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In its first season alone, Netflix’s Bridgerton became a global sensation — the toast of the Ton. The drama earned a devoted following, watching the high-born, Regency-era Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) secure a match with notorious rake Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings (Regé-Jean Page). In the second season of the sexy, scandalous series, all eyes turn to the eldest Bridgerton, Lord Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), and his scrupulous plot to find the perfect wife to be his Viscountess. Though Anthony’s love triangle with Edwina Sharma (Charithra Chandran) and Kate Sharma (Simone Ashley), is the main plot of the season, it’s not the only love story — and according to Nicola Coughlan and Adjoa Andoh, it might not even be the most important love story.
SheKnows chatted exclusively with the actresses, who portray Penelope Featherington (Coughlan) and Lady Danbury (Andoh), respectively, and got their insight on the relationships that keep the heart of Bridgerton palpitating. In fact, Coughlan sees herself as one-half of the most compelling love story Bridgerton offers over the course of both seasons 1 and 2 — and we’re not talking about Penelope’s lovelorn affections for Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton). Indeed, it’s Penelope and Eloise Bridgerton’s (Claudia Jessie) endearing friendship that’s been the most compelling to the actress.
“I’ve always felt that,” Coughlan told SheKnows of the significance of Eloise and Penelope’s love story. “It’s something that was confirmed by [Bridgerton author] Julia Quinn. She said, ‘It’s one of the most important love stories in those books, is the love story between [Eloise and Penelope].'”
Coughlan observed, in both the series and in life, that those close bonds between women, “those relationships, when things go wrong, it hurts just as much as in romantic relationships — and in some ways more…because it’s so integral to your identity.”
In this season, especially, audiences watch as Penelope continues her charade — hiding the fact that she is Lady Whistledown, unbeknownst to the rest of the Ton — all the while in the presence of her dearest friend. “I think you’re aware now that Penelope’s deceiving Eloise. And I found that hard to film because these two girls love each other. I thought, ‘I need to find a way, in Penelope’s brain, to justify why she’s doing this,'” Coughlan told us.
“[Penelope] puts everything away in little compartmentalized boxes, and she puts all those little boxes on a very rickety shelf,” the actress said of this season. Anytime there’s a sense that shelf could falter, it’s not just Penelope and Eloise’s hearts on the line — even Coughlan and her scene partner, Claudia Jessie, feel the pain. “[Claudia Jessie] is such a wonderful person. I can’t imagine doing this with anyone else but her because she’s so kind and generous and is such a pleasure to act with. Whenever [Penelope and Eloise] don’t get on, it breaks our hearts too.”
While there may be some broken hearts this season, Adjoa Andoh’s Lady Danbury offers a counterpoint to the wiles of romantic love with a closer look at how her own character’s needs are met. Love for one’s self is first and foremost in Lady Danbury’s heart, and during a pivotal confrontation between Lady Danbury and Kate Sharma, the affluent match-maker gives Kate a lesson in the difference between being perceived as lonely and living a fulfilling life, especially as a woman in Regency-era England.
Andoh explains to SheKnows what she was trying to get across to Kate in that scene, and why Danbury believes so strongly in being secure in oneself before seeking out romantic partners.
“You can be incredibly lonely in a relationship if it’s not the right relationship and you can feel incredibly content and fulfilled on your own. And sometimes you can feel incredibly content and fulfilled with somebody else,” the actress mused. “But I think you have to get a sense of who you are and be satisfied with who you are. Once you have that, you can kind of go in any direction. To be with someone, be with someone a little bit, whatever. But nobody can fix you and or fulfill you. I think I wanted to say that to Kate.”
Sure, the time period in which Bridgerton takes place doesn’t allow many opportunities for women to have agency. But one of the most powerful, even defiant, acts they can do is love and know themselves before someone else. “Even though we’re all about making the right matches and it’s an absolutely necessary thing for women in this period — you don’t have your own independent power most of the time,” Andoh continued. “You need to make a successful match, but you need it to be a match that’s going to be one that doesn’t rob you of joy, or peace, or contentment, or fulfillment, or curiosity. And if those are the only matches available and you have the choice an independent life can be a really good one. I just wanted to impress that upon [Kate].”
Ultimately, Andoh recognizes, even in today’s day and age, knowing what you want and understanding your worth should always come before making a match. “Think about what you want for you,” the actress mused. “You can’t fix or change or bend to somebody else. That’s not your gig. That’s their gig.”
While Coughlan and Anodh’s own personal favorite love stories from the season will surely captivate fans and offer a new level of introspection to the characters we already know and love, the actresses had more to say about the central love story of Sir Anthony Bridgerton, Kate Sharma, and Edwina Sharma too. Not only does this love triangle give fans the steamy scenes steeped in yearning we’ve come to know from the first season, but also amplifies the show’s commitment to inclusivity. Per Coughlan, that’s something to be immensely proud of.
“I always say about the show it’s quietly revolutionary, because on the surface, yes, it’s about love and romance and joy,” Coughlan observed. “But it’s also pushing boundaries in a lot of different ways. And it’s so great to have two South Asian girls (one as the lead, the other in a prominent position) this time. People should look at TV and see themselves represented… It’s sort of made other productions go, OK, well, we can’t have an all-white cast either. And in this day and age, there’s not really an excuse for it. And I’m really proud that our show can do that.”
Season 2 of Bridgerton is streaming on Netflix March 25.
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