'Bridgerton': Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie on Penelope & Eloise's Big Lady Whistledown Fight (Exclusive)

The actresses talk to ET about the aftermath of the BFFs' blowout fight in the finale and what this means moving forward.

Spoiler alert! Do not proceed if you have not watched the season 2 finale of Bridgerton.

Lady Whistledown is shaking up more than just London's social scene. Bridgerton's all-knowing gossip maven, whose identity was at the heart of several covert (and not so covert) investigations by various members of the Ton in season 2, came between BFFs Eloise Bridgerton and Penelope Featherington (aka Lady Whistledown). Their friendship was irrevocably broken when Eloise learned, after being wrongly accused by the Queen of reporting on the Ton's scandalous affairs as Whistledown, that it was Penelope -- with some help, of course -- who was responsible for inciting all the drama in her regular gossip sheet.

Their blowout fight in the last episode of the season is the exact moment everything changes for the two, now estranged, friends. When Eloise begins putting the pieces together during the last ball of the season, she confronts Penelope after discovering loads of money secretly stashed away in her room. When Penelope tells her it's none of her business, Eloise asks point-blank, "And what exactly is your business, Pen?" For Eloise, hearing Penelope repeat gossip she's overheard or witnessed at the ball without batting an eyelash struck the Bridgerton as suspicious -- and she made it known to her friend. "Sounded so familiar, your words. Not just the content or subject, the pattern. It sounded written, almost. Why do you think that is?" Eloise asked, her heart breaking with every word.

"Because you've been reading too much Whistledown. Her voice is always echoing in your head, Eloise," Penelope tried to skirt the question, prompting Eloise to respond: "I thought so too at first. But then I also thought how you were always clinging to that wall, collecting all sorts of morsels of gossip. How when I express my dislike for the naming of the diamond at the beginning of the season, Whistledown disavowed the whole thing shortly after. How you were one of the only people who could have known about Miss Thompson's pregnancy. And then I thought about how you've said about how people are talking about me and Theo -- only if that were the case, Whistledown would've written about it weeks ago... This was personal."

It was at that moment, Penelope broke down and couldn't hold her Whistledown secret any longer. "Eloise, I'm sorry. I'm so sorry, I was trying to protect you," she tearfully apologized, finally coming clean. "Was that what you were doing? By writing about me in the latest sheet? By telling the entire world what I trusted you with?!" Eloise screamed back in anger. As Penelope attempted the justify the secret-spilling as a defense mechanism to "save" Eloise, her now-estranged friend wasn't having it: "The only person you were interested in saving was yourself. Or so you could keep making money at a cost of everyone else, at a cost to Miss Thompson, to my brother, to my entire family, to your entire family. I ended my friendship with Theo because of you -- one of the only good things in my life, all because of your self-serving manipulation."

Penelope promised that she's giving up Whistledown, that she's "done with it" and that it hurt her to keep the secret from Penelope and everyone else. Of course, it was too little too late. "I wrote what I wrote and I gave it up for you," Penelope cried. But the betrayal was far too deep for Eloise to forgive her for. "I don't even know you," she snarled back, a look of hatred in her eyes for her former friend. "I look at you now and all I feel is pity for you. Sequestered here in this very room writing your secret little scandal sheet, tarnishing everyone in town, all because you're too scared to stand up for yourself in reality. You are something, Penelope. An insipid wallflower, indeed."

Penelope fired right back, yelling at Eloise that she at least accomplished something as Whistledown, rather than "talk about doing something" like Eloise. "But I'm the one who did something great and you can't stand it, can you?! What do you think that makes you?" Penelope screamed. "I wish never to see or speak to you again," Eloise stated clearly before she left Penelope... for good?

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Bridgerton stars Nicola Coughlan and Claudia Jessie reacted to the duo's dramatic breakup, and both hoped that this doesn't mark the end of Eloise and Penelope.

"They have to [reconcile]," Coughlan demanded when speaking with ET's Lauren Zima. "They have to, because it would break my heart [if they didn't]. Also, I think, in deep life-long friendships, there are moments like that when you do fight and you've just got to learn to grow a little bit. But I think Penelope has got some apologizing to do. I think she has some apologizing to do."

"It's massive and also it's incredibly intense," Jessie said of the finale moment. "It's not just a screaming match, it's really intense because there's so much to unpack. Having Lady Whistledown is enough for enemies to be like, 'What do you mean?' But then the fact that Penelope watched enemies for an entire season wrap their brains, get notifications with the Queen, she saw all of this. She writes about her family, she knows that Eloise has been an enabler because they'll hang out and chat and gossip and then Penelope will absolutely put that in her column, so I think there's so much to unpack in this."

Either way you slice it, Penelope acting as Whistledown all this time is still a "huge" betrayal, Jessie acknowledged. "Nicola would be like, 'I can't believe she's doing this. You're so sweet!' But I get it, like Penelope doesn't have the same sort of warm tight friendly domestic setting that always comes from an incredibly close, loving family. Penelope has quite a hard time and, obviously, it would be very difficult for her to tell me... I get why it would be hard. It's the light lies [that] snowball... so I think that's what's happening. It's just going out of control, so I love that scene so much. I love it."

Coughlan and Jessie both shared that it was particularly exciting, yet bittersweet, to read and film Penelope and Eloise's massive argument -- a real-time exercise in watching a friendship implode right before our very eyes.

"We're really good friends and it's amazing playing it with her," Coughlan said of putting the fight together. "She's such a fantastic actor and she’s a pleasure to be around as well. Also, it makes the days on set -- which can be super long days -- it makes them easy and fun. Since you know Penelope is Lady Whistledown, you are very much aware when she’s not telling the truth and I’m honest to a fault, so I found it really uncomfortable when Penelope is outright talking at Eloise as Lady Whistledown. I was sweating. Then they’d call curtain and I'd be like, 'That didn’t feel good, that felt bad actually.'"

"I was really pleased," Jessie said. "I think it's a very clever thing to do because there's no one you want to find out more, like if the stakes are the highest with Eloise, you want that as a viewer because the whole time, you must just be thinking, 'She has no idea. I can't believe this.' And so I was really pleased that they did this in the script, and me and Nicola were like, 'Whoa, I can't believe we're going to shoot this like this, this [is] wild and so well-written that scene.'" 

And, in the closing minutes of the season, Penelope returned to the quill, going back on her word that she had given up Whistledown. Instead, she went to the constant that's served as an outlet for her. 

Jessie forecasted what she thinks Eloise will be like in the coming third season now that she's aware of who's behind the town gossip. "I think she'll be a good friend. That's what I think [she] always will be. I think she'll be a loyal friend [who] didn't tell anyone," she hypothesized. "I don't know what's going to happen. I mean, they might match scars but I don't think she will. I think she'll be furious, but then be really respectful and not say anything. I don't think she'll want to ruin Penelope."

"I hope that they are able to sort out their friendship as soon as possible, because I'll find that me and Nicola, we're never going to be able to be together again. And so I think that I'd like her to continue to explore that. What we see in season 2 really explores different ways of thinking and different groups of people, different parts of society," the actress added. "I'd love to see that expand for her, to get more political. She's young, she's really intelligent and she's very quick, so I think she's the perfect person to do that with. I'd really like to continue to explore intellectual writings, things like that."

"I do want her to find love and I don’t want her to stop writing Whistledown. I want her to have everything," Coughlan said, emphasizing the point, "I want her to have everything."

Bridgerton is streaming now on Netflix.

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