‘Bridgerton’s’ Nicola Coughlan on How Penelope’s Lady Whistledown Secret Impacts Her Relationship With Colin and Eloise in Season 2

Coughlan tells TheWrap about how Pen deals with living a double life in the ton

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in "Bridgerton" Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in "Bridgerton" Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Lady Whistledown returns to spread her gossip about the ton in Season 2 of “Bridgerton” starting next Friday. And after the show’s 2020 finale revealed the columnist is none other than Penelope Featherington, played by Nicola Coughlan, it means a lot of drama is headed the young lady’s way.

“It massively ups the stakes. Massively,” Coughlan told TheWrap. “I love that they decided to reveal it at the end of Season 1 because I have a long-standing opinion that sort of secret identities in shows … if you keep them going for too long, it’s always … not satisfying when it gets revealed. If that’s the thing it’s leading up to you then you’re always like, ‘Oh, it’s that person? Oh, OK.’ So I think it was such a good idea. Also because it meant that I get to have loads of fun in Season 2.”

Some of that fun is letting “Bridgerton” viewers “behind the curtain” for Penelope as Coughlan put it. “You can see all of the things she’s getting up to, and how she lives this double life. And getting all of those scripts was so fun to get because I was like, ‘I get to do this, and I get to do this!’ It was great.”

Now there’s one thing viewers won’t get a lot of, TheWrap learned in our interview with Coughlan. Despite her co-star Jonathan Bailey taking center stage this season as Anthony Bridgerton hits the marriage mart, the two pals don’t really share a lot of screen time — even though she’s the queen of ton gossip, and he’s the most eligible bachelor of the season.

“We joke about it. We have one scene – the scene where we’re in the park where he sort of falls in the water and there was one part where they cut – I don’t think they used the shot actually where they move the camera from him to me and then we were like, ’We never speak. We never speak,’” she laughed, confirming Whistledown doesn’t even try to get close to the Viscount for some goss. “It’s more so by listening [that she gets her information], not by asking questions. That’s more her vibe.”

Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in "Bridgerton" Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton in “Bridgerton” Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Well, actually, there might be two scenes featuring Penelope and the Viscount.

“There was actually – no, this has made me remember, there was one scene – it was [one of] the first ones that we shot. And it was in the Bridgerton house and he sort of comes in, and it’s when Colin returns, and then Anthony comes in and says, ‘We’re going to the races today. We’re going to be united,’” Coughlan recounted. “But every time Johnny walked into the room and he saw me in this like – I’m sure that I was wearing a yellow dress, I can guess that I was, but everytime he saw me he just burst out laughing because he was so not used to me in the room. He was like, ‘Why are you here!?’ I was like, ‘I know, I know, it’s weird.’”

While Penelope may be Lady Whistledown and with her ears always listening, there’s really only two Bridgertons she spends time with – her best friend Eloise (Claudia Jesse), and the Bridgerton brother she clearly has deep, unexpressed feelings for, Colin (Luke Newton). 

“The relationships with both have progressed and Eloise is now out in society, which, for me as an actor is delightful because I get more Claudia time and I get a friend at the balls,” Coughlan told TheWrap. “Because in Season 1, I’d be like, ‘I’m on my own again. I’m standing here for hours and there’s no one to talk to.’ Whereas now I’m like, ‘Oh, I have a buddy.’”

Penelope’s job as Whistledown may face challenges with a bestie on her arm.

“I think that creates a certain level of tension because she’s going like, ‘Oh, crap. How do I do this now that she’s here all the time?’” Coughlan said.

Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 208 of "Bridgerton" Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Episode 208 of “Bridgerton” Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

For those interested in more interaction between Penelope and Colin, or #Polin as they’re called by some fans, Coughlan said things are sweet between the neighbors.

“And then with Colin, their relationship has progressed in such a sweet way because he’s been away traveling and they start writing to each other when he’s away. And it’s just so sweet because I feel like she can so freely express herself with him through writing,” Coughlan said. “So he’s sort of becoming – he knows her a bit more, he knows the real her and she doesn’t have to worry about that awkwardness that she feels in real life because she can express herself through these letters. So the relationship has taken a step up. But he’s very much in his head still. She’s still desperately in love with him, 100% if not more than she was in Season 1. And he’s seeing her in another light but he’s not he’s not where she is, let’s say.”

“Bridgerton” Season 2 begins streaming March 25 on Netflix.