‘Bridgerton’ Actor Nicola Coughlan Didn’t Know Penelope’s Secret Until After She Got the Part

Bridgerton Season 1 may focus on the romance between Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and Simon Basset (Regé Jean Page) but Nicola Coughlan steals scenes as Penelope Featherington. In the wake of the Netflix original’s success since it began streaming on Dec. 25, 2020, the actor’s confessed she didn’t know Penelope’s secret when she auditioned for the TV show

Nicola Coughlan attends a 'Derry Girls' photocall during the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival
Nicola Coughlan attends a Derry Girls photocall during the BFI & Radio Times Television Festival | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

[Bridgerton Season 1 spoilers ahead]

Who is Penelope Featherington?

Penelope is best friends with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), the younger sister of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor). Finding a husband isn’t the only thing on Penelope’s mind.

She wants a family but she also wants a career. Penelope’s a complicated character who has endearing moments and frustrating ones. 

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington and Harriet Cains as Phillipa Featherington in 'Bridgerton'
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, Bessie Carter as Prudence Featherington and Harriet Cains as Phillipa Featherington in Bridgerton | LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX © 2020

Playing Penelope on Bridgerton isn’t Coughlin’s only TV role. She plays Clare Devlin on Derry Girls. Seasons 1 and 2 are streaming on Netflix. 

RELATED: ‘Bridgerton’ Star Nicola Coughlan Says ‘Simon Needs Therapy’

Nicola Coughlan discovered Penelope’s secret on fan forum

Bridgerton fans learned a major secret about Penelope in the season finale. Voiced by Julie Andrews for much of the first season, Lady Whistledown’s identity remained a mystery. That is until the program’s eighth episode when her identity became clear. Penelope was behind Lady Whistledown and her gossip-filled pamphlets.  

According to Coughlan, she had no idea about Lady Whistledown’s true identity when she auditioned for the role of Penelope. The actor told Variety in December 2020 she hadn’t read Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton novels, which the series is based on, before her audition. Therefore she didn’t know Penelope’s secret. 

“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,” she said. “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.”

RELATED: ‘Bridgerton’ Creator Knew the Netflix Series ‘Was Going To Be Really Special’ While Filming a Major Moment Between Daphne and Simon

Only later, thanks to fans, did she learn about Penelope and Lady Whistledown.

“It was on a forum that I realized she was Lady Whistledown,” Coughlan said of her character. She continued, saying she couldn’t believe it. 

“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,” she said before adding, “It’s quite mind-blowing.”

What’s next for ‘Bridgerton’? 

The future of the series is uncertain. At the time of publication, Netflix nor Rhimes’ production company, Shondaland, has confirmed Bridgerton Season 2.

However, it’s highly likely there will be more episodes. Bridgerton is already one of Netflix’s most-streamed programs. Plus, the first eight episodes of the series follows Quinn’s first novel in her eight-book series. So there’s plenty more story to tell. 

Watch Bridgerton Season 1 on Netflix.

RELATED: Julia Quinn ‘Never Expected’ ‘Bridgerton’ To Be a ‘Word for Word Adaptation’ of Her Books’: ‘I Didn’t Want That’