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TRUE GALWAY GIRL Derry Girls' Clare Devlin talks Christmas and her upcoming Netflix period drama Bridgerton


Clare Devlin stars in Bridgerton as high society wallflower Penelope Featherington

Clare Devlin stars in Bridgerton as high society wallflower Penelope Featherington

Clare Devlin stars in Bridgerton as high society wallflower Penelope Featherington

NICOLA Coughlan walks into the green room at a top-secret studio on the outskirts of London (so secret our driver has trouble finding it).

She is wrapped in a swaddling green puffer jacket and is whizzing through pictures on her mobile phone.

Gone is the green school uniform with crooked tie and jacket that signals the Thornhill College uniform.

Instead, we are met by confident Galway girl Nicola, whose new look of corsets and corsages is about to send this Derry Girl into orbit.

This is the first time Nicola has been able to talk about her upcoming role on Netflix's million euro period drama and she is brimming with excitement.

"I have been lucky enough to see all of Bridgerton already but I definitely plan to watch it on Christmas Day," she smiles.

"I want to feel like I am part of everyone else watching it.

"And I am just really excited to see what everyone else will make of it because I believe it is a really magical show and it is perfect for this time of year.

"It is so lavish and colourful and dramatic and exciting, and I really hope people are going to love it."

Christmas is an important day for the 33 year-old, now a household name for playing lesbian schoolgirl Clare in Lisa McGee's hit show.

Which is why the Oranmore native made sure that she was back home in time to celebrate with her family.

"I will be going back to Galway with my family - my mum, my sister and me, we split Christmas dinner together.

"And I am going to try and take charge of the roast potatoes this year because I have gotten quite good at them, to be honest.

"I love a traditional Christmas in Galway. It wouldn't be Christmas without being at home, with all the decorating and all the surrounds, watching Home Alone and putting the Christmas music on.

"I fully get into it - I absolutely love it."

On Christmas morning, Netflix will give an extra gift to the world when all eight episodes of her new series will go global at the push of a button.

Nicola, who is in a private WhatsApp group with the rest of the Derry Girls cast, says she can't wait for the others to watch it and give her some feedback.

"I have to admit that I might have sent them one or two behind-the-scenes pictures before I was allowed to show them," she says with a laugh.

"But they have been so incredibly supportive and are so excited to see it.

"It is funny, I am lucky to be able to do both Derry Girls and Bridgerton and I feel really, really grateful to be able to do both.

"It is just exciting to be doing a different role and she is certainly far removed from Clare."

Bridgerton follows the world of Regency London high society. It is based on the novels of the same name, written by Julia Quinn.

The series follows the fortunes of Daphne Bridgerton (played by Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, as she makes her debut onto Regency London's competitive marriage market.


Bridgerton will air on Netflix

Bridgerton will air on Netflix


Bridgerton will air on Netflix

Her rivals are the Featheringtons, a sort of new money family who are described as the complete opposite to the old-worldly Bridgertons.

Coughlan plays Penelope Featherington, the youngest of three daughters who is struggling to find a husband.

Her character is described as "vastly intelligent...with a sharp wit and kind heart, Penelope would prefer to quietly sway near the perimeter of any ballroom rather than take centre stage".

And Nicola admits that it was a relief doing an accent that was nowhere near as tricky as a Derry Girl.

"They call them the Kardashians of Regency London," she explains. "It is very funny and during the first fittings the costumes were very OTT.

"Our mum is like Kris Jenner and is willing to get all three of her girls married as soon as she can.


Clare made her name in Derry Girls

Clare made her name in Derry Girls

Clare made her name in Derry Girls

"Penelope's two older sisters are thick as thieves and they leave her out.

"Her mother thinks she is a lost cause and she is the youngest.

"She is so fun to play but when she is with her best friend, she is mischievous and fun and she is a real romantic.

"Part of the fun of being an actor is to do one role really different to the next.

"It was really fun having a completely different accent and having a big ginger wig.

"I am never really interested in playing characters like myself, so this is the joy of it.

"But this accent is much easier to do than the Derry accent - Derry is really hard."

When Netflix dropped the trailer for Bridgerton last month, the Derry Girls fan base erupted at the new look Nicola.

Wearing a bright red wig and lavish costumes, she was almost unrecognisable as the girl who grew up selling sweets at the Galway Races.

That transformation, as difficult as it was long, was still worth it she says.

"My mother loves the clothes. She came to set one day.

"I brought her and my brother so that was fun.

"She said she always knew I would be in a period drama.

"I would win best dressed at the Galway Races, no bother.

"Some of the headpieces I'd be ready to go, just wheel me out.

"I used to work at the Galway Races, in a shed selling sweets, I think it was a rite of passage.

"But seriously it took a lot of work to get into the clothes.

"You were talking three hours in the make-up chair and then corset training as well.

"You need someone to help you get dressed and undressed.

"Our corsets were made by Mr Pearl, who made a corset for Kim Kardashian at the Met Gala and then the next one he made was my one.

"But it is just so nice to play someone so out there and different and fun."

Nicola says that she is going to enjoy some time off at home during the festive period.

While the world digests their Christmas dinner and binge watches Bridgerton, the in-demand star admits that she is just going to relax and take it all in.

New Year's, as will be the case for most of us, will be a quiet affair and when it comes to resolutions, she is keeping them simple.

"Resolutions, I must be perfect already because I can't think of any," she adds.

"I think I hope that things will get better next year.

"One thing that has been good this year has been the fact that we can spend time speaking to people. And also reaching out to people you haven't spoken to in a long time.

"I will continue to do that in 2021."

⬤ Bridgerton is available to stream on Netflix on 25 December

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Online Editors