Bridgerton stars Nicola Coughlan and Luke Newton have known for years that a season of Netflix’s hit Shondaland period romance drama would eventually focus on their characters, Penelope Featherington (a.k.a. the ’Ton’s prolific and anonymous gossip writer Lady Whistledown) and Colin Bridgerton (the third son of the titular family). The fans have too. So when they found out the series’ third season would be adapted from Romancing Mister Bridgerton, the Julia Quinn novel that tell the love story between their two characters—#Polin, as they’re affectionately referred to online—there were a lot of feelings.

“What’s amazing is that we’ve gotten to play [these characters] for a couple of years, and we’ve gotten to grow with them and play different iterations of them, which, as an actor, is really satisfying,” says Coughlan, who also starred in the popular Irish comedy series Derry Girls. “It’s both a help and a hindrance that they’re so beloved, because you feel the pressure that you really want to do a really good job for the fans, and we definitely had that in our minds. At the same time, when you get to set, you have to let everything go and your job is just to focus on the script for that day, the moment for that character, because that’s when you’re going to deliver the best you can do. You’re never going to make everyone happy—with a book adaptation, people have that in their minds for a long time—but hopefully the fans know we went into it with love and care for the story.”

Netflix split this third season of Bridgerton into half, with the first part ending with a steamy, much-discussed hookup in a carriage before Colin asked Penelope to marry him. Part two is finally dropping on the streaming service on June 13, meaning fans will be able to hear Penelope’s answer to the proposal—and find out if the couple can find their happily ever after despite the fact that Penelope is hiding an entire career and secret identity from Colin. We sat down with Coughlan and Newton while they were in Toronto to discuss all things Bridgerton season three and #Polin.

Splitting this season of Bridgerton into two parts has led to a lot of impatience in the fandom. That said, tension is an important element of any romance story. Part one, of course, ends with this ostensibly happy moment, but do you think the month-long wait for part two is actually an advantage?

Luke Newton (LN): “Definitely. I was saying yesterday that I don’t think the carriage scene would have had the response that it’s had—”

Nicola Coughlan (NC): “No way.”

LN: “—if we didn’t have the split, because people would be focused on stuff that happens throughout. I think it’s really nice that we get to savour it and that people can really digest it.”

NC: “One hundred percent. So much happens this season that you want to give them the time. And also, this is the first time where the cast can travel the world and meet the fans. We’ve never done that before. That’s been amazing. And [there’s] also anticipation [for] the second half. Selfishly, as an actor, we film this show for eight months and we do months of prep before and loads of prep after, and then it gets taken up in one day. You’re like, ‘Oh god.’”

LN: “Yeah, people watch it in eight hours and then it’s done.”

NC: “[People] are like, ‘We want season four,’ and then we’re like, ‘But we worked so hard on it, give us a minute.’” [Laughs]

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For both Penelope and Colin, this season is just as much about finding love for yourself as it is about finding romantic love. How does that play into their relationship?

LN: “It’s really important for them. They’re both stepping into adulthood, and that’s the first time we’ve seen that within this show. Daphne was young, but—”

NC: “She was very mature. Eldest girl vibes.”

LN: “Yeah. We get to see [Penelope and Colin] mature as individuals and how that brings them together. But it’s so important that they bring each other back to who they really are. They both feel like they have to become these new people as they step out into society and become adults, and really connecting to someone who knows you down to the core is what helps them become their true selves. It’s that thing of finding your soulmate, but figuring out who you truly are.”

So why is now the right time for these characters to actually find love?

NC: “There are many different reasons. They are such a case of ‘right person, wrong time’ in the first two seasons. They obviously had this connection, but were so young and not ready to go there. And also Penelope didn’t see him as a real person. I’m sure she had love for him, but it’s not what they have when they finally fall in love. True love has to be reciprocated. It’s when you can see someone warts and all and still love them. She knows he’s not perfect now, but the love is richer, and deeper and more meaningful because of that. And personally, I don’t think if you’re keeping a huge secret—Eloise says it to her very bluntly. She says, ‘He can’t truly love you if he doesn’t know everything about you.’ And Penelope knows that’s true. She knows it.”

LN: “And that’s part of her journey of self-discovery as well—being like, ‘Can someone love me if they know everything about me?’”

