"I’m very naked": "Bridgerton" star Nicola Coughlan rejects body shamers through her sex scenes

The Irish star has had to address haters who have opinions about her body before, but this is the ultimate response

By Nardos Haile

Staff Writer

Published May 17, 2024 4:51PM (EDT)

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in "Bridgerton" (Liam Daniel/Netflix)
Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in "Bridgerton" (Liam Daniel/Netflix)

Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington has ditched the wallflower moniker and traded it in to blossom into the diamond of the season for the latest season of Netflix's period drama "Bridgerton.” The Irish star has some choice words for the body shamers who have relentlessly criticized her body: "F**k you."

"Bridgterton" is known for its simmering romances and steamy, sultry sex scenes. This season, Penelope and Colin's (Luke Newton) friends-to-lovers relationship is at center stage, which comes with the expectation that they will also follow suit and deliver some intimate scenes. However, only the first half of the season has aired so far, which has included some intimacy, but ultimately leaving fans . . . unfulfilled.

Not to worry, in an interview with Stylist, Coughlan teased an upcoming scene coming to the second half of the season on June 13. She said she was enthusiastic about being “very naked” for a scene in “Bridgerton" because of the unrelenting comments about her body and weight made online.

The Irish actor told the publication that she worked closely with intimacy coordinator Lizzy Talbot on this season's sex scenes. Between Coughlan and Talbot, Coughlan was able to decide how much of herself would be exposed. “You go, ‘OK, what do I want to show? What don’t I want to show? What’s scripted, and what do I want to add?'” 

She added that, “Not only did I consent to it but I drove it.

“I specifically asked for certain lines and moments to be included,” Coughlan explained. “There’s one scene where I’m very naked on camera, and that was my idea, my choice. It just felt like the biggest ‘f**k you’ to all the conversation surrounding my body; it was amazingly empowering. I felt beautiful in the moment, and I thought: ‘When I’m 80, I want to look back on this and remember how f*****g hot I looked!’”

This is not the first time that Coughlan has addressed body shamers about their vocal criticisms of her weight. In an Instagram post in 2022, the actress wrote, “If you have an opinion about my body please, please don’t share it with me . . . It’s really hard to take the weight of thousands of opinions on how you look being sent directly to you every day.”

This season has been empowering overall for Coughlan's character, both as the anonymous gossip columnist Lady Whistledown and as a woman who's finally embraced her own unique physical beauty. While Julia Quinn's novel on which Penelope's romance is based included weight loss as part of the character's makeover, the TV series takes a different approach. In Penelope’s glow-up, she does not change her body, but rather she finally takes charge of how she is styled, from choosing her own clothes – in hues more flattering and subdued from the way her mother dressed her – to trying a new, more internationally inspired hairstyle. She also learns how to come out of her shell and talk to men whose last names are not Bridgerton.

“The change that needs to happen is much more about her confine than it is about her external impression,” showrunner Jess Brownell told the Independent.

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Meanwhile, Coughlan isn’t the only actress who has felt empowered by their nude scenes. “Game of Thrones” actress Emilia Clarke said that while doing nude scenes isn’t the easiest thing, "I'm in control of it."

For the now-canceled Netflix show, "GLOW" actress Alison Brie shared, “Even the nudity on the show, to me, has been very empowering.”

“It kind of reminds myself that I love my body and I’m not ashamed to share it in a non-sexual way on a show . . . ” Brie continued. “To show nudity as a representation of female friendship and their closeness and their intimacy was very exciting to me and very true to who I am. I feel a little bit more like myself every year of the show.”

Even actress Jennifer Lawrence, whose personal nude photos were leaked in the 2014 iCloud leak, said that she felt “empowered” to film a nude scene in “Red Sparrow.”

In a “60 minutes” interview, she told Bill Whitaker, “I feel like something that was taken from me, I got back, and am using in my art. It’s my body and it’s my art and it’s my choice.”

By Nardos Haile

Nardos Haile is a staff writer at Salon covering culture. She’s previously covered all things entertainment, music, fashion and celebrity culture at The Associated Press. She resides in Brooklyn, NY.

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Aggregate Body Positivity Bodyshaming Bridgerton Fatphobia Inclusivity Nicola Coughlan Nudity