Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton sit at a wooden table playing cards.


In Season 3 of Bridgerton, it’s time for the wallflowers of the world, played by Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton, to take on the ton.

Photography by Liz Collins
22 May 20246 min read

Dearest gentle reader, after two long years, Bridgerton has returned and a new pair has taken over the ton. Over two seasons of the Shonda Rhimes-created series, audiences became fixated on Penelope Featherington and Colin Bridgerton, played by Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton, and their love story — all thanks to the undeniable on- and offscreen chemistry between the duo. 

Now, Coughlan and Newton are at last at the center of the Regency-era drama. Affectionately dubbed ‘Polin,’ their slow-burn love story mirrors the real-life rapport between the actors. After watching the characters’ friendship (and their romantic feelings) blossom, the third season spotlights their will-they-won’t-they relationship as Colin finally confesses his love for his constant companion. 

“Penelope and Colin’s experiences of finding their way, going from friends to lovers, it was like Luke and I going from scene partners doing small scenes together to our working relationship growing exponentially during filming,” Coughlan says. “What it boils down to is that no two people have had this specific experience. We had two seasons of friendship which we’re grateful for.” 

It’s a sentiment that Newton echoes, understanding that the beauty of “Polin” is seeing them grow from season to season. “The other [couples’] stories focus on the initial meeting, which was really passionate, whereas this has been the long game of friends to lovers,” he states. “It was perfect timing that we did it on Season 3 because any later would’ve been too long, and if we did it earlier, there wouldn’t be enough history between them.”

Here’s how it all unfolded.

Luke Newton wears black pants and a beige sweater and throws a card at the camera.

Luke Newton


Penelope and Colin’s history was vital to the actors as they developed the characters, though Coughlan also admits that she drew some inspiration for the drama from her own youthful days. At the end of Season 2, Penelope, after longing for Colin for years, overhears him cruelly remark that he’d never dream of courting her. “It made me think back to being a teenage girl and seeing the boy I liked dancing with someone else,” Coughlan laughs. 

Navigating their characters’ complex dynamic built a strong bond between Newton and Coughlan over the course of Bridgerton. “We’ve worked on the show now for five years and developed our friendship, and we know how each other works,” explains Newton. “We’re both similar in the way that we care about how the other person is going to feel, whether it’s on set that day or after a scene.”

Nicola Coughlan wears a gray sweater and throws a card at the camera.

Nicola Coughlan


Although Penelope has long been aware of her feelings for Colin, Newton explains that Colin begins to see her differently when he’s helping her find a suitor. “He’s knowingly had her undivided attention for all this time and now she’s looking elsewhere,” he says. “He can’t quite process it. Nothing really changes for Penelope, but that’s the turning point where it changes for Colin.” 

One aspect of Season 3 that excited Coughlan was Penelope taking Colin off of the pedestal, finally seeing him as “just a man” who shouldn’t be treated as a god: “I love when he comes to apologize to her, and she’s backing herself more and learning how to be a bit stronger. That was important to me.” 

Also important? The character’s aesthetic transformation from citrus-hued dresses to sleek, custom-made gowns. “I got tears in my eyes!” Coughlan says. “I realized how huge it was. I was filming for two-and-a-bit years, and I finally got to that moment. That transformation is important because she wants to do it. Yes, she’s trying to get a husband, but she also feels good and has a new sense of confidence.” 

Newton felt the same emotions as his character, as he stepped into the shoes of a romantic lead. “There are sort of surreal parallels in my journey within the show and in my own life. During Season 3 I turned 30, and at the same time, I was developing this story where [Colin] becomes a man and there was a weird sense of me feeling like that and growing up within the show,” explains Newton. “That’s why I actually get quite emotional when I watch the show, because it’s been five years of my life leading to this moment.”


Their characters’ onscreen courtship required a new kind of trust between Coughlan and Newton. At different moments throughout the season, Colin and Penelope both find the courage to be vulnerable with each other and themselves, and, in one scene, Penelope completely gives up on a relationship with Colin and just asks for one single kiss.

“The kiss is a turning point. It’s interesting that within that moment, less changes for Penelope, you know. She’s always kind of felt the same way,” says Newton. “But for [Colin], it was, How can I help my friend in this situation? I don’t think it’s a good idea, but I’m gonna just do what you ask because you need something right now. [But] then, it’s a moment of true connection where he’s like, I didn’t expect to feel that when that happened.”

“I found that scene absolutely terrifying,” explains Coughlan. “ I was scared the chemistry might not translate onscreen. When you’re doing a sex scene, it’s fake. Kissing is real, so it’s almost more vulnerable in a way. When I watched it back, I was so happy because it’s everything that I wanted it to be.”

Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton sit at a table together playing cards.

Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton


When Coughlan first read Romancing Mister Bridgerton — the source material for the third installment of Bridgerton — back in 2019, the now-iconic sequence (in which Colin finally tells Penelope how he feels before they act on their now-shared attraction) immediately stood out to her. Although it took several days to film, that experience has embedded itself into Coughlan’s heart. “I just loved how it was written,” she says. “It’s sexy, but it’s also beautiful. I love the moments where they just laugh together because they’ve been doing that since Season 1. In that moment, they are already so in love.” 

For Newton, the carriage scene represents a moment of courage and bravery for Colin. “He lives in that safe space of supporting and protecting other people,” says the actor. “It’s the first time he exposes himself emotionally without a guarantee. He has to confirm that she isn’t already engaged and then has to dig deep. I always play to the fact that he’s trying to communicate how he feels despite being a man who’s grown up alongside two older brothers and is struggling with the idea of intimacy.” 

Although a great deal of courage and patience will be required of fans anxiously awaiting the next batch of episodes, Coughlan and Newton agree on the best way to handle it. “Everything is about to take off,” Coughlan declares. “No tea breaks with Whistledown looming!” Newton laughs.