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‘Bridgerton’s Bessie Carter on Prudence’s Scandalous Engagement: ‘As Long as I’m in Lady Whistledown … I’m a Happy Lady’

Getting caught in the orangery with her cousin wasn’t such a bad thing for the oldest Featherington daughter

It’s not easy being a member of the Featherington flock in “Bridgerton.”

Their gambling addicted father was murdered and left them with very little in their coffers at the end of Season 1. Their mother, Lady Portia, is one of the pushiest mamas in the ton (who dresses her girls like citrus fruit baskets each and every season). And, after several years on the marriage mart, only one of the young ladies – middle sister Philipa – has met a suitable match.

Still, eldest daughter Prudence Featherington, played by Bessie Carter, keeps at it, trying her best to land a husband, even if in Season 2 that meant being forced into an engagement with her cousin (we assume several times removed) Jack after Portia “caught” the two unchaperoned in an orangery. Scandal? Pish posh!

“I don’t even think she cares,” Carter tells TheWrap of how her character Prudence would look at any ton outcry over the incident. “I think it’s, ‘As long as I’m in Lady Whistledown, as long as my name is in people’s mouths, and as long as I walk out [arm in] arm with that man, I’m a happy lady.”

Prudence’s eye on marriage as her big prize became that much more of a goal (as if it could be any more of one) after her sister, Philipa, wed early in the season. For Carter, though, that meant getting to really deep dive into her character in new ways.

“I think the moment that it works out for Philipa, she’s instantly under more pressure because she can’t believe that Philipa has managed to secure this hubby,” Carter said. “And what was really nice when I got sent all of the scripts was I [got] to find out what Prudence is like without her go-to sort of companion, sort of best mate really. And I think she sort of really wants to emulate her mother. I think she really looks up to her mother. And I genuinely look up to Polly [Walker, who plays Portia]. She’s so wicked to be around. And so yeah, it was really fun to pare her back and to find out how does she actually speak? How does she hold herself in situations that she’s uncomfortable in?”

Though Prudence could have perhaps taken comfort by improving her relationship with baby sister Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan), aka Lady Whistledown, Season 2 saw her general disinterest and irritation in her sibling take, in one moment, a cruel turn. After getting engaged, Penelope confronted her sister on the staircase to find out what really happened with cousin Jack in the orangery. Prudence, though, took her sister’s questioning as jealousy and cut her down by telling her younger sister she was now, “Lady Featherington, to you.”

While it was a mean moment on screen, Carter said it was a joy to film as the setting simply brought home the fact that she was shooting Netflix’s “Bridgerton.”

“I had to sort of get over quite quickly the excitement of filming a scene walking upstairs in those outfits because when I arrived on set and I saw the stairwell and I was wearing what I was wearing, I got a very out of body moment of like … ‘You’re in Bridgerton, you’re in a big old period drama,'” she recalled. “And then it just comes down to playing the truth of the scenario. And Nicola is a really great team partner, team player and we really played the stakes of ‘I’ve just been caught.’”

Rupert Young as Lord Jack Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington, Florence Emilia Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in episode 207 of "Bridgerton" (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Rupert Young as Lord Jack Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington, Florence Emilia Hunt as Hyacinth Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Luke Newton as Colin Bridgerton, Jonathan Bailey as Anthony Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton in episode 207 of “Bridgerton” (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Right before Prudence delivers the ‘Call me Lady Featherington’ line, she gets a glint in her eye and says she’s figured something out. For a moment, viewers think she’s somehow learned Penelope’s Whistledown secret, before she quickly tells her younger sister that she’s just jealous.

“It was a delicious scene, and I really didn’t want to get it wrong. So I really just did a lot of prep of thinking as the actor I know that the audience thinks I go, ‘Oh, you’re Lady Whisteldown.’ The audience has to think that I’m on to her, but the joy of acting is I have to forget what the audience knows and [play] Prudence’s reality which is, ‘Oh my God, you’re so jealous. … But yeah, it was such a fun scene to film,” she said.

Best big sister, Prudence is not, and Carter thinks some of her character’s issues, which have resulted in plenty of witty lines, comes down to childhood trauma and Regency era gender roles.

“And in the show, there are no strong patriarchal figures. There’s only strong matriarchs, right? Actually, men slow them down. And you see these women by themselves having to fight to survive,” Carter said, sharing an astute observation. “And what I found with Prudence was right, she’s the eldest daughter, why is she so mean to Penelope? Why is she so judgmental of other women and girls in the ton? And I think it comes down to, you know, a school bully tends to bully people because they have grown up in a pretty loveless home. And I think the environment that the Featheringtons grew up in was pretty harsh. I don’t know how much love they witnessed within their parents’ relationship. Then our father dies at the end of Series 1 so we don’t have a father figure. So we only have a really strong mother hen.”

Rupert Young as Lord Jack Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Harriet Cains as Philipa Featherington, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington in episode 201 of "Bridgerton" Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Rupert Young as Lord Jack Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington, Harriet Cains as Philipa Featherington, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Polly Walker as Lady Portia Featherington in episode 201 of “Bridgerton” Season 2 (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

A mother hen who sent Jack packing after he swindled the ton over fake rubies, and offered to run off with Portia to America and leave her daughters behind. Prudence has yet to find out that her fiance was booted from the ton by her mama, but whatever next season brings, Carter hopes her character continues to face challenges.

“I like playing someone who keeps being in scenarios that are just a little bit out of her depth and she just has to keep trying. And I think that hopefully that continues,” Carter said. “And I do like being hopefully a bit of comic relief. So, I hope the comedy element remains because, yeah, I think it’s important in any show. And so I feel very honored and I have to do it justice. So I hope that that continues but I suppose yeah, I would like to see her continue to struggle, and to continue to try to become the belle of the ball that I don’t think she ever will or should actually, really. She shouldn’t become a Bridgerton.”

“Bridgerton” Season 2 is now streaming on Netflix.