'I attended Australia's viral Bridgerton premiere. It ended in a mishap.'

Stepping into the worlds in which popular TV shows are set is a romanticised thought that, in reality, would likely end in disaster.

A jaunt into Succession land would see your family turn against you; making your way into The Bear's kitchen would ensure that any fantasies you secretly held about short men and delicious food would instantly go up in flames; and it's all fun and games in The White Lotus until you end up an adulterer or being murdered by 'these gays'.

Yet in the land of Bridgerton, things are destined to turn out a little differently.

In the lead-up to season three of the Netflix series, a real-life Bridgerton sprung up in Australia, transforming the town of Bowral into the Ton. A world where myself, a group of Australian journalists, and a handful of international influencers set up camp for three days — all the while trying our hand at Regency-era activities, avoiding a ghost that dwelled in the estate-turned-hotel where we stayed, and gazing at Bridgerton stars Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton as they glided into the premiere event, with a string quartet serenading them and champagne flowing, watching on like the commoners we so rightly are.

I have never before masqueraded as a lady of means, but after spending a handful of days in Bridgerton land — where truffles were sprinkled over every available food group, men in suit jackets handed out champagne with the same urgency that city rangers distribute parking fines in my neighbourhood, and encountering a horse-drawn carriage where the horse in question's hair was more quaffed than my own could ever be — the idea of marrying for money suddenly didn't seem out of the question.


However, after I muddled my way through a series of Bridgerton-themed activities, it soon became clear that as far as being an accomplished young lady of skill and good breeding went, I wasn't exactly sought-after marriage material.

Nicola Coughlan gliding into the Australian Bridgerton premiere. Image: Netflix

While sitting in the manicured grounds of the estate I was taught how to concoct an elegant perfume (although my working-class nose couldn't quite tell the difference between hints of lavender and a dash of sandalwood), partook in a water painting class (my finished artwork was so brutal on the eyes that while my classmates lovingly hauled their creations away, I abandoned mine to the grounds, destined to scare Bowral residents for years to come), and existed on a diet of tiny cakes and intricately cut sandwiches (allegedly Regency-era women who eat in public have 'loose morals', but that was just a chance I was willing to take, and so my morals remained 'loose' for the entire stay).


Yet in amongst the glitz, glamour and elegant sugary snacks that appeared on my pillow each night, the most exhilarating moment from my foray into Bridgerton land was sitting down with the star of season three, Penelope Featherington herself, Nicola Coughlan.

Each season of Bridgerton, based on the book series by Julia Quinn and narrated by Julie Andrews, tells a different love story centred around one of the eight Bridgerton children. 

While season one was hooked on Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her dashing Duke, and season two told the enemies-to-lovers story of Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) and Kathani "Kate" Sharma (Simone Ashley), season three of the hit Netflix series is perhaps the most anticipated one yet. 

This is due to the fact that it centres on the third Bridgerton brother, Colin (Luke Newton), and Coughlan's oft-overlooked wallflower Penelope, who has been thus far secretly manipulating and spilling secrets about London's high society. Season three kicks off with Colin promising to teach Penelope to flirt and to help her find a husband, and the fact that she has always been secretly in love with him makes for a salacious and heartwarming season. 


“I partook in a water painting class but my creation was so bad I had to abandon it to the woods.” Image: Instagram/Laura Brodnik.

My preparation to meet Nicola Coughlan somewhat mirrored the lead-up to Daphne's meeting with The Queen in season one.

I was escorted across the beautiful grounds and into a room by people speaking only in hushed and reverent tones, where Coughlan, resplendent in a beautiful dress and sitting regally on an elegant chair, was waiting to greet me.


But my hopes of being the Diamond of the Season (or at least the diamond among the pack of writers bussed in from Sydney) were quickly dashed. As I walked into the room, my microphone, which was taped across my bra and connected to a pack that was taped around my leg, unravelled and clattered to the floor with a bang that echoed across the elegantly decorated room where our interview was set to take place.

