Bridgerton's Nicola Coughlan wants more ‘difficult, brilliant, complex women’ on screen

Nicola Coughlan has spoken about the need for more complex women characters being portrayed on screen

Nicola Coughlan
(Image credit: Jeff Spicer / Getty Images)

Bridgerton’s Nicola Coughlan has advocated for diversity and states that she wants to see more complex female characters on screen. This comes only a few days after Nicola Coughlan hit back at body shamers.

In an article titled, “My Derry Girls and Bridgerton roles show women our complex, eejit selves on screen,” Nicola Coughlan spoke openly about why she believes there is a need for more complex women characters on TV.

Nicola revealed that the success of Derry Girls confirmed to her that women have an important place in comedy television. “When Derry Girls went out in 2018, it quickly became Channel 4’s most successful comedy in 13 years, proving what I’d long suspected: that there was a hunger for stories about women and girls,” she said.

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The star revealed that before Derry Girls aired, she had concerns that the show would also be panned like other comedies starring women. “When we were filming the first series of Derry Girls, I worried whether people would like it. I had watched the intense backlash against the female Ghostbusters film unfold, an experience its director, Paul Feig, described as the worst misogyny he’d ever encountered,” said Nicola. 

She also revealed that even during the creation of Derry Girls, there were suggestions that some of the characters should be “toned down.” She said, “I remember the show’s creator, Lisa McGee, telling us that she had received a note asking her to make Michelle (the gobbiest one) a little softer, less in your face, more palatable. Her response: why?”

Channel 4 Derry Girls

(Image credit: Channel 4)

Nicola questioned this decision to tone down female characters and made comparisons to the male characters on TV who are allowed to be complex and three-dimensional with faults. She questioned, “So much television allows for, even centers on, deeply flawed male characters, far less so women. Would anyone give a note asking that Breaking Bad’s Walter White, one of TV’s best villains, be a little sweeter?" She succinctly answered her own question by stating the obvious, "Of course not."

She also compared the Derry Girl cast to The Inbetweeners. She questioned why male characters are allowed to be ‘eejits’ but female characters have to conform to being ‘likable.’ Nicola said, “We [the characters in Derry Girls] probably had far more in common with The Inbetweeners, but there were no female Inbetweeners on-screen to compare ourselves to. Where were the messy women? The loud women, the ones who were complete eejits?”

Nicola also spoke about her role as Bridgerton’s Penelope Featherington. “After Derry Girls’ second series, I had the rare luck of being cast in another show that explored the complexity and depth of female friendship.” 

The actress finished the opinion piece with a glimmer of hope as she can now see a future where complex women have a space to be portrayed on screen. She also thanked the pioneering writers such as Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who paved the way for complicated women to be shown on screen.

Nicola Coughlan, Claudia Jessie, Shock and Delight', (Season 1, ep. 102, aired Dec. 25, 2020)

(Image credit: ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection/Alamy)
Laura Harman
Laura Harman

Laura is a news writer for woman&home who primarily covers entertainment and celebrity news. Laura dabbles in lifestyle, royal, beauty and fashion news, and her favourite stories to cover as anything and everything to do with television and film. She is also passionate about feminism and equality and loves writing about gender issues and feminist literature.


Laura loves drinking and eating and can often be found trying to get reservations at London's trendiest restaurants. When she's not wining and dining, Laura can also be found baking, hiking with her dog, shopping, and practicing yoga.