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Nicola Coughlan’s 10 Best Roles, Ranked

Nicola Coughlan's 10 Best Roles, Ranked

Between the release of Bridgerton‘s highly anticipated third season and the release of Tubi’s celebrated Big Mood, it is safe to say that Nicola Coughlan is having quite an impressive year. Many met the Irish talent on the Netflix hit Derry Girls, where she played the clever Clare for three spectacular seasons, and soon fell in love with her witty humor and unique delivery. Since then, she’s notably branched out into period pieces and blockbusters.

Outside of her biggest moments, Coughlan has a career decorated with engaging roles across multiple spheres of entertainment. Whether it be her lending her dynamic and recognizable voice to podcast series or making the most of a limited portrayal of a historical figure, Nicola Coughlan’s undeniable talents shine best in these roles.

10 Diplomat Barbie

Barbie (2023)

Being one of the many Barbies to populate Barbieland, Nicola Coughlan’s portrayal of “Diplomat Barbie” might have been quicker than a blink, but her charm makes up for the otherwise swift appearance in the 2023 blockbuster.

A Swift Yet Enjoyable Scene

Eager to play in the film, Coughlan was initially worried about how the opportunity would meld or complicate her existing schedule. However, a quick follow-up with Greta Gerwig confirmed that her role would not only be secured but tailored to let her have the best of both worlds.

She was one of the many cast members to stun on red carpets and produce some of her own memorable moments for fans to enjoy. Although her scenes in Barbie were short, Coughlan’s enthusiasm beams during her time onscreen.

Stream Barbie On Max

9 Humble Joan

Seize Them! (2024)

Set in Medieval Britain, Seize Them! is a British adventure/comedy that chronicles the meteoric fall of Queen Dagan (Aimee Lou Wood). Known for her arrogance, Dagan’s fall from grace was anticipated by many, leading to her being usurped by Humble Joan (Nicola Coughlan). As the fugitive queen attempts to flee persecution, she stumbles upon unlikely allies who vow to protect her from harm’s way.

A Polarizing Performance

While the familiar premise and ambitious storytelling may have disappointed some critics, others celebrated Seize Them! for being an entertaining comedy that makes the most of its female-led cast. Coughlan’s portrayal of Humble Joan fit with the rather unserious tone of the film.

While reviewers from sites like The Telegraph believed it to be a waste of her talents, average viewers made the most of the goofy film, appreciating her cartoonish portrayal of the complicated liberator.

Stream Seize Them On Plex

8 Nancy

Oliver Twist (2024)

As one will come to realize, it seems as though Oliver Twist follows Nicola Coughlan throughout her career. Furthermore, he is just one of many talented thespians to engage with the classic text. Joining Brian Cox (Succession), Daniel Kaluuya (Nope) and more, the Audible adaptation is a star-studded production that revisits the story of an orphan surrounded by exploitation, crime, and disease.

A Faithful Interpretation of a Literary Classic

In this production, Coughlan lent her voice for the role of Nancy, the girlfriend of dangerous criminal Bill Sikes (Daniel Kaluuya). Reviewers from sites like The Guardian have made note of Coughlan’s compelling and “warm” performance, a clear contrast between the character’s seedy involvement in Fagin’s (Brian Cox) gang and her growing compassion for Oliver (Emilio Villa-Muhammad).

Her sincere portrayal of Nancy peels away at the rigid stereotypes that condemn morally ambiguous, working-class people as forever vile instead of acknowledging the nuances in their upbringing and the level of power they truly hold, or lack thereof.

Listen to Oliver Twist on Audible

7 Queen Victoria

Dodger (2023)

Dodger is a family comedy that takes place before the events of Oliver Twist. Premiering in 2022, the series has been heralded as a comedic treat for all ages. The series follows the titular Dodger, the nickname of Jack Dawkins (Billy Jenkins), and his many adventures with the rest of the notorious Fagin’s (Christopher Eccleston) gang.

A Delightful Holiday Surprise

A recent guest appearance, Coughlan graced the set of Dodger donned in full regalia. Given her expertise in period pieces, her portrayal of the controversial Queen Victoria in the series’ Christmas special was embraced by critics.

Capturing the youthful yet rigid spirit of the infamous queen, Coughlan left audiences thoroughly entertained as her character attempts to make sense of a mishaps involving her coronation present. Unbeknownst to her, the scheme stems from none other than Dodger, Fagin, and co.

Stream Dodger On TVNZ

6 Katie

The Phantom Cnut (2004)

The Phantom Cnut is a 2003 short film that takes place in an Irish classroom. After the titular phrase is written on the classroom’s blackboard, a persistent priest (Tom Hickey) harshly interrogates his students, leaping back and forth between a dramatic mystery and a comical investigation.

Three Minutes Of Pure Excellence

One of her earliest roles, Coughlan’s portrayal of Katie in the short film, has come to be a fan favorite of sorts. Under four minutes, and with minimal dialogue, Coughlan manages to leave audiences both enamored and haunted by her concise and chilling performance.

Setting the stage for the dynamic performances Coughlan would excel in later in her career, The Phantom Cnut is a must-see for anyone who wants to understand what makes Nicola Coughlan a uniquely stellar performer.

