“She’s fascinating because she’s such a ball of contradictions,” says Nicola Coughlan about her role has Penelope Featherington in the Netflix series “Bridgerton.” “She is the most low-status person in the room and also the highest-status person because she controls everything.” Watch our exclusive video interview with Coughlan above, but SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t seen the entire first season yet because we spill all the English tea.
Based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn, “Bridgerton” takes place in 19th century London where wealthy families jockey for position, titles, and marriage in high society. Penelope is the youngest daughter in a family whose social status is in constant flux, but when Coughlan says Penelope controls everything, that’s because in the season finale she’s revealed to be the secret identity of Lady Whistledown, the mysterious writer who publishes juicy gossip in a society newsletter and thus wields a lot of power over her friends’ and family’s social status.
“She sort of played with fire and you saw that she wasn’t really ready, I think, for the consequences of her actions,” Coughlan explains about how Penelope’s writings often ended up hurting people she loved, especially her cousin Marina (Ruby Barker), whose reputation she destroyed by revealing her secret pregnancy. “I think she carries a lot of guilt from that and knowing what she did. So I think she’s had to grow up quite quickly. So I think you’ll see that in her [next season].” But now that the audience is in on her secret, we might also get “to maybe see more of the Whistledown side of her.”
Even though Penelope turned out to be the woman behind Lady Whistledown’s scandalous writings, those cutting words are not performed by Coughlan, but rather by the legendary Julie Andrews through voice-over narration. “It’s phenomenal,” says the actress about the character’s double nature. “I always say to people, when they ask me what my job is, I say, ‘I job share with Julie Andrews.’”
Written by Daniel Montgomery
Published May 18, 2021