If you’ve tuned into Bridgerton, chances are you’re quite entertained by the Shondaland-Netflix period drama.
Starring Regé-Jean Page, Phoebe Dynevor, and Nicola Coughlan, the series follows the Bridgertons and Featheringtons as their family matriarchs attempt to marry off their daughters. To cap off the Regency-era theatrics, there’s an anonymous writer in the Ton, spreading gossip all over the town — and at the end of the first season, we find out the anonymous Lady Whistledown is none other than Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan).
In an interview with Variety, the Irish actress opened up about finding out she was the secret town gossip:
Did you know that Penelope was linked to Whistledown, going into the role?
When I went for the first audition, I only had a couple of days to prepare; I didn’t have time to read the books or do anything like that. I just thought, “I’ll give this a go and if I get a second call, then I’ll read everything.” But that didn’t happen, I just got the job. So then it was like, “I’d better read these books and figure out who this character is.” I also went to a lot of the fan forums online, because these books have been out for 20 years. People adore them and have such a connection to them. Penelope is really close to their hearts. It was on a forum that I realized she was Lady Whistledown. When I saw it, I thought, “No, no, no, no, that can’t be right.” I kept re-reading it, because it didn’t make sense: [I’m] being given this amazing role in a Shondaland-Netflix show, and it’s that role. It’s quite mind-blowing.
I suspected Whistledown was Penelope. I felt vindicated seeing you in that carriage!
It was so much fun. We had to film that in the middle of COVID. I had to be super, super secret. I had to be flown over from Ireland, and tested and tested and tested, and do the fitting. It was hyper secret; I couldn’t let anyone know I was there or what was going on. But it was so much fun to film that.
How much was filmed in COVID times?
Just that one scene. We wrapped at the end of February. We were so lucky because the scale is huge on the show, especially the balls. There’s hundreds and hundreds of people.
Why didn’t Penelope, as Whistledown, reveal her cousin Marina Thompson’s secret pregnancy sooner?
We didn’t get all the scripts at once so [I could see] it was sort of leading there, but I kept thinking, “Penelope’s never gonna do it. She’s too nice; she’s too kind.” But then, part of the Shondaland [philosophy] is they’re not afraid to write complicated women that are unlikeable and make bad decisions sometimes. We don’t have to present this level of perfection. I was thinking of [“Breaking Bad” character] Walter White and whether we’d ever see a woman written like that, where they’re so uncompromisingly terrible and yet people still root for them.
I know people are really angry at Penelope, but she’s 17 years old. And she’s someone who’s so ignored in her life. Whistledown is her way to have some power in the world, but she hasn’t realized in Season 1 how much power she actually has. That’s why I hope we get Season 2 because I’d love to see what that does to her. It would have to give her some confidence because, in a way, she’s the most powerful woman in London while being the least important person. That dynamic while playing her was always so interesting to me.
— Nicola Coughlan (@nicolacoughlan) January 7, 2021
There’s no word on season 2 just yet, according to Coughlan, but we’ll keep you updated as news regarding the hit series continues to surface.