Interviews « The Dazzling Nicola Coughlan


 

A raucous comedy from playwright Camilla Whitehill, “Big Mood” teams “Bridgerton” and “Derry Girls” alum Nicola Coughlan with ‘It’s a Sin’ star Lydia West to dive headlong into mental illness and friendship. Fremantle, heading global distribution, will showcase the project in Cannes as part of its Mipcom slate. The market kicks off Oct.16.

A divinely sardonic and captivating laugh riot, the upcoming Channel 4 series presents an earnest portrait of mania and biologically-induced despair in a world where mental health has been commodified and sanitized for ease of consumption. Whitehill manages a highly nuanced depiction of Coughlan’s Maggie, whose bipolar pendulum swings erratically, as she tries desperately to regain control of her fleeting agency while clinging tightly to longtime friend Eddie, played by West.

“We’ve done a lot of patting ourselves on the back as a society, saying, ‘We’re really facing mental health,’ but we’re not. We’re okay with the stuff that isn’t scary, or that goes on behind closed doors. Mental illnesses that have side effects, or show themselves differently, we’re still just scared of what we don’t understand. Understanding mental illnesses outside of depression and anxiety, and understanding more about how people you know might be affected by the medication they’re on, can only be a good thing,” Whitehill told Variety.

“I’ve always seen people with mental illness portrayed as the dregs of society, detained by law enforcement or just troubled. Seeing someone with a functional life who’s also struggling deeply, it’s so important and it’s amongst all of us, especially in this generation. It’s such a good time for the show to come out, to open up those conversations again and normalize talking about it,” West added.

Directed by Rebecca Asher (“Dead to Me,” “Brooklyn Nine Nine”), the series opens as Maggie cruises down a London road on an electric scooter. Clad in a bright matching jumpsuit, blonde hair wrapped delicately in a chic scarf and face made-up proper, donning oversized sunglasses, her charisma is on full display. As she reaches her destination, she quickly abandons the ride by selling it to bystanders, rushing into the pub to meet Eddie, who calls her out on her rash behavior. The episode quickly establishes the co-dependent dynamic between the two as Maggie coaxes a reluctant Eddie to leave her responsibilities as bar owner behind to accompany her to a speaking engagement she abruptly set up at her old high school. Slyly deviant exploits ensue.

“It would be really hard to fake this friendship. If the friendship between Maggie and Eddie was strained, or you could tell it was a performed friendship, the audience wouldn’t believe it. They wouldn’t be as invested,” West stated.

An audience is likely to not only believe in the pair but become hastily enamored with the whole cast and the tempered chaos that surrounds them. From the tight-knit protagonists brimming with compelling traits, on through to characters on the periphery who pepper the already solid narrative with their own bonkers storylines, all contribute to arcs that beg a binge watch.

Rounding out the dynamic ensemble are Niamh Cusack (“The Virtues”), Eamon Farren (“The Witcher”), Luke Fetherston (“Flowers in the Attic: The Origin”), Kate Fleetwood (“Wheel of Time”), Rob Gilbert (“Big Boys”), Sally Phillips (“Veep”), Ukweli Roach (“Wolf”) and Amalia Vitale (“Willow”).

“This show is so dependent on the supporting actors for creating the world. Lydia and I talked about being on sets that aren’t supportive. How much that can trickle down. I know that we, as the leading actors, really wanted to create that welcoming environment for people coming in,” Coughlan stated.

“I don’t want to sound too saccharin, but it was an incredibly kind set. Everyone felt really supportive and supported,” she added.

Episode two sees Eddie lure a couch-bound and nearly catatonic Maggie out for a short birthday errand which turns into a surprise “Love Actually”-themed celebration at Eddie’s bar where friends spend hours ensuring Maggie doesn’t escape the costume-clad affair and rather, goad her to wade through the pleasantries her family, friends and special guest Joanna Page have in store. The push and pull of her mental illness grips each scene as the bar battles a pest problem and Maggie takes hallucinogens to cope with the anxiety that comes with an impromptu social exchange. The slightly trepidatious way she navigates the world becomes increasingly apparent.




