On Netflix’s Bridgerton, Irish actress Nicola Coughlan plays Penelope “Pen” Featherington, an intelligent young woman who was born into a family who doesn’t understand her. But IRL, Coughlan, 35, seems far less reserved than her character on the show—and just as delightful. Here are a few things you need to know about this petite powerhouse.

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1. Coughlan’s sister inspired her to be an actress

When she was just five years old, Coughlan caught a glimpse of her big sister performing in a school play, and it was love at first sight. She went on to study at the Oxford School of Drama and Birmingham School of Acting. And while it took years to get her career off the ground, she finally got her big break in 2018. Which brings us to our next fact…

2. Netflix's 'Bridgerton' isn’t the only show that Coughlan is known for

As we all know, Coughlan plays Penelope in Rhimes's popular period drama, which follows the competitive world of Regency London high society. But earlier in her career, she landed a main role in the British sitcom Derry Girls, where she played the ambitious (and risk-averse) Clare Devlin. In addition, she starred in Harlots as Hannah Dalton and made guest appearances in shows like The Great Christmas/Festive Bake Off and RuPaul's Drag Race UK.

3. She's besties with Jonathan Van Ness

Since Coughlan first posted a pic with Queer Eye star Jonathan Van Ness in January 2019, the two have celebrated holidays together and recorded an episode of Van Ness's podcast, Getting Curious. Of Coughlan, JVN wrote, "Nicola is not only a brilliant actress but she’s an advocate & fearless ally!"

4. Coughlan has been vocal about the unfair scrutiny of women’s bodies

In case you missed it, the actress penned a passionate essay for The Guardian back in 2018, where she voiced her frustration with critics who constantly criticize her body instead of her work. In the piece, she wrote, “Women in my industry are put under constant scrutiny for their looks. It affects male actors as well…[but] something in our society tells us that women’s bodies are fair game for scrutiny in a way that men’s simply are not.

Coughlan echoed the same sentiment during her chat with The Guardian in 2020, when she said, “We try and reduce women to the size of their body and there’s so much more than that.” *Mic drop*

5. She once led a march in Northern Ireland

In 2019, the actress was joined by fellow Derry Girls actress, Siobhan McSweeney, to raise awareness about women who didn’t have access to abortion. She led a march where each person carried her own suitcase, signifying the 28 women who traveled to England each week to do the procedure. Coughlan told Grazia, “Women are being treated like criminals in their own country.”

McSweeney also added, “'This is an issue of neglect. It might seem like a silly stunt with suitcases, but it is drawing attention to the fact that people are incredibly ignorant…If we can raise the awareness that people have about the North, that’s all we can do.”

6. She's *very* good at twitter

Coughlan is one of those comedic actors, who's funny both on-screen and off-screen. She’s positively hilarious on social media—especially on Twitter. She has quickly become a must-follow for gems like the one above. Relatable content, amirite?

7. she loves reality tv as much as we do

Twitter aside, Coughlin also adores reality shows. Her most beloved? Love Island (same), RuPaul's Drag Race and The Great British Bake Off. Ah yes, a woman after our own heart.

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