Nicola Coughlan

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Nicola Coughlan
Nicola Mary Coughlan

(1987-01-09) 9 January 1987 (age 34)
Galway, Ireland
Years active2004–present
TelevisionDerry Girls

Nicola Mary Coughlan (born 9 January 1987) is an Irish actress. She is known for her roles as Clare Devlin in the Channel 4 sitcom Derry Girls and Penelope Featherington in the Netflix period drama Bridgerton.

Early life[edit]

Coughlan was born on 9 January 1987 in Galway, Ireland, and grew up in Oranmore.[1][2] At the age of 5, when watching her older sister performing in a school play she decided to be an actress.[3] She attended Scoil Mhuire for primary school and Calasanctius College for secondary school.[4][5] She graduated with a degree in English and Classical Civilisation from the National University of Ireland, Galway.[2][6] She then went on to train in England at the Oxford School of Drama and Birmingham School of Acting. She lives in London.



At the age of 10, in 1997, Nicola Coughlan had an uncredited role in action thriller film My Brother’s War.[7] In 2004, she started her career with a role in Tom Collins’ short film, The Phantom Cnut, a revenge comedy.[2][7] In the following years, she did various voice works in animated series.[7] At some point, due to financial difficulties, Coughlan had to go back to Ireland. She was suffering from depression during this period and her family helped her through the entire process.[3][8] She worked part-time at an optician in Galway. She responded to an open casting call for Jess and Joe Forever at The Old Vic in London and won the main role of Jess. The first performance was in September 2016 prior to a national tour.[3][9]


In 2018, Coughlan began playing Clare Devlin, one of the main characters, in Derry Girls. This sitcom is set in Derry, Northern Ireland, in the 1990s.[10][11] The series was broadcast in January and February 2018 on Channel 4. But it was after its rerelease onto streaming platform Netflix in December of the same year that the show gained an international audience and an instant popularity.[7]

In the same year, she also played Hannah Dalton in Harlots. The period drama television series is set in 18th-century London. 2018 marked her West End debut in The Donmar Warehouse's production of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. Evening Standard named her as "one of the Rising Stars of 2018".[12] The same year, she competed against some of her Derry Girls co-stars in an episode of The Great British Bake Off show.[13]

In 2019, it was announced that Coughlan had been cast in the Netflix series Bridgerton, which premiered in December 2020.[14] In this period-drama series based on the best-selling Julia Quinn book series of the same name, Coughlan played Penelope Featherington. The girl is a reluctant debutante and youngest daughter of a nouveau-riche family in Regency-era London.[7][15]


In 2018, while Nicola Coughlan was appearing on stage in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie at London's Donmar Warehouse, she wrote a piece for the Guardian calling out unfair scrutiny of women's bodies in theatre criticism.[15][16][17] In the following year, she made headlines again for rebutting the Daily Mirror’s comment on her 2019 British Academy Television Awards look: "Not the most flattering". She tweeted "I mean incorrect @DailyMirror I look smokin’, sorry bout it".[15] In July 2020, she auctioned off this Alex Perry dress and €5,000 raised funds went towards LauraLynn Hospice, an Irish children's hospice which provides specialist palliative and supportive care services.[15][18]

On February 2019, 28 women with their suitcases led by Nicola Coughlan crossed London's Westminster Bridge to demand the decriminalisation of abortion in Northern Ireland. They represented the estimated number of women a week who had to travel to England to access abortion.[19][20] On 26 June 2020, Coughlan and her fellow Derry Girls co-stars performed a sketch with Saoirse Ronan for the RTÉ fundraising special RTÉ Does Comic Relief. The night's proceeds went to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.[21]


Year Title Role Notes
2004 The Phantom Cnut Katie Short film
2012 Doctors Marie Callaghan Episode: "Every End Has a Start"
2018 Harlots Hannah Dalton Main role
2018–present Derry Girls Clare Devlin Main role
2020 Bridgerton Penelope Featherington[22] Main role
2021 Taskmaster’s New Year Treat Herself[23]

Voice credits[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2004–2005 The Fairytaler Various Voice (English version)
2008 Summer of the Flying Saucer Janis Voice
2010 Simsala Grimm II: The Adventures of Yoyo and Doc Croc Various Voice (English version)
2011 Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer Edda Voice
2012 Ivan the Incredible Lottie Voice (English Version of Gummi T, 2012)

Stage credits[edit]

Year Title Role Director Playwright Theatre Ref
2013 Chapel Street Kirsty Bryony Shanahan Luke Barnes Scrawl Theatre Company
UK Tour
2014 Duck Sophie Stella Feehily Stella Feehily Out of Joint Theatre Company [25]
2015 Nadya Elena Sarah Meadows Chris Jury Park Theatre [26]
2015–2017 Jess and Joe Forever Jess Derek Bond Zoe Cooper
The Old Vic
Orange Tree Theatre
Traverse Theatre
2018 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Joyce Emily Polly Findlay David Harrower Donmar Warehouse [28]

