EXCLUSIVE: Stars Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton on their friends-to-lovers season of Bridgerton

"We're so proud of this season."
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Bridgerton fans have patiently waited two long years to see the love story of Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton play out on screen.

Two years with no extravagant costumes, scintillating scandals or longing glances across ballrooms to enjoy. And with the hit series finally set to return for its third season this month, the question remains: will the “Polin” love story live up to the ever-growing hype?

(Image: Netflix)

“Absolutely,” Luke Newton, 31, who plays Colin, tells TV WEEK, revealing the tables have turned – it’s now Colin’s turn to pine for Penelope (Nicola Coughlan).

“There were lots of tortured moments, longingly staring at Pen from a corner,” he says with a laugh.

“I know – I went up to him and was like, ‘Doesn’t feel good, does it?” Nicola, 37, says. “There’s something about it that makes you feel flat – I had two seasons [of pining] – and you feel a bit drained by that.”

“Especially because we could take a week to shoot a ball, so you could be in the corner, just staring at someone, for a week,” Luke says.

“But Colin needed to be humbled and really needed this moment – and for Pen to have her moment too.”

(Image: Netflix)

Nicola will indeed have her moment as the leading lady, with Netflix revealing Penelope will be leaving behind notions of “spinsterhood” to put herself out on the marriage mart. 

She searches for a husband with the help of her friend – and long-time crush – Colin, who “must grapple with his own feelings for Penelope” in the process.

The result is a charming, if at times mortifying, dynamic. It helps that the season contains enough humour and heart to balance the stress of the will-they-won’t-they storyline.

“This is a ‘friends-to-lovers’ story, so we’re really leaning into rom-com tropes,” Bridgerton showrunner Jess Brownell explains of the season’s new flair. “We’re playing with more humour this time.

“We talked a lot in the writers’ room about the rom-com tropes – which ones we wanted to pay homage to and which we wanted to turn on their head. The makeover moment is one, where it mimics those from classic rom-coms, but doesn’t necessarily have the same result. Penelope still has a major internal journey to go on and that’s really what her story is about.”

(Image: Netflix)

For Nicola, whose roles in Derry Girls and Big Mood showcased her comedic skills, the switch to “Regency-era rom-com” was easy.

“Luke and I both love doing comedy,” she says. “It’s also something people love about the original Bridgerton book series – those lovely moments of levity. This season is beautifully balanced, but I’m a comedy girlie, so I was thrilled to get the chance.”

For Luke, turning the rom-com makeover on its head as Colin was a thrill.

“There are definite changes to Colin, but much more growth needs to happen,” he says. “It could have been easy for him to swan back into town with his makeover, but actually it was nice to play with that little element of pretence [in his persona] and that the only person who sees through it is Pen.”

At the Bridgerton screening in Bowral in NSW in April, Nicola addressed how their changing chemistry came naturally.

“We’ve known each other now for five years,” she told fans. “People were like, ‘What did you do to build the chemistry?’ and we were like, ‘Well, we just stopped repressing it and then it was fine.’”

The romantic tension is underscored by the ever-present threat that Penelope could be unmasked as Lady Whistledown, the popular anonymous writer of a gossipy social pamphlet.

Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jesse) discovered the secret at the end of the second season. 

“Penelope has never revealed to Colin that she’s Lady Whistledown – and he has a real problem with Whistledown – so to see that play out feels really fresh,” executive producer Shonda Rhimes, 54, has revealed ahead of the premiere.

(Image: Netflix)

Blossoming romance and a scandalous secret that could ruin it all? Sounds fun. One thing’s for sure – fans will be left wanting more as the first four episodes premiere on May 16, followed by the final four episodes on June 13.

“It’s going to be a frustrating wait for fans, but I don’t think the back half will disappoint,” Jess tells TV WEEK. “It has a lot of tension and romance, so hang in there.”

Nicola hopes fans will love the season as much as she does.

“Filming this season was one of the best experiences of my life,” she says. “It was so long and exhausting, but we worked so hard, we committed, we had such good communication about what we wanted to achieve, and we loved the script and wanted to bring the most to it.

“It’s [waiting for everyone to see it] nerve-racking, but I think we both feel we couldn’t have done any more. We’re so proud of the work we’ve done and hope that comes across when people watch it.”

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