Make way, wallflowers take centre-stage

Actors Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton and Ruth Gemmell, discuss their character arcs, on how they navigate friendship, romance, and more, in the much-awaited upcoming third season of Bridgerton
Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) are the stars of Bridgerton 3
Colin (Luke Newton) and Penelope (Nicola Coughlan) are the stars of Bridgerton 3

As time and seasons change, each character in Netflix’s regency drama Bridgerton gets to become the main character in narrating their stories. In the upcoming third season, the oddballs i.e., the wallflowers of the Bridgerton and Featherington families are set to take centre stage as Penelope Featherington (Nicola Coughlan) and Colin Bridgerton’s (Luke Newton) friendship is brewing into romance in the series adaptation of Julia

Quinn’s book.

A few videos that were unveiled before the trailer’s release, revealed Penelope’s transformation as this season’s crown diamond, ready to make an indelible mark on the hearts of eligible bachelors in the marriage mart. Reflecting on her journey, Nicola says, “She has grown so much as Pen was a baby when we met her in the first season. The audience may get annoyed at her mistakes, but we have to understand that she was just 17 when she was thrust into London’s highsociety while she has always felt like an outcast in her own family.”

As a result, Pen pours her heart into writing a gossip column under the name Lady Whistledown. As a wallflower, she is well aware of her surroundings, but her scandalous society newspaper is also secretly paving the way for her downfall. First of which was Penelope’s falling out with Eloise (Claudia Jessie), her best friend and Colin’s sister, after the latter discovered her real identity. “She was brilliant at writing the gossip column, but towards the end of season two, she was arrogant about being a famous woman in London. So, she needed that confrontation with Eloise to happen, because you shouldn’t lie to the people who are closest to you in your life. It will blow up in your face,” Nicola notes.

Changing dynamics

Having lost her close confidante, Claudia Jessie Eloise is treading a different path this season which would serve as a litmus test to their friendship. Looking at how their dynamics have changed, Claudia explains, “Pen and Eloise have been forced into a situation where they have to figure out who they are without each other. Sometimes you will have to fall apart to get better. There will be a lot of ups and downs before they get together because the feeling of betrayal looms large.”

Jessie also mentions how Eloise feels equal parts of embarrassment as Whistledown was right under her nose. “She was looking for her relentlessly all over the city, getting into altercations with the queen before she found out that the writer was her best mate.” Pen not only loses her trust in Eloise but is also distressed when she overhears Colin saying she would never court her. “This scene was also equally crucial,” asserts Nicola. “Pen never saw Colin as a real human being, but only viewed him as a perfect God seated on a pedestal, which he is not. In season 3, she has matured a lot, realised her mistakes and is ready to move forward in her life,” she adds.

Eloise comes into her own

As an actor too, Nicola faces the challenge of stepping into her first romantic lead role where she balances a double life as a Featherington girl and Whistledown. “As an actor, these are the challenges that we love. It was an absolute joy and the season moves on at a swift pace, with multiple twists where the audience would not have a moment to pause,” she says. Romance has always been the central theme of Bridgerton. Luke, who understands this, elucidates, “This is the most awaited romance of the series. Colin’s comment humanises him and puts them on the same plane. He wants to resolve the conflict and reconnect, but it turns into a different dynamic altogether. He is furious as Pen is pursuing other suitors, but he is not mature enough to understand these complex feelings.”

Pen isn’t the only wallflower this season. Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton, Eloise’s sister, too is sharing the spotlight. Hannah, who is making her debut in the series describes, “You will definitely understand who Francesca is. She is not very comfortable with the spotlight that she is thrust into. She has to step away from the shadows of her siblings and work out what she wants. She hasn’t had the courage to think for herself.”

The source material has always served as the foundation for the show and there are ways Shondaland company’s first scripted show for Netflix forges the audience’s expectations into the series. “Julia Quinn’s novels are amazing, but the exciting part is we try to keep it fresh, adding little gifts for fans to look forward to,” Claudia remarks.

A new showrunner

Golda Rosheuvel, who plays Queen Charlotte, agrees to this and adds, “It is really nice to have a new showrunner this season as there is a new energy and input in this season from Jess Brownell.” Continuing to assert her dominance in London’s high society, Golda says, “The Queen is in the same vibe, but she is a little thrown off her game,” she laughs. Her character, which came to the fore in the Bridgerton spin-off series Queen Charlotte showcased her rise to power while tackling personal dilemmas in the present. “Since they are of the same umbrella, one would take some of the experiences and revelations from the series created by Shonda Rhimes. Some of that would be in the soul of Bridgerton as well,” she adds, pointing to her friendship with the Bridgertons’ mother Violet Bridgerton and Lady Danbury.

Violet’s search

Tasked with finding suitors for her children, Violet, much like others, discovers herself and realises that she wants to find love again. When asked how her character places herself ahead of everyone else, especially for women of that era, Ruth Gemmel says, “Violet is certainly embracing life a little more. I’m rooting for her. Flirting is flirting whatever age we are in, but it is tricky if we are alone and going to be confident in public. I believe that is the way it happens in life.”

The trio’s friendship has stood the test of time even when Violet discovers Lady Danbury’s relationship with her father back in the day, towards the end of Queen Charlotte. “There is a lot of antagonism between women in the series,” Adjoa elaborates on the future of their relationship. “But when you travel through the three of our stories, you will understand that you can have little bumps on the road, but there is a depth of friendship that can survive everything.” The show holds its characters close, but the bonds they share are even closer. As Adjoa perspicuously puts it, “You know your friends, their frailties, desires and heartaches, all of which goes into consideration of how you relate to them. The audience will be able to understand what motivates them to behave the way they do in the face of dilemmas.”

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