The Secret Is Out About 'Bridgerton' Star Nicola Coughlan

In January, around her 35th birthday, Irish actress Nicola Coughlan took what she called “a mega-vacation” – New York, Austin, Hawaii, N...


In January, around her 35th birthday, Irish actress Nicola Coughlan took what she called “a mega-vacation” – New York, Austin, Hawaii, New York.

Back in Manhattan, she played the tourist: she ate at fancy restaurants, went to a taping of “Saturday Night Live” (not quite the tourist, she also went to the after-party) and saw a show on Broadway. The show was “Company,” a musical about a 35-year-old woman in the midst of an existential crisis, and as Coughlan was leaving the theater she saw a towering Times Square billboard. the billboard, an advertisement for the new season from the Netflix costume drama “Bridgerton,” showed his own face in the center.

“We walked down the street for a bit and there it was huge, huge, huge,” she said. “Oh my God, that was huge.”

Coughlan – chirpy, confident, with the most flawless skin I’ve ever seen on an adult human – was speaking at the end of her trip, just before returning home to London. She had chosen an Irish pub, Molly’s Shebeenat Gramercy Park, and arrived a few minutes late as her car had first taken her to Molly peea different pub near Penn Station.

Molly’s looked like a parody of an Irish pub. “I like this interpretation,” she said. Coughlan isn’t above a bit of a parody herself. She’s wearing a pixie keychain and her Instagram bio reads “Little Irish actor.” That afternoon, she wore winter white – like a self-proclaimed “messy bastard”, it was her version of risk-taking – and a small treasure trove of delicate gold jewelry, including a necklace with a nameplate. signage. Fans at the pub, who recognized her from the hit Netflix comedy ‘Derry Girls’, already knew her name.

“Derry Girls” gave Coughlan – who worked in an optician’s office in his hometown of Galway, Ireland, just a year before his casting – his first major role. This role eventually led to that of “Bridgerton”, which became one of Netflix’s most-watched series ever and returns for its second season on March 25.

As the star of two of the most beloved shows on the world’s biggest streaming service, Coughlan is now a big deal. With a billboard to prove it.

For Coughlan, the youngest daughter of an army officer father and a stay-at-home mom, success didn’t happen overnight; it came for thousands of nights. After college, where she studied English and classics, she enrolled in a six-month foundation course at the Oxford School of Drama. She was turned down for the multi-year course. Then she followed her new best friend, playwright Camilla Whitehill, to the Birmingham School of Acting, where she took a year-long course. She was also turned down for the multi-year there.

At Oxford and then Birmingham, Coughlan developed a gift for comedy and, because she always seemed incredibly young for her age, a knack for playing children. (Yes, she moisturizes, but she showed me pictures on her phone and looking incredibly young is a family trait.)

Then she moved to London, where she worked a series of retail jobs – beauty products, frozen yogurt – and tried to find work as an adult actress. She did not succeed. Small, flirtatious, childish, she could not arouse the interest of a manager or an agent. More than once, his bank balance has fallen into double digits. More than once she had to go home.

“It was like, Oh, the dream is dead,” she said.

But it wasn’t, not quite. Whitehill remembers how Coughlan tempered each loss with a kind of resilience. “Deep down, she believed in herself,” Whitehill said in a video call. “She had awful part-time jobs – like, really, really awful – that were depressing as hell. But I never really doubted her.

Finally, Coughlan, then nearly 30, landed the role of a posh 15-year-old girl in the 2016 two-handed film “Jess and Joe Forever” at the Orange tree theater in London. Her performance sparked the interest of an agent, who secured her an audition for “Derry Girls”, a comedy about a group of schoolgirls – and a boy – in Northern Ireland in the 1990s, on the outskirts of the country’s sectarian conflict. The audition was rigorous: a six-month process of recalls and chemical readings.

“It was torture,” she said. “I wanted it so badly.”

Coughlan studied Northern Irish accents and she put together a whole notebook for her character, Clare, the high-achieving, high-anxiety 16-year-old “little lesbian”. Lisa McGee, who created “Derry Girls,” remembers this notebook, which had Clare’s name in sequins on the front.

“She had written a bunch of stuff about the character, and I thought, you guys did more work on this character than I did,” McGee said.

