Welcome to Dazzling Nicola Coughlan, your largest online source for Irish actress Nicola Coughlan. She is best known for her roles in Channel 4's Derry Girls as Clare Devlin and Netflix's acclaimed Bridgerton as Penelope Featherington. Our site aims to bring you the latest news on Nicola and her career along with providing a comprehensive gallery of her work and appearances. We hope you enjoy the site and come back soon! V

Nicola, Camilla Whitehill, & Lydia West Break Down Comedy ‘Big Mood’

{ Written by Sarah on October 17 2023 }

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.

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Nicola Covers the Observer

{ Written by Sarah on February 27 2022 }

Nicola Participates in ‘In the Envelope: The Actor’s Podcast’

{ Written by Sarah on June 11 2021 }

Nicola Writes about Complex Women for The Guardian

{ Written by Sarah on March 06 2021 }

No one would give a note asking Walter White to be sweeter – so why should women on TV be appealing?

In the noughties, I adored Sex And The City. Like women everywhere, my friends and I debated which of these four impossibly stylish, successful women we were – when the reality was a bunch of university freshers who drank Buckfast from the bottle and lived in hoodies. We probably had far more in common with The Inbetweeners, but there were no female Inbetweeners on screen to compare ourselves to. Where were the messy women? The loud women, the ones who were complete eejits?

When I got the script for Derry Girls many years later, it felt like being handed the holy grail. Erin, Orla, Michelle and Clare (my role) were the female characters I had been waiting for: properly funny, obnoxious, unlikable at times. I remember the show’s creator, Lisa McGee, telling us that she had received a note asking her to make Michelle (the gobbiest one) a little softer, less in your face, more palatable. Her response: why?

So much television allows for, even centres on, deeply flawed male characters, far less so women. Would anyone give a note asking that Breaking Bad’s Walter White, one of TV’s best villains, be a little sweeter? Of course not. It made me wonder how many complex women have been toned down, or removed from our screens, on the basis that women have to be likable above anything else.

When we were filming the first series of Derry Girls, I worried whether people would like it. I had watched the intense backlash against the female Ghostbusters film unfold, an experience its director, Paul Feig, described as the worst misogyny he’d ever encountered. Seeing my comic heroes Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy get trashed online made me fear how the “women aren’t funny” brigade would react to our show.

But I shouldn’t have. When Derry Girls went out in 2018, it quickly became Channel 4’s most successful comedy in 13 years, proving what I’d long suspected: that there was a hunger for stories about women and girls. Who knows why it was embraced when something like Ghostbusters wasn’t; perhaps it helped that our show was an original piece, and that we couldn’t be accused of “ruining men’s childhoods”, as some had claimed, by inserting women into a male franchise. Derry Girls was always going to be about, well, girls.

During filming, we worried about making performance choices that were too “big”, or “going full Rik Mayall”, as I like to call it. But our director, Michael Lennox, encouraged us to “go there”, which I think is a huge part of the reason people responded to the show. These girls were free to be “a gang of dicks”, as McGee lovingly calls us. Fans tell me that they’re the “Clare” of their friendship group, and their best pal is the “Orla”. Women were able to see themselves in these characters.

After Derry Girls’ second series, I had the rare luck of being cast in another show that explored the complexity and depth of female friendship. In Bridgerton, I play Penelope Featherington, a shy young debutante in Regency London, who has a ride-or-die best friend in the form of Eloise Bridgerton (played by the wonderful Claudia Jessie). During filming, we met Julia Quinn, author of the books Bridgerton is based on. She explained that, yes, her books were love stories – but that the biggest romance, in a sense, was the friendship between Penelope and Eloise. The show has since become Netflix’s biggest hit to date, and it’s gratifying to see audiences connect with Penelope and Eloise, or #Peneloise as the kids are calling us. We have been written as real human beings, not facsimiles of what we think a Regency woman was.

When you look at some of television’s recent successes, you see what happens the moment after the Bechdel test is passed (in which two women talk about anything other than a man). You get into the nitty-gritty of what happens between complicated women. Thank God Fleabag and her sister Claire are allowed to be so awful to one another, so that the moment when they express their love becomes hugely poignant. Thank God Arabella and Terry betray one another in I May Destroy You, because women don’t always do the right thing. And thank God for Abbi and Ilana in Broad City, whose weird, compulsive connection completely reflects how obsessed I can be with my female friends; with their humour, their kindness, their tenacity, their talent. Blessed be the friendships between Leslie and Anne in Parks And Recreation, for Rue and Jules in Euphoria, for Candy and Lulu in Pose.

The best moments on the sets of Derry Girls and Bridgerton came when the young women were allowed to be unapologetically themselves, never worrying that they might not be appealing. I, for one, am excited by all the difficult, brilliant, complex women to come, who have yet to grace our screens. Long may the sisterhood reign over us.

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