Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton on friends-to-lovers romance in 'Bridgerton' season 3

"Bridgerton" season 3 part one is now available to stream on Netflix.

Nicola Coughlan, Luke Newton on friends-to-lovers romance in 'Bridgerton' season 3
Liam Daniel/Netflix
May 16, 2024, 9:24 AM

Dearest reader, "Bridgerton" season 3 is finally here!

The new season of the popular Shonda Rhimes show, which arrived Thursday on Netflix, centers on the romance between Nicola Coughlan's Penelope Featherington and Luke Newton's Colin Bridgerton.

In an interview with "Good Morning America" ahead of the new season, Coughlan and Newton said they were excited to explore their characters' friends-to-lovers arc.

"They really have built a foundation of friendship, which sets them up for better or for worse in the future," Newton said. "Ultimately, it's something that really connects them -- the history of the two characters."

Luke Newton, center left, and Nicola Coughlan, center right, appear in season three of "Bridgerton."
Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

Breaking out of patterns

Viewers were introduced to Penelope and Colin's friendship -- and Penelope's one-sided attraction -- in previous seasons of the hit series, which is based on author Julia Quinn's popular novels.

The new season picks up after season 2 dramatically culminated with Penelope overhearing Colin say to friends that he'd never "dream of courting" her.

Coughlan said she was interested in delving into the shifting power dynamic between the two in the upcoming season.

Luke Newton, left, and Nicola Coughlan appear in season three of "Bridgerton."
Liam Daniel/Netflix

"I was excited to explore her and Colin's relationship when they were finally on an even playing field, because they never have been before," Coughlan said. "That's a lot to do with Pen just idolizing Colin and putting him on way too much of a pedestal."

Following last season, Coughlan said she was "excited for [Penelope] to then not think of him in that way and to give him hell for what he said about her."

While Coughlan said Penelope's and Colin's relationship "never goes back to what it was," she shared how it serves as a catalyst for change for Penelope, who embarks on her own path this season and is determined to find a husband.

"That's a wonderful thing," she said. "Sometimes, if you can break out of patterns you have with people and go, 'This is who I am now, and I'm not gonna be treated like that' -- that's really empowering."

Luke Newton and Nicola Coughlan appear in season three of "Bridgerton."
Liam Daniel/Netflix

'They're both soft, emotional individuals'

The trailer for the third season showed that Colin appeared to have undergone a transformation as well, as a result of his travels.

"It was nice to play this new version of him," Newton said. "And sort of giving him some sort of purpose. That's something that he struggled with for a really long time. And now he comes back and feels like he has something to offer."

"Whether that's Penelope or anyone around him, he feels like he kind of owns something, which is something that he's been looking for for a really long time," he said. "So I was excited to come back to the ton and come back as a man -- this manly version of him."

Luke Newton appears in season three of "Bridgerton."
Liam Daniel/Netflix

With Penelope and Colin both coming back to the ton with a new perspective, Coughlan said the two characters are still alike in many ways.

"They're both kind of putting on these masks," Coughlan said. "Colin's coming back being like, 'I'm traveled now, I'm sexy, I can flirt with all these women, I don't care about emotions and connections,' and Penelope is like, 'I'm going to be practical, I don't care about love. I don't care about romance, I will find a husband and that's what I'll do.'"

"And we know, from knowing them for two seasons, that that's not true," she said. "That quite quickly falls away and they're both soft, emotional individuals."

"So I think when they show each other their vulnerabilities that's when the relationship is at its most beautiful," she added. "And I think it's through showing those vulnerabilities that's how they progress with one another and grow together and in themselves."

'Long live the intimacy coordinators'

Coughlan and Newton said that the history they've built over the years helped them navigate their roles this season as the show's leading stars.

"It feels like we couldn't have gone through this process with anyone else," Newton said. "Can you imagine if one of us jumped out and there was someone new at the start of season three? It just would not be the same and it also says a lot about the character's journey."

"They've shared them growing up and connecting in small ways and slightly flirting, and it was really nice to live in that journey, and we've experienced it together. And to finally get to do our season -- it's just been the best experience."

Nicola Coughlan, left, and Luke Newton appear in season three of "Bridgerton."
Liam Daniel/Netflix

The stars added that the history they've had over the years on the show helped them when it came time to tackling intimate scenes.

"I think one of the most important things that you can have is good communication and respect from another," Coughlan said. "And we had that in spades, thankfully. And it meant that we could come into the scenes as a team and speak to our brilliant intimacy coordinator, Lizzy Talbot, and we could say, this is what we want to do."

"There wasn't much we didn't really want to do actually, which was nice," she continued. "We're like, go for it. But it was just having control. It helps so much that it ended up making it a really lovely experience."

Speaking specifically of the show's intimacy coordinators, she added, "I think look, they get incredible results, so long live the intimacy coordinators."

'Two parts of the same lady'

Apart from Penelope's and Colin's romance this season, the show will also see how Penelope's secret identity as Lady Whistledown, the anonymous writer who details the gossip of the ton in a pamphlet, plays out.

"I always like to think of Lady Whistledown and Penelope as two totally separate entities," Coughlan said. "And we all know they're not. And I think as we get into season 3 and go through it, she really starts to have a realization herself that Pen and Lady Whistledown are two parts of the same lady."

"It's a huge point of contention there for her," she added.

Coughlan added that Penelope's secret identity also continues to put a wrench in her friendship with Colin's sister Eloise, who discovered her secret in season 2.

Nicola Coughlan appears in season three of "Bridgerton."
Laurence Cendrowicz/Netflix

"It's really heartbreaking, it's horrible, because I think ... the other great love story in the season is the two of them," Coughlan said of Penelope's friendship with Eloise, who is played by Claudia Jessie. "You just want to be like, 'Guys, work it out.' But Pen comes in kind of very ready to admit her wrongs and make good without Eloise. And sometimes it's a lesson that feels quite real."

"Like in friendship, sometimes one person will annoy the other person, and unless you're on the same page, you're not ready to mend that," she continued. "But I think they have a gorgeous connection and I love that platonic love is another type of love that is celebrated in this show."

Along with Coughlan, Newton and Jessie, the upcoming season will bring back fan favorites from the cast, including Jonathan Bailey as Lord Anthony Bridgerton, Luke Thompson as Benedict Bridgerton, Ruth Gemmell as Lady Violet Bridgerton, Adjoa Andoh as Lady Danbury and Golda Rosheuvel as Queen Charlotte.

Part two of "Bridgerton" season 3 arrives June 13.