TV & Movies

Who Plays Cressida Cowper? Jessica Madsen Has A Big Season 3 Role

The returning Bridgerton character strikes up an unlikely new relationship.

Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper in 'Bridgerton'

In Bridgerton Seasons 1 and 2, actor Jessica Madsen’s character, Cressida Cowper, was positioned as an antagonistic force in the party circuit. She threw some mean side-eye, corralled the gossip circles, and was armed with a series of nasty remarks. Lady Whistledown once referred to her as “ill-mannered,” which spoke volumes.

In the first two installments, Cressida failed to win the affections of an eligible suitor, so she’s back in Season 3, and her story takes an unexpected turn.

Following Penelope and Eloise’s rift at the end of Season 2, Cressida strikes up an unlikely friendship with Eloise (played by Claudia Jessie) — which baffles the youngest Featherington (Nicola Coughlan).

“They [Cressida and Eloise] really show up,” Madsen recently told ExtraTV about Cressida’s arc. “They show a mirror up to each other, and they learn different things.” She continued, “They listen to each other and Eloise challenges her and sort of helps her break down her mask and open up and be vulnerable, which we have not seen.”

And that’s just the beginning of it, dear reader. Below, here’s what to know about Season 3’s breakout star, and what the book has in store for her.

Bridgerton actors Jessica Madsen and Claudia Jessie. LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

She Identifies With Cressida’s “Fire”

In a 2021 interview with New Scene Magazine, Madsen talked about how she and Cressida differ. “Cressida is definitely fiery. Her fire inside fuel’s her need to light a fire underneath others, she has a lot of passion and determination and will take down anyone who crosses her,” said the actor, who graduated from the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. “I’m an Aries so I have that same fieriness, [but I’m] less of a fire starter or scolder.”

Before joining the Netflix juggernaut, Madsen starred in a few big- and small-screen projects, including 2017’s Leatherface, Rambo: Last Blood, and Mr Selfridge.

The Whistledown Twist

Warning: Bridgerton book spoilers ahead. The third season is based on the fourth book in Julia Quinn’s series, called Romancing Mr. Bridgerton. In the novel, which focuses on Penelope and Colin’s love story, the former does her best to hide her identity as Lady Whistledown, but Cressida ultimately discovers the secret.

Cressida uses the opportunity to blackmail Penelope for a hefty sum of money. Colin, who has also learned the truth, throws a wrench in Cressida’s plan and announces Penelope’s secret identity to the ton (with her permission). It ultimately helps them avoid the scandal that would’ve ensued had Cressida gotten her way.