It looked as if, as a fellow writer on the trip so acutely pointed out after the interview, I had 'given birth' to the microphone and assorted cords that were now tangled around my feet.

After shuffling out of the room like a tipsy penguin with cords trailing behind me and returning with the microphone now double-taped to my flesh, Coughlan, like the Lady she is, quickly pushed my embarrassment aside by waving off the rogue microphone, kindly complimenting my dress, and marvelling at the faux Bridgerton world in which we found ourselves, as we talked about how she prepared for season three.

A season that plays out exactly like a classic romantic comedy.

Listen to Laura Brodnik recap exactly what happened at the viral Bridgeton premiere. Article continues. 

"I watched When Harry Met Sally many times in the lead-up to filming," the 37-year-old actress said, professing her love for the iconic Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal rom-com. 

"I was drawn to anything by Nora Ephron, because there's just something about that era of rom-com that was so polished in a certain way. The friends-to-lovers side of those movies is always my favorite trope. And I'm not just saying that because that's what our season is based on and I'm so proud of it.


"Luke and I talk all the time, so when we'd get really anxious and excited about filming this season, we'd talk to each other about scenes that we were scared to shoot or ask each other if they were okay," she continued, talking about the bond she'd built with co-star Luke Newton while filming. 

"The best thing for me this season was to have a partner like him who was there for me and totally on the same page. Such a lovely friend that I could say things to like, 'I'm really nervous about this,' or 'I'm really tired today,' and he would always understand."

Nicola Coughlan's Penelope undergoes a makeover in season three. Image: Netflix. 


During the lush premiere event the night before, Coughlan had laughed about the fact she was being questioned on how she and Newton would bring their on-screen romance to life in season three, saying that their electric chemistry had been there all along and they'd been struggling to keep it under wraps. So now all they had to do was set it free.

Which, on one particular day of filming, led to the destruction of set pieces.  

"It's really funny," Nicola said of filming their highly anticipated steamy scenes. "We had one scene that was so extensive it took two days to film and it's a very famous scene from the books. We were on a closed set, so there were only about four other people in the room with us and there was a camera right above us. And just as we heard 'action' called, a piece of furniture just collapsed between us and it snapped almost completely in half. 

"I've got a picture of it that I’ll share when the scene airs."

"In the lead-up to season three of the Netflix series, a real-life Bridgeton sprung up in Australia, transforming the town of Bowral into the Ton." Image: Instagram/Laura Brodnik.


While season three of Bridgerton plays out much more like a traditional romantic comedy than the seasons that came before it, Coughlan pointed out that it does flip some of the traditional tropes on their head.

Makeover scenes have always been a storytelling staple when it comes to rom-coms, allowing a wallflower to transform into a leading lady by changing the way she looks — often by way of a montage set to bouncy music.

So popular have the makeover scenes in the genre become that the teams behind movies such as Suddenly 30 were once ordered by studios to include a makeover scene, reasoning that if a makeover wasn't prominently featured in the trailer, no one would want to see the film.


With Penelope's makeover scene, this idea of a new look leading to a happily ever after gets slightly flipped on its head, thanks to the fact that while her luxe makeover does give her a brief moment of triumph, the night does end in a dark corner of the ballroom with some discreet tears in her eyes. 

"It's funny because when [showrunner] Jess Brownell first spoke to Luke and I about this season, one of the first things she said to me was that Penelope gets this makeover where she'll look really different but she won't be a changed person.

“"The lesson is that she has to learn to love herself and grow her inner confidence," she continued. "So it doesn't really matter what she looks like. She immediately tries to flirt with men after her makeover and she finds she absolutely can't. 

"To get to play that was joyful for me because I'm a real comedy girlie. So I really loved all the rom-com elements in this season. But I think what I love most about her transformation is how gradual it is, and how internal it is. It's all about her loving herself."

Bridgerton Season 3 (which includes episodes 1-4) premieres May 16, only on Netflix.

Laura Brodnik is Mamamia's Head of Entertainment and host of The Spill podcast. You can follow her on Instagram here for more entertainment news and recommendations.

Feature Image: Netflix.