Who Is Michaela Stirling? All About the New “Bridgerton” Character

'Bridgerton' fans are introduced to a new character named Michaela Stirling, a gender-swapped role of a familiar face from the books

<p>Netflix</p> Masali Baduza as Michaela Stirling in


Masali Baduza as Michaela Stirling in 'Bridgerton'

Meet Michaela Stirling!

The new character enters the Bridgerton universe in a major book-to-screen modification that was first revealed during the Netflix hit's second half of the season 3 finale in June 2024.

While Michaela is technically new to the series, the character is a gender swap of a familiar face fans know from the Julia Quinn novel, When He Was Wicked. The book follows Francesca Bridgerton's love story.

When her season premieres, a major plot twist is expected for Hannah Dodd's character, who ultimately falls for Michael after her husband John Stirling's death in the novel. Specifically, her romance will look different because Michael is gender bent from male to female.

“I want to tell a story that accurately reflects a queer experience, and the first time I read Francesca’s book, I really identified with it as a queer woman," season 3 showrunner Jess Brownell explained to Teen Vogue. "Maybe not in the way Julia Quinn intended.”

Brownell, though, did get approval to switch-up the character and storyline prior. “Deciding to tell a queer story with Francesca, I spoke with Julia Quinn, I got her blessing," she told the outlet.

The upcoming Bridgerton plotline has been a longtime coming, according to the showrunner. In fact, Brownell told Deadline that she had “been pitching the Francesca queer story from the beginning.”

Read on for everything we know about Bridgerton's newest character, Michaela Stirling, so far.

Related: Bridgerton Fans Will Likely Wait 'Two Years' for Season 4: 'Some of My Best Work'

Who is Michaela Stirling?

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton in Season 3 of 'Bridgerton'.

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Florence Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Claudia Jessie as Eloise Bridgerton, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, and Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton in Season 3 of 'Bridgerton'.

Michaela Stirling is a new character in Bridgerton. While she was first introduced in the part 2 finale of season 3, she will be further explored in upcoming seasons.

Viewers got a first look at Michaela at the Featherington sisters’ ball. John Stirling (Victor Alli), who has just married Francesca (Hannah Dodd) in a small, intimate ceremony held in the Bridgerton drawing room, introduces his wife to Michaela, his cousin.

Related: Bridgerton's Victor Alli Teases Future of John and Francesca After Season 3 Finale (Exclusive)

Who will play Michaela Stirling?

<p>Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images/Getty</p> Masali Baduza, who stars as Michaela Stirling in 'Bridgerton'

Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images/Getty

Masali Baduza, who stars as Michaela Stirling in 'Bridgerton'

Michaela will be portrayed by Masali Baduza, who makes her Bridgerton debut at the end of season 3. Brownell told Glamour that the South African actress "absolutely nailed" her audition with Francesca's Dodd.

"She’s absolutely fantastic. She is based in South Africa, and we flew her out the moment we saw her tape to do a chemistry read with Hannah," she said. "I remember the moment Hannah met Masali. After Masali left, she said, 'Well, that’s her.' Hannah could feel it."

Brownell called Baduza "an incredible actress" when speaking with the outlet, adding that she "really stepped into it with wonderful energy" for a role that carries a lot of weight. Though, the showrunner admitted she was "sad" viewers only meet her for 10 seconds in the season 3 finale.

Baduza, meanwhile, is no stranger to the screen outside of her work in Bridgerton. She is known for her roles in The Woman King and the TV series Noughts + Crosses, to name a few.

Is Michaela Stirling in the Bridgerton books?

<p>Liam Daniel/Netflix</p> Francesca Bridgerton and John Stirling in 'Bridgerton'

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Francesca Bridgerton and John Stirling in 'Bridgerton'

Michaela is technically not in the Bridgerton books, though her character is a gender-swapped version of a man named Michael, who is in Quinn's novels. Like Michaela in the series, Michael is John Stirling's cousin.

Following John's death in the books, Michael inherits his title as the Earl of Kilmartin and takes on his duties. Francesca, who remains the Countess of Kilmartin, searches for a new husband and eventually marries Michael.

The reveal of Michaela is a major book-to-screen modification. "It felt like a natural one to gender bend," Brownell told Deadline.

Despite the character change, Brownell assured When He Was Wicked fans that she plans to "honor the themes" of the book as much as possible. "Some changes will have to be made to the storyline, but there are ways to honor a lot of the book," she told the outlet.

Also, Brownell asked fans "to channel some empathy" because "queer audiences haven’t gotten the chance to see themselves represented in a major way on the show." She added, "Understand the importance of us allowing those viewers to see themselves represented."

Related: Who Does Francesca Marry in the Bridgerton Books? All About Her Love Story

What has the Bridgerton cast said about Michaela Stirling?

<p>Ian West/PA Images via Getty; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty </p> Simone Ashley and Masali Baduza of 'Bridgerton'

Ian West/PA Images via Getty; Oupa Bopape/Gallo Images via Getty

Simone Ashley and Masali Baduza of 'Bridgerton'

Brownell isn't the only person from Bridgerton who shared her thoughts on the introduction of Michaela. Others from the cast have opened up about their excitement, too!

Simone Ashley, who plays Kate Sharma on the hit Netflix series, told PEOPLE that she applauds the gender-swap decision. “I think this is what the world needs more of, more representation."

When speaking to PEOPLE at a press meeting at the Monte-Carlo Television Festival, Ashley also revealed what her advice would be for Baduza.

“I think to be just deeply proud about what you're representing, and [know] that many people are going to be so seen by the story that you're going to be telling,” she said. “And that we're all here with open arms and so excited.”

Several series stars told PEOPLE that they had a head’s up about the change, including Alli, who plays John. When asked how he felt about the introduction of the character, Alli said, “Oh. I was like, ‘Yo, that's really cool.’”

“I was told that they're going to switch up a bit before we did any of that filming, and it was quite nice. It was really pleasant to sort of read that introduction,” he further explained. "I don't think they could have done it in any other way. So yeah, I'm really glad, and I was really excited."

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