5 Nelly O’Flanneryn

Whistle Through the Shamrocks (2021)

Whistle Through The Shamrock is a 2021 comedy podcast that seemingly pokes at but ultimately cherishes Irish clichés found in the media. The Trans-Atlantic production was penned by Coughlan herself alongside Camilla Whitehill, a close friend and collaborator. Detailing vibrant, drama-filled lives, the series follows Paddy Jonny Tommy Paddy and his budding romance with Eloise Louisa, much to the dismay of their respective parents.

A Hilarious Love Letter to Ireland With an Array of Talents

Coughlan’s portrayal of Nelly O’Flanneryn stands out as her most engaging performance of the three roles she has. While fans now enjoy stories of her deep and genuine involvement in blockbuster series like Bridgerton, listening to Whistle Through The Shamrocks and Nelly’s methods of maneuvering through the drama sounds delightful and earnest, giving audiences feelings of joy only granted by a quality passion project.

Stream Whistle Through The Shamrocks On Apple Podcasts

4 Hannah Dalton

Harlots (2017 – 2019)

Harlots is a Hulu series set in London of the 1760s. Largely looking at the role sex work places in relationship dynamics, female empowerment, and financial independence. The skirmishes between two warring madames make for an intriguing drama that spans three seasons.

Related:10 Hulu TV Shows Canceled Before They Even Had a Chance

The Calm Before The Storm

With many watching Penelope’s own grasp of power, it is not all that shocking to find Coughlan exploring similar themes in her role as Hannah Dalton in the Hulu series Harlots. Joining the series in season two, Hannah is one of Mrs. Wells (Samantha Morton). Setting the stage for her eventual foray into period pieces and mainstream success, Coughlan’s portrayal of Hannah is nothing short of entertaining, displaying a convincing and wide array of emotions.

Stream Harlots On Hulu

3 Penelope Featherington

Bridgerton (2020 – Present)

Her biggest role to date, Penelope Featherington, caught the eye of millions when they first tuned into the Netflix hit Bridgerton. Hailing from the perception-conscious Featherington clan, the earlier episodes saw Penelope navigating her cold mother while making the most of her friendship with Eloise (Claudia Jessie). As the series progresses, a major reveal transforms Penelope into a major player who enhances the series with her intervention.

A Fascinating Storyteller On and Offscreen

Watching Penelope bloom in time for her starring season has been an unforgettably entertaining adventure. Entering the most recent season with much to contemplate about her relationships as well as the future of her secret business, Penelope makes the most of her time in the limelight, especially due to Coughlan’s intervention in helping shape how Penelope’s story would appear onscreen.




From Shondaland and creator Chris Van Dusen, Netflix’s Bridgerton is based on the romance novels of the same name by author Julia Quinn. The series follows the eight Bridgerton siblings, Anthony, Benedict, Colin, Daphne, Eloise, Francesca, Gregory, and Hyacinth, as they search for love during the social season and navigate life in Regency-era England.

Release Date
December 25, 2020


Aside from her convincing performance, Coughlan’s active role in guiding Penelope’s depiction further highlights her wit and talent in regard to storytelling.

Stream Bridgerton On Netflix

2 Clare

Derry Girls (2018 – 2022)

Widely considered to be her breakout role, Coughlan’s portrayal of Clare in Derry Girls has left quite a lasting impact. Among her colorful friends, Clare stood out for her witty lines that perfectly illustrated the potential danger that her and her friends could get into by going through with their hilarious hijinks.

Furthermore, her role as the responsible friend bleeds into her academic persona, typically excelling in her courses and being the most respectful of authority, even when it does not serve her any favors.

Adolescence Through An Authentic And Entertaining Lens

Clare is a character many hold near and dear to their hearts. Like the rest of the friend group, Clare provides some of the funniest moments of the series with lines like “I like my kneecaps, Michelle. They suit my knees”.

Derry Girls

Derry Girls

Release Date
December 21, 2018

Saoirse-Monica Jackson , Louisa Harland , Tara Lynne O’Neill , Kathy Kiera Clarke , Tommy Tiernan


Nevertheless, her moments of confusion and mourning also enrich the series, allowing audiences to witness imperative and impactful scenes of grief and its effect on everyday teenagers. Nicola Coughlan’s Clare offers audiences one of the most entertaining and earnest portrayals of queer adolescence in recent memory and doubles as an exemplary performance of the teenager’s journey.

1 Maggie

Big Mood (2024 – Present)

A uniquely incredible portrayal, Coughlan’s contribution to the Tubi series Big Mood is a spectacular exploration of mental health, female friendships, and the chaos of contemporary adulthood. Maggie (Coughlan) is a theater actress and playwright in her 30s who also lives with bipolar disorder.

Confiding in her best friend Eddie (Lydia West), the two often find themselves in the most bizarre of situations. However, it is during these moments that emotionally gripping and honest revelations about life and their experiences come to light.

Related:The Best British Dark Comedy Movies Ever Made

A Masterclass in Modern Storytelling

As Maggie, Coughlan masters the dark humor that she has mastered in shows like the aforementioned Derry Girls while also offering viewers an authentically messy look at living with mental health issues. Joining the best candid depictions of reality currently airing on television, Big Mood is as successful of an investigation of everyday insecurities and the destabilizing and complicated effects of bipolar disorder as it is a hilarious and beautiful portrait of friendship.

Maggie is a character worth diving into and sticking with through the hardest of times. The moments of light are gratifying in their own right, but Coughlan making the most of her wide array of talents is nothing short of enjoyable and impactful.

Stream Big Mood on Tubi

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