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Why Clare From Derry Girls Looks So Familiar

Who would've thought that a show set during The Troubles in 1990s Northern Ireland would be so hilarious? Well, apparently Irish writer Lisa McGee knew the potential in this scenario, creating the hit comedy Derry Girls for Channel 4. The show focuses on a group of friends living in Derry, Northern Ireland, who go through all the normal drama and issues that every teenager faces, just in the midst of a violent national conflict. Derry Girls premiered its first season in early 2018 and was extremely popular, with season 2 coming out the next year. The show's popularity only grew after it was added to Netflix, and a third season is on its way. A release date is unclear, as production has faced major delays because of COVID-19.

Derry Girls stars Saoirse-Monica Jackson as a spirited 16-year-old named Erin Quinn, while Louisa Harland plays Orla McCool, her flighty, pensive cousin. Erin's group of friends is filled out by Michelle Mallon (Jamie-Lee O'Donnell), James Maguire (Dylan Llewellyn), and Nicola Coughlan as Clare Devlin. Clare is a bit of a scaredy cat, afraid of authority, and she tends to be the one nagging the others about whether or not they should be doing whatever troublesome activity they are currently engaging in.

For many Derry Girls viewers, Coughlan is a very familiar face. Throughout her career so far, Coughlan has stacked up quite a few high profile roles, and she has an extensive background both on-screen and on the stage. 

Not sure where you've seen her before? Let us help you out.

Nicola Coughlan began her career with stage and voice work

Coughlan has always had a passion for acting and began her career at the age of ten with an uncredited role in the film My Brother's War (via Decider). In the years after, Coughlan moved to London and continued to audition and pursue roles. It's possible you heard Coughlan's voice before you ever saw her face, as she lended her voice to the English version of many foreign-language animated series, like the Danish The Fairytaler, and the German Brothers' Grimm-focused series Simsala Grimm and SimsalaGrimm II: The Adventures of Yoyo and Doc Croc. She also worked on the Icelandic animated movie Thor: Legend of the Magical Hammer in 2011, and the Danish animated film Ivan the Incredible.

At an early point in her career, the young actress faced tough economic circumstances that forced her to move home to Ireland. During this period in her life, Coughlan suffered from deep depression. She spoke with Glamour Magazine about the experience, saying that her family was her lifesaver, and that "there wasn't one thing that turned it around for me – I got myself out of that stage very slowly." She went to an open casting call for Jess and Joe Forever at The Old Vic theatre and won the lead female role of Jess. Coughlan was nominated for an Off West End Award for Best Actress in a Play for her performance. In 2018, she played Joyce Emily in the play The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, and she was honored as an Evening Standard Magazine Rising Star in 2018. Soon after, Coughlan found further success on-screen.

Nicola Coughlan played Hannah Dalton in season 2 of Harlots

Coughlan's career has mainly consisted of period dramas and comedies, and Hulu's Harlots started it off. In 2018, Coughlan joined the second season of the series as Hannah Dalton, a brash courtesan who fits right in with the story of women adapting and taking advantage of 18th century society through running a brothel.

The series ran for three seasons from 2017 to 2019, starring Samantha Morton as Margaret Wells, the madam in charge of an up-and-coming brothel in London. Harlots has a huge cast of talented actors, including Lesley Manville as Lydia Quigley, the merciless woman in charge of a competing brothel, Jessica Brown Findlay as Charlotte Wells, Margaret's oldest daughter and a popular courtesan, and Liv Tyler as Lady Isabella Fitzwilliam. 

Coughlan played a supporting role in season 2 of Harlots, as her character of Hannah joins Margaret's brothel looking for a job that gives her food, clothing, and housing. She attends a big, fancy party and is shocked at what she sees, never having had the luxury to attend an event like this before. Unfortunately, Coughlan could not return to Harlots for its third and final season, likely because she was working on Derry Girls or another project.

Bridgerton stars Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington

In what's probably her highest-profile role yet, Coughlan plays Penelope Featherington in Netflix's hit series Bridgerton, produced by Shonda Rhimes. Set in 1813 Regency era London, Bridgerton follows the high-class Bridgerton family of eight siblings, with season 1 mainly focusing on the eldest daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor). The story revolves around Daphne's first season out in society as she looks for an appropriate husband. She teams up with Duke Simon Bassett (Rége-Jean Page) to get attention from highly-desirable suitors, but soon enough Daphne finds herself developing feelings for Bassett instead.

Coughlan's character of Penelope is the youngest daughter of another well-off family, the Featheringtons, and she is best friends with Eloise Bridgerton (Claudia Jessie). Penelope isn't that interested in being presented to society and thrust into the flirting and manipulation that follows, but she does as she's told. Soon enough, she finds herself drawn to Colin Bridgerton (Luke Newton), the third Bridgerton son and a close friend of Penelope's. Coughlan is a standout in the television series, and many fans are excited to see her return for the upcoming second season scheduled to film in Spring 2021 (via Forbes).