TV & Movies

Masali Baduza’s Role As Michaela Stirling Changes Bridgerton Forever

The Season 3 finale included a surprising reveal.

'Bridgerton': Who Is Michaela Stirling? Masali Baduza's Role, Explained
Netflix/screenshot

Although Bridgerton is based on Julia Quinn’s novel series, the Netflix show doesn’t always adhere entirely to the books. Season 3 features several significant departures, both in Colin and Penelope’s love story and the order in which siblings say “I do.” Spoilers ahead for the Season 3 finale.

The biggest twist happens in the season’s final moments, when Francesca’s new husband, John Stirling, introduces his cousin, Michaela Stirling. “I caution you. Every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie,” Michaela says playfully. “The truth is far worse.”

Francesca is seemingly transfixed by the bold greeting, tripping over her words as she introduces herself.

It might not seem particularly significant, but if you’ve read Francesca’s Bridgerton book, When He Was Wicked, you know it’s a game-changer.

Michael Becomes Michaela

There’s no Michaela in Francesca’s book, but there is a Michael — and so far, their profiles are very similar. Michael Stirling is John’s cousin, and the two are extremely close. Michael becomes best friends with Francesca, even though he’s harbored a crush on her since she joined the family. Awkward!

Liam Daniel/Netflix

Sadly, John dies in his sleep two years into his marriage with Francesca. The widow experiences a pregnancy loss soon after, and four years later, she begins thinking about getting married again because she wants to have a baby. Ultimately, she begins a passionate relationship with Michael, and the two marry. Although Francesca isn’t sure she’ll be able to carry a pregnancy to term, she and Michael eventually welcome two children, John and Janet.

It’s unclear how the specific beats of this story will play out on TV, but showrunner Jess Brownell recently gave a hint. “Francesca’s book, for those who are familiar, it takes place over a longer amount of years and it has more twists and turns,” she told Decider. “We wanted to start that story earlier so that we could play out more chapters of her book.”

Michaela Is Played By Masali Baduza

If you spend a lot of time on the Bridgerton side of Reddit, you might recognize Masali Baduza’s name. More than a year ago, a viewer noted through some social media sleuthing that the young actor followed (and was followed back by) several key Bridgerton players.

The user suggested Baduza might be playing Sophie Beckett (Benedict’s love interest from the books). Someone else added a “chaos theory,” in which that the actor would be be playing a female version of Michael Stirling’s character — props to their foresight!

Masali Baduza in 2022.Isaiah Trickey/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Later, a rumored casting call for a “quick-witted” and “devilish charmer” stirred up more speculation from the Bridgerton fandom. Several people thought this was for Sophie’s character, but one fan pointed out, “[i]f the casting call wasn’t for a woman, I would think this fits Michael perfectly.” While the veracity of the casting call can’t be confirmed, it’s certainly interesting to revisit now that Michaela Stirling is canon.

Before Bridgerton, Baduza was already quite the accomplished thespian. The South African actor graduated from the New York Film Academy in 2016, and later starred in the BBC’s Noughts + Crosses before playing Fumbe in the critically acclaimed film The Woman King.