Coughlan approached the role with a sense of both recklessness and complete calculation, qualities she would later bring to “Bridgerton.” McGee marveled at the speed and precision of her comedic timing.

“I could write more jokes for Clare once I saw the way Nicola played her,” McGee said.

Even then, Coughlan wasn’t sure she would find another job. “I was like, Well, that’s it now. I struck gold, but it won’t happen again,” she said. She sniffed out several subsequent auditions, and when “Bridgerton” producers contacted her agent, she didn’t hold out much hope.

An assistant casting director brought her to read for Eloise Bridgerton, the spunky and freethinking fifth sister. Coughlan didn’t think the audition went particularly well. But when showrunner Chris Van Dusen saw her tape, he knew he had to cast her as Penelope Featherington, Eloise’s 17-year-old best friend.

“I called all of our other producers in the room and showed them the tape,” Van Dusen recalled. “I’m happy to say that everyone loved him as much as I did.”

Told she had the part, Coughlan tempered her enthusiasm. She had known many actors who had been hired for high-profile projects and then fired when the studio demanded a bigger name. “I should have said, it’s amazing,” she said. “Instead, I was like, this is fishy. I don’t know about that. She remained tense throughout the first painting read.

But she was not fired. And amid her fittings, she finally learned, via a Reddit forum, the magnitude of her role and that it was actually two roles: the wallflower Penelope — the face she presents to the world — and also the cunning Lady Whistledown, the pen name Penelope uses to write and publish a scandal sheet with the power to bring Regency England to their knees in petticoats.

She threw herself into the dual role, even as “Bridgerton” wig and costume designers outfitted her in tight red curls and unflattering yellow dresses. “It really goes with most colors, but they were able to find the ones that really clash,” Whitehill said. (Coughlan had a more measured response to her wardrobe. “You can’t have vanity in acting,” she said.)

Lady Whistledown’s reveal doesn’t come until the final episode of Season 1. But from the first storyline, Coughlan strategized where Penelope had to hang out to hear whatever gossip Lady Whistledown would release later. If you rewatch the first season, you can see her lurking in the background, watching and listening.

She also practiced eavesdropping during her downtime, a habit she can no longer break. (Earlier today, before she met me, she had gone for a manicure and learned a lot about remodeling someone else’s bathroom.) “It’s amazing what people will say when they don’t think you’re listening,” she mentioned.

For Season 2, she added another role. When delivering Lady Whistledown’s copy to the printer, Penelope poses as an Irish maid. The character is not named in the script but Coughlan calls her Bridget Bridgerton and uses a heavy Dublin accent. A “Drag Race” superfan, Coughlan referred to this alter ego as “Penelope’s drag persona.”

The show will bring further challenges in the future as Penelope will end up playing her own love story. He comes in the fourth book in the series of novels that inspired the series, “Romancing Mister Bridgerton”, so he may or may not include the fourth season. (The show has already been renewed through Season 4.) But already “I feel terrified,” Coughlan said. “I’m probably more comfortable being goofy and funny, so it’s going to be a huge challenge for me. Because that’s not my comfort zone.

The attention “Bridgerton” brought wasn’t always comfortable either. “Fame is a strange thing,” she said.

The worst was the online examination of his body. Many comments about her appearance have been positive, although some have been negative. She doesn’t find any of them useful. “I’m like, I exist,” she said. “And it’s nobody’s business.” It was the only topic she seemed less happy to discuss.

A week after our meeting, she taken to instagram to ask his followers not to send him comments about his body. “It’s really hard to bear the weight of thousands of opinions about your appearance sent directly to you every day,” she wrote.

However, fame has its good sides. She appeared on “The Great British Baking Show”. (“Definitely the best experience of my life,” she said, despite the mess she made of her Swiss roll.) She became close friends with “Queer Eye” star Jonathan Van Ness after having made a hoodie with his face on it. and showed it on social networks. When she went to “Saturday Night Live,” she and Kristen Wiig hugged. His purse game is extremely relevant. (That day at Molly’s she had a cheeky Chanel clutch.)

And she can’t wait to see where her career takes her. Maybe she’ll host “Saturday Night Live” one day. Maybe she will finally play a legal age character.

“In a weird way,” she said, “I feel like I’m just getting started.”



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Newsrust - US Top News: The Secret Is Out About 'Bridgerton' Star Nicola Coughlan
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