‘Bridgerton’ Star Nicola Coughlan Isn’t Mad She Wasn’t Cast in ‘Stranger Things’

Bridgerton fans know Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington, who secretly wields the power of the pen as Lady Whistledown. The actor was already well known for her role in the sitcom Derry Girls, but Bridgerton skyrocketed her to an all-new level of fame. The actor recently revealed that she tried out for a role in Stranger Things years ago, but didn’t land the part.

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton Season 2. Penelope wears a pink dress and leans against a railing.
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in ‘Bridgerton’ Season 2 | Liam Daniel/Netflix

‘Bridgerton’ earned Nicola Coughlan international fame

Nicola Coughlan is a 35-year-old actor whose recent successes came from years of hard work. The actor moved from Galway, Ireland to Oxford, England to study drama in her mid-20s. Coughlan described her early struggles in finding acting work with Harper’s Bazaar.

“It’s hard to express how much I wasn’t working, or how little money I had in the bank,” she told the outlet. “You couldn’t pay me to go back to my 20s. It was a massive struggle.” Though this was a difficult time for Coughlan, she pushed on, managing to land a lead role in Jess and Joe Forever, a play at London’s Orange Tree Theatre.

Following this success, Coughlan was cast as Claire Devlin in Derry Girls, a sitcom following 5 teens at a Catholic Secondary School in 1990s Northern Ireland. While Derry Girls was a hit, it was nothing compared to the success Coughlan would see with Bridgerton. “Three million people watched Derry Girls and 82 million watched Bridgerton, so it’s a different beast altogether,” Coughlan told Harper’s Bazaar.

Nicola Coughlan auditioned for a role in ‘Stranger Things’

Before Nicola Coughlan first appeared in Bridgerton in 2020, Netflix’s Stranger Things was breaking records of its own. Season 3 was released on Netflix in 2019 and according to The Verge, Netflix reported that the show reached 40 million people around the world in its first four days.

Coughlan herself once tried to land a part in the show. “I auditioned for Stranger Things a number of years ago,” the actor told BuzzFeed. “I auditioned to play Robin, Maya Hawke got it.” Stranger Things fans will remember that Robin is a friend and former classmate of Steve Harrington. The pair work together at Scoops Ahoy in Stranger Things Season 3.

While Couglan didn’t land the part, she isn’t bitter about not being cast in Stranger Things. The actor said of Maya Hawke to BuzzFeed, “She was far better than I ever would have been. It’s a good lesson to actors: Watch the stuff you didn’t get because you’ll totally understand how it’s not personal. You’re just right for some things, and you’re not right for other things.”

‘Bridgerton’ Season 2 left Penelope Featherington on a cliffhanger

Bridgerton will return with season 3 and Nicola Coughlan will continue her role as Penelope. Season 2 left off with Penelope’s life in turmoil. Eloise discovered her Lady Whistledown secret which caused a huge fight between the two friends. To make matters worse, Penelope overheard her crush Colin scoff at the idea of romantically pursuing her.

While Colin and Penelope end up together in the books, it’s going to take some time for the pair to get there in the Netflix series. “The playing field definitely needs to level for the two of them ever to have a relationship,” Coughlan told TV Insider. “Well, let’s hope that’s going to happen.”

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