NC: “Yeah. And that’s such a relatable fear in life as well.”

LN: “People feel like they need to hold something back.”

NC: “No one’s perfect and we all have our flaws—thankfully, for most people it’s not as big as having a hidden identity and career.” [Laughs]

LN: “But isn’t it beautiful when you meet someone who accepts all of those things? And that’s where [Colin and Penelope] are trying to get.”

Penelope is one of the only women in the world of Bridgerton who we see with an actual career. She’s also one of the only characters who audiences know that, outside of her central romance, she has a passion, something she cares about, that’s really been developed on screen. Can she get to a place in this world where both of those things coexist?

NC: “It’s mad that it was a question and is still such a question now. And it is. I know so many women who are talented, beautiful, strong, kind and smart, and they really struggle to find a partner. It sucks. And I’m thinking specifically about women who date men—a lot of men don’t go for women who are successful and have control over their life. It’s really interesting to play that out in this show. What I love about [Penelope] is that she wants to have it all. And why shouldn’t she? The thing is, the right person will want you to be successful.”

LN: “Yeah. They’ll celebrate that.”

NC: “They won’t hold you back. I think a lot of women will really relate to that struggle she has of wanting to have. And I think everyone should aspire to it.”

LN: “We really get into that in part two as well.”

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Without getting into spoilers, what do you think has to happen for Penelope and Colin to get over this huge Lady Whistledown secret?

NC: “There’s a lot. She has to apologize first and foremost, because she’s like, ‘I love you and want to give myself to you,’ but she’s not giving herself to him by being deceitful. She has to really stand before him and be like, ‘I did this wrong and this wrong.’ But even with the stuff with Marina and Eloise, she didn’t do it out of malice. She’s misguided.”

LN: “I think [Colin] sees that as well. He knows her so well, and [can see] that all of it came from a genuine place of trying to protect the people she loves, or support them. The key thing will just be communication for them, and being as open as they can. It’s really hard in the first stages of being in love to be your true self and expose all your secrets about yourself without worrying about the consequences. They have to just dive into that.”

NC: “Totally. For most people, it’s like, ‘Oh god, they’re going to find out I snore.’ For us, it’s like, ‘Oh, my secret life!” [Laughs]

We obviously know Penelope has been hiding a huge secret, but do you think that, at this point, Colin has completely given himself to her?

LN: “We get there. It’s really difficult, because Penelope’s secrets are really at the surface and the audience is really aware. With Colin, it’s really internal. There are parts of him that he doesn’t want to be completely honest about, particularly about the earlier events of part two—the things he discovers and the journey they go on together. We recently watched a scene—is it in the last two [episodes]?”

NC: “I think it’s in the last one. I love it so much.”

LN: “It’s like a revelation moment for both of them. They can see clearly for the first time, they’re able to be completely honest and there’s so much love between them with no consequences.”

NC: “A lot of what he hides from her are his insecurities. You think he’s this handsome guy in this powerful family, but he struggles to find his place in the world. He’s got a little bit of a hero complex, he wants to solve everything. But she actually doesn’t need that from him because she loves him for who he is, at his core.”

In part two, Penelope is thinking a lot about accountability, empowerment and her role as Lady Whistledown. What do those things coming together look like for her?

NC: “I really love the point she gets to. She grows, and she’s learning to accept [her role]. In season one, [Penelope and Lady Whistledown] are like two separate entities, but ultimately it all comes from her. She’s also starting to take ownership of it, and taking in the power of it, being emboldened and strengthened by it. She’s on a real journey. I love the point where she realizes she’s proud of it and that she has such a voice. You get to see it happen in real time with her. Throughout this season, there’s so much growth in both of these characters in every episode.”

If the titular Derry Girls were transported to the world of Bridgerton, who would they be crushing on?

NC: “Claire would be crushing on…is it weird to say Eloise? But she’s separate from Penelope. And Eloise reads a lot of books, and she’s strong and cool.”

LN: “Yeah, that’s a good one. Didn’t you say there was someone—we were asked who would be cool to put in the world.”

NC: “Oh, Aunt Sarah. Kathy Kiera Clarke. She’d be a wonderful Mama coming into society.”

LN: “It’d be so good. We need to make that happen.” [Laughs]