home with my parents, unsure whether the whole ‘acting thing’ was ever going to happen.”

“Now, in 2024, I’m about to begin a global press tour for one of Netflix’s biggest-ever shows.”

She added that acting comes with “so much scrutiny”, and said she finds it “nerve-racking” when her work is put out into the world.

Speaking on criticism, she explained: “I’m terrified of the scrutiny, the opinions, the number of eyes on me; but, ultimately, the thing that’s making me step out of the shadows, even though it terrifies me, is that I’m so proud of the work I’ve done, the people I’ve worked with and these beautiful shows we’ve made.”

“I hope I can show the world, along with myself, that sometimes the oddball in the corner can take centre stage.”

Season three of Bridgerton will be released on Netflix in two parts, on May 16 and June 13 respectively. Big Mood is available to watch on Channel 4 now.