A major reason why Bridgerton has become such a global hit is because it offers pure escapism. Set in a romanticized version of Regency-era London, viewers know going in that the main characters will be getting a happy ending by the end of the season. So it’s not the sort of show you’d think would put its actors through such a tough time during filming that it leaves them feeling sick. And yet that’s exactly what happened to star Nicola Coughlan during one key scene in the series’ recent second season.
As revealed at the end of season one, Coughlan’s Penelope Featherington is really Lady Whistledown, a secret she struggles to hide from her best friend, Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie), throughout season two. Unfortunately for Pen, Eloise finally discovers the truth in the finale, leading to an ugly bust-up between the pair. It was tragic for fans to watch their relationship deteriorate like this, but it was even worse for the actors.
While chatting to E! News about the sequence, Coughlan admitted that she was “super nervous” to even bring up the topic of the scene before committing it to camera. And when they did eventually shoot it, the Irish actress stressed that it was “just awful”, leaving Jessie “really crying” and Coughlan feeling “sick.”
“Friendship breakups are just so horrendous. To film that scene was really harrowing and actually like, made me feel sick to my stomach.”
Anyone who has seen Netflix’s behind-the-scenes videos and featurettes knows that Coughlan and Jessie — who are actually much older than the characters they play — have a close bond off-screen as well as on, so it’s no surprise that it turned out to be so taxing for them to act out the destruction of Pen and El’s friendship.
It’s hard to imagine how things could possibly be mended in season three, either, as Pen is going to press ahead with her Lady Whistledown persona and Eloise’s burgeoning romance with Theo remains unrepaired after Whistledown besmirched her reputation. But this is Bridgerton, after all, so there’s got to be a happy ending coming eventually… Right?