With concurrent roles on two hit Netflix series, Coughlan went straight from shooting the second season of Bridgerton to the third season of Derry Girls with barely a weekend in between. Starring in a 19th century romance and 1990s-set coming-of-age comedy is something she never thought she’d do, because of some puzzling feedback she got in drama school: “I was told, categorically, I would never do period drama,” Coughlan recalls. “They told me, ‘Your face is too modern.’ I have no idea to this day what that means.” The Galway-born actress has learned never to rule anything out, and when she’s not on set she’s working on a soon-to-be-released Apple podcast called Whistle Through the Shamrocks that started as “this really weird running joke about Irish plays” with co-writer Camilla Whitehill. The six-episode series features a host of talent including Coughlan’s Netflix co-stars Jamie Beamish and Louisa Harland, as well as Stephanie Beatriz and Jonathan Van Ness.

The person I am dying to work with … Judi Dench

My pandemic binge-watch was … Euphoria

I’d love to star in a remake of … “Not a remake of [Parks and Recreation], but Leslie Knope: The Early Years. I feel like I could play Leslie Knope in college.”

If I had to live in a world from a movie or TV show, I would choose … Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion

If a superhero franchise was based on my life, my superpower would be … “Probably Nap Girl. That’s just what I’m known as at work. If I have a spare 10 minutes, I’ll just fall asleep.”

The social cause I am passionate about is … “LGBTQ rights. I play a gay character in Derry Girls and I realized the responsibility of taking that on at a time when, in Northern Ireland, gay marriage still wasn’t legal.”


Fans are already waiting for Bridgerton’s much-anticipated second season (the show has already been renewed through four, thankfully) and star Nicola Coughlan, who plays Penelope Featherington, told Entertainment Tonight that viewers looking for the steam and sizzle of season 1 won’t be disappointed. As rumors coming from the set make headlines (will or won’t Regé-Jean Page make a cameo after his very dramatic departure?), Coughlan promises that the new season will be “spicy” and that fans can expect much, much more from Penelope.

“It’s got a whole lot spicier I will say,” Coughlan said of her character’s sophomore season arc. “You definitely see more sides to her. We find out at the end of season 1 [that she’s Lady Whistledown], that is there, but we don’t get to explore it. But the world cracks open. I feel like the Bridgerton world has grown and you’re going to see a lot more sides to her. She’s a sassy chick.”

Bridgerton is up for a slew of awards (12 total) at this weekend’s Emmy Awards, but unfortunately, Coughlan won’t be in attendance — the show is in production right now. The show has already won a trophy, however, and Coughlan was happy to celebrate the award for Outstanding Period and/or Character Hairstyling.

“It was amazing! It was so exciting,” Coughlan said. “It’s the biggest awards in television so to be recognized by them is phenomenal. We were all super excited. We [are] in the middle of filming season 2 right now, so the new season 2 group chat was going off. It’s called ‘Bridger-2,’ which I picked that name and felt very proud. I felt like, ‘That’s so smart!'”

Coughlan knows that people can’t wait for more of Bridgerton and is happy to be a part of something that makes so many people happy. She went on to say that the whole cast is feeling great about how season 2 is coming along — and doesn’t feel that much pressure to live up to the source material, The Viscount Who Loved Me. Netflix’s show is based on Julia Quinn’s series and the second book focuses on Anthony.

“It’s such an exciting thing when you do a show that anyone watches and connects to. But the level at which people connected to Bridgerton and the scale is really mind-blowing. I think we really went in more relaxed, which I know maybe some people wouldn’t,” Coughlan said. “I think we felt so much love from the fans of the show and support. Also, the book which this season is based on is like the big fan favorite.”

Jonathan Bailey, the actor that plays Anthony, also said that the show’s second season would be “sexier” than ever. Coughlan agreed, saying, “The chemistry is quite major, I can say that. I mean, Penelope not as much … There is a book dedicated to Penelope so it will get there. Currently she’s still a wallflower. She’s a working lady. She’s an independent woman in Regency London, so she’s doing a lot.”

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The supporting actor roundtable at the Variety Virtual TV Fest presented by Amazon Advertising featured a handful of TV’s favorite stars — Nicola Coughlan, Rosie Perez, Anthony Ramos, Courtney B. Vance, Hannah Waddingham and Michael K. Williams — who discussed fighting through imposter syndrome and maintaining identity through the ups and downs of the entertainment industry. The group offered advice, with Perez remembering one piece of wisdom she once heard.

