'Bridgerton' star Nicola Coughlan calls out interview questions about her weight: 'I'm not a body-positivity activist, I'm an actor'

·3-min read

Bridgerton star Nicola Coughlan is tired of fielding questions about her body.

The Irish actress, who plays Penelope Featherington in Netflix's wildly popular Regency romance, took to Twitter to call out invasive questions about weight and ask that people "judge actors for their work and not their bodies."

"Can we please stop asking women about their weight in interviews, especially when [it's] completely irrelevant," Coughlan tweeted. She noted the scrutiny old interviews — presumably those involving young female stars like Britney Spears and Paris Hilton — have been given recently, but pointed out that "inappropriate" questions aren't simply a thing of the past.

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"Every time I’m asked about my body in an interview it makes me deeply uncomfortable and so sad I’m not just allowed to just talk about the job I do that I so love," Coughlan, who also stars in Derry Girls, continued.

"It’s so reductive to women when we’re making great strides for diversity in the arts, but questions like that just pull us backwards.

"Also, and I mean this in the nicest way possible," she added, "I’m not a body-positivity activist, I’m an actor. I would lose or gain weight if an important role requirement. My body is the tool I use to tell stories, not what I define myself by.

Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, is calling out the
Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, is calling out the "reductive" attention on actress's bodies. (Photo: LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX)

"So yeah, it’s 2021, it would be nice if we didn’t have to keep having this conversation. I would really love to never be asked about it in an interview again. Also I have so many other things I love to talk about. I’m Irish so I can talk till the cows come home."

The 34-year-old directed fans to read her 2018 Guardian opinion piece, which she'd written in response to a theater critic referring to her as an "overweight little girl" while reviewing the play in which she was appearing at the time, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. The same reviewer, Philip Fisher, had previously described her as a "fat girl" when reviewing another play.

"Everything I’d done to create my character had been reduced to a hurtful word and casual comment on my appearance," Coughlan wrote in the op-ed.

"I know I’m not alone; women in my industry are put under constant scrutiny for their looks," she said later in the essay. 'It affects male actors as well — I had messages from them — but the vast majority of feedback was from women. Something in our society tells us that women’s bodies are fair game for scrutiny in a way that men’s simply are not."

Years later, focus on her size remains an issue. Following Sunday's Golden Globes, the actress responded to a tweet commenting on the Ply-Knits cardigan she'd paired with a Molly Goddard dress for the occasion — a styling choice the commenter, who runs a podcast "about being the fat kid," attributed to her being a "fat girl."

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Coughlan defended the designer look — which got rave reviews on Instagram — and shot back "I have a name."

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