Awards, nominations and honours[edit]

Year Award Category Nominated work Result
2011 The Stage Ones to Watch 2011[29] Ones to Watch 2011 Graduation Showcase Won
2017 Off West End Awards[2] Best Actress in a Play Jess and Joe Forever Nominated
2018 Evening Standard Magazine Rising Stars 2018[12] Evening Standard Magazine Rising Star 2018 The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie Won


  1. ^ "Nicola Coughlan: 11 facts about the Bridgerton and Derry Girls star you should know". PopBuzz. Retrieved 27 December 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d Charlie McBride (11 January 2018). "From Oranmore girl to Derry Girl". Galway Advertiser. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  3. ^ a b c Japleen Khera (25 December 2020). "Who Plays Penelope Featherington in Bridgerton? All We Know About Nicola Coughlan". TheCinemacoholic. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Derry Girls star is Galway to her core!". Connacht Tribune. 21 March 2019. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  5. ^ O'Brien, Shane (7 January 2021). "Derry Girls Nicola Coughlan takes us on a tour of her hometown, Galway". Irish Central. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  6. ^ "Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan on life in NUI Galway, acting, and the impact of the hit comedy show". Student Independent News. 2 April 2019.
  7. ^ a b c d e Maddy Casale (23 December 2020). "Woman Crush Wednesday: Nicola Coughlan is the Belle of the Ball in 'Bridgerton'". Decider. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  8. ^ Katrina Turill (11 December 2020). "Nicola Coughlan health: 'I couldn't get out of bed' Derry Girls star's depression battle". Express. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  9. ^ Cooper, Joe (2017). Jess and Joe Forever. Bloomsbury Publishing. p. 2. ISBN 9781350058927.
  10. ^ "Galway actress joins new Channel 4 comedy". Galway Independent. 12 July 2017. Retrieved 5 September 2017.
  11. ^ Blauvelt, Christian; Buller, Laura; Frisicano, Andrew; Grant, Stacey; Morris, Mark; Toal, Drew; Robson, Eddie; Serota, Maggie; Turner, Matthew; Ulster, Laurie (2020). What to Watch When: 1,000 TV Shows for Every Mood and Moment. Dorling Kindersley Ltd. p. 249. ISBN 9780241502501.
  12. ^ a b "The rising stars you need to know about". Evening Standard. 27 September 2018.
  13. ^ Meghan O'Keefe (6 December 2020). "'The Great British Baking Show'/'Derry Girls' Crossover was the First and Last Good Thing to Happen in 2020'". Decider. Retrieved 30 December 2020.
  14. ^ "When is Bridgerton released on Netflix? What's it about?". Radio Times.
  15. ^ a b c d Johns, Ellen E (12 December 2020). "Derry Girls' Nicola Coughlan: 'It bothers me that we reduce women to the size of their body'". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  16. ^ Corr, Shauna; McCahill, Elaine (17 June 2018). "Derry Girls actress Nicola Coughlan gets apology after being branded 'overweight little girl' in scathing British Theatre Guide". Daily Mirror. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  17. ^ Coughlan, Nicola (29 June 2018). "Critics, judge me for my work in Derry Girls and on the stage, not on my body". The Guardian. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  18. ^ Nadia Breen (21 July 2020). "Derry Girls star Nicola Coughlan auctioning iconic BAFTA dress for a brilliant cause". Belfast Live. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  19. ^ Laura Silver (26 February 2019). "This Is Why The Cast Of Derry Girls Marched On Westminster Today". Grazia Daily. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  20. ^ Shepherd Alison. Abortion in Northern Ireland: women march in London BMJ 2019; 364 :l999
  21. ^ "Derry Girls cast fangirl over Ronan in hilarious sketch". 26 June 2020. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  22. ^ "When is Bridgerton released on Netflix? Cast, plot and latest news". Radio Times.
  23. ^ "Taskmaster's New Year Treat line-up revealed".
  24. ^ Stephanie Faye Bartlett (11 June 2013). "Review: Chapel Street and Bitch Boxer, TakeOver Festival 2013, York Theatre Royal". The Press. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  25. ^ "Rehearsed readings and discussions - Duck". Out of Joint Theatre Company. 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  26. ^ "Nadya". The Production Exchange. 2015. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  27. ^ "Orange Tree TheatreJess and Joe Forever | Whats On | Orange Tree Theatre".
  28. ^ "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie". Upstage Darts. 2018. Retrieved 31 December 2020.
  29. ^ Elkin, Susan. "Birmingham School of Acting Red Company Showcase review at Ambassadors Theatre London | Review | Student showcase".

External links[edit]