“You know what her problem is? She compares, she compares her career to everybody else and she’s so bitter,” she recalled her friend saying. “It’s the worst thing an actor can do is to compare. Your career is your career, your path is your path. That’s all you need to be concerned about because otherwise you’re just going to be a miserable person.”

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Netflix’s most watched series has catapulted Nicola Coughlan to international fame – even Drew Barrymore now follows her

In the past year, Nicola Coughlan, 34, has gone from relative unknown straight to the red carpet without ever leaving Galway. The actress, who plays Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, finished filming in February last year and immediately decamped to spend lockdown with her parents in Ireland. When Bridgerton aired at Christmas it became Netflix’s most watched series: 82 million households around the world watched, agog, as Coughlan’s character was revealed as the mysterious Lady Whistledown, the society chronicler at the heart of the drama. Meanwhile Coughlan was helping her mum with the cooking and cleaning, and the only thing that changed about her life was her Instagram following.

“I went from 200,000 followers to 1.2 million overnight, which is just ridiculous,” she says via Zoom from the London flat to which she’s only recently returned. “Drew Barrymore and Sarah Jessica Parker now follow me. That’s crazy! I’m posting a picture and I’m like, ‘What would Drew Barrymore think? Eighty-two million households is unfathomable, it’s surreal, and the only measure we have of it is online. A million followers on Instagram is a mad number of people.”

Read more at the Source


For PEOPLE’s 2021 Pride issue, Queer Eye’s Jonathan Van Ness and Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan open up about chosen family

Jonathan Van Ness and Nicola Coughlan are major #FriendshipGoals.

For the 2021 Pride issue, PEOPLE spoke to LGBTQ stars about their chosen family, and Van Ness hopped on a Zoom call with Coughlan to open up about their deep bond that quickly transcended friendship.

Before they became friends, the pair were fans of one another. He loved her work as Clare Devlin on Derry Girls, and she — like the rest of the world — was instantly enthralled by the benevolent, non-binary super-hairstylist on Queer Eye.

“Queer Eye had just come out, and I was like, ‘I don’t know who that person is, but I love that person,'” Coughlan, who was so taken with the new self-care guru that she got his face screen-printed on a sweatshirt, recalls to PEOPLE.

After Coughlan tagged Van Ness in a photo of the sweatshirt, the stars, both 34, became fast friends on Instagram in 2018.

“Our friendship really is just so special to me because Nicola’s been in this industry for a minute, and I haven’t, and there’s just been so many times where I had questions and didn’t know what to do, and needed feedback,” Van Ness says. “She’s helped me navigate all sorts of situations that I never thought I’d find myself in.”

The duo finally met in person a year later when Coughlan visited New York City, where they went to see Harry Potter and the Cursed Child together on Broadway. During the play’s intermission, Van Ness — who was working on his memoir at the time — told the Bridgerton actress that he wanted to publicly reveal his HIV diagnosis.

“A lot of folks in my orbit were like, ‘Are you sure?’ But Nicola has consistently been so supportive,” Van Ness says. “We are consistently there for each other.”

Adds Coughlan: “It felt like we had met before. It just felt like we’d been friends forever. Then our friend groups just sort of melded together.”

Indeed, while COVID-19 kept them physically separated (he in the U.S., she in the U.K.), Van Ness and Coughlan’s bond has only grown stronger during the pandemic.

They stayed in touch with regular Zoom catch-ups and game nights, which included Van Ness’ husband Mark Peacock, his aunt Julie (the “original JVN,” whom Coughlan calls “the most legendary person in the world”), Coughlan’s sister and various friends.

“The fact that our friends and family know one another and have love for one another — that’s incredibly special, and it’s rare in the world. It just means so, so much, honestly,” Coughlan says.

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“I love costumes. I love hair. I love makeup,” says Nicola Coughlan, who pretty much hit the glam jackpot playing Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton, Netflix’s addictive period romance. The only downside to those candy-colored costumes was what Coughlan wore underneath: “The corsets were not comfy, but I have still been known to nap in one.” Bridgerton became Netflix’s most watched original series with its 2020 debut, and like the rest of us, the Coughlan family was all in—including Coughlan’s sister, “the number one Bridger-fan,” who’s watched the series five times. “I didn’t want to watch the racy episodes with my mum, but she insists that we watch everything together, so I ended up fast-forwarding through them,” says Coughlan. “Some people can deal with the embarrassment of that, but I am absolutely not one of those people.”