“Bridgerton” fans were whipped into a frenzy at the news that the hit Netflix series would skip ahead of the book’s timeline to feature the love story between Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton) in Season 3.
Coughlan announced the news during an FYSEE panel celebrating the show on May 15, telling Variety the next day that it was slightly overwhelming to make the proclamation.
“I had a moment because I’ve been keeping this secret for so long, that right before — because I was given the job of announcing, which was so lovely, but that right before I went, ‘I’m too scared, to school, because if it becomes real…” Coughlan recalls shyly, as her costars Simone Ashley and Charithra Chandran cooed their support from opposite ends of the podcast studio.
On this episode of the Variety Awards Circuit Podcast, we talk to Coughlan, Ashley and Chandran about this past season of “Bridgerton,” and even more importantly, what comes next.
But first, our Awards Circuit Roundtable is back, and discussing directing categories and also offering up our pleas to TV Academy members as nomination voting gets underway. Listen below!
You’d think Coughlan would be used to surprising fans with big news after it was revealed in the final moments of the first season that Penelope is the secretive and saucy ton crier Lady Whistledown, but the news that Penelope and Colin would finally explore their Regency-era romance (and the birth of their fan-created couple name “Polin”) was somewhat unexpected, even for her.
“It’s funny because I always wanted to be an actor. I started doing that when I was super young, but I never saw myself as like the lead of romantic drama,” Coughlan says. “It was just not on my list of things that I thought I would ever be doing. So it’s quite mad now to just be in that position, and on one of the biggest shows ever. It’s amazing.”
When asked if the “Polin” romance will lean toward the super steamy vibes of Season 1 or the slow-burn of Season 2 later in the conversation, Coughlan replies: “I think, because we’ve had two seasons of build up, it’s probably going to be the former. I haven’t read the scripts. I’ve just been given an overview.”
But taking the lead on the hit Netflix series — with Season 2 clocking in as the streamer’s No. 2 English-language TV season ever (based on first 28 days of availability), just behind “Stranger Things” Season 4 — is a daunting prospect. The challenge is one that Ashley knows well. The star led those episodes playing Kate Sharma, whose tempestuous romance with Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) is particularly beloved by book readers.
Coughlan says she’s already turned to Ashley for advice on navigating these waters, as Ashley leaned on season 1 lead Phoebe Dynevor.
“Phoebe, honestly, has been such a rock for me,” Ashley says. “And such a good friend, such a good mentor, an example of just a strong woman in this industry. And she really created like a safe dynamic between us where I could be vulnerable, and express my doubts or my insecurities, or my highs and lows.”
Ashley would reach out to Dynevor on breaks from filming, just to talk or ask for advice. “It really helps having that because, when we’re working, we’re all so dedicated to our work, and your show that you have game face on, you roll up your sleeves, and you go and smash it,” she shares. “But, you know, we’re all human at the end of the day, and I think that’s what helps us deliver such authentic performances.”
While Ashley and Bailey were the “captains of the ship” for the season, Chandran also played an important part in their storyline, as Kate’s younger sister Edwina (the original object of Anthony’s affections.)
Coughlan, Ashley and Chandran also discuss the impact that “Bridgerton” has had on fans, particularly young women and people of color, many of whom are seeing themselves portrayed in this genre for the first time. And the effect works both ways, Chandran notes, explaining how being cast as a series lead in “Bridgerton” changed how she walks through the world.
“What’s wonderful is that there’s so many benefits to it: the show is just better [with diversity]. It’s more fun, it’s more colorful” she says. “[The show] gives actors of color opportunities that were previously inaccessible to them. We’re seeing with ‘Mr. Malcolm’s list’ – it also feels very British and it’s sort of multiracial — and that’s exactly what we would want it from the show, to kind of set a standard for the industry. So, I think creatively — and maybe this is very generous, and I hope Lin Manuel Miranda forgives me — but I feel like what ‘Hamilton’ did for theatre is very much like what ‘Bridgerton’ has done for TV, and then also it diversifies audiences.”
All three women will be back for “Bridgerton” Season 3 as the Regency-era romance continues to explore all of their intertwined love stories.
Variety’s “Awards Circuit” podcast, produced by Michael Schneider, is your one-stop listen for lively conversations about the best in film and television. Each week “Awards Circuit” features interviews with top film and TV talent and creatives; discussions and debates about awards races and industry headlines; and much, much more. Subscribe via Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Spotify or anywhere you download podcasts. New episodes post every Thursday and Friday.