Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

In anticipation of the explosive second part of Bridgerton’s third season premiering on June 13th, The Untitled Magazine sat down with Jessica Madsen, the talented actress who reprises her role as the delightfully cunning Cressida Cowper. Bridgerton, the global sensation produced by Shondaland, has captured the hearts of millions since its debut, and Season 3 promises to deliver even more drama and intrigue. With Cressida’s significant plot developments in the upcoming episodes, fans are in for a treat as they witness her scheming ways reach new heights.

Jessica Madsen, a Guildhall School of Music and Drama graduate, has built an impressive career with roles in film and television. While she is perhaps best known for her portrayal of Cressida in Bridgerton, previous performances demonstrating her versatility and talent include Leatherface, Rambo: Last Blood, and Mr. Selfridge. As she returns to the small screen in Bridgerton‘s latest season, her portrayal of Cressida Cowper stands out as one of the most intriguing and transformative performances of her career.

In this exclusive interview with Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine and the debut episode of The UNTITLED Podcast, Jessica opens up about her journey into acting, the challenges of playing Cressida, and the exhilarating experience of being part of such a groundbreaking series. With the new season of Bridgerton promising more drama and excitement, Jessica’s insights provide a fascinating glimpse into the world of Regency-era intrigue and the complex character she brings to life.

On a personal note, Jessica shares what keeps her inspired when she’s not on set, and why she felt it was the right time to come out publicly and advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in light of Pride Month. Read on for the full interview below, and make sure to check out the podcast episode live now on Spotify!


It’s exciting to chat with you about everything going on! I am loving this incredible, dramatic character you’ve been playing on Bridgerton. The new season is just mind-blowing. 

She’s causing some drama, that’s for sure. 

Definitely. It’s been really cool to see your character develop and expand and grow over the last few seasons, particularly in this season. Like wow, what a pivot. 

Yeah, a big pivot at the start, that’s for sure. I was so thrilled when I got the scripts and I was like, “Yes! We’re getting to see a different side to her. Can’t wait.” 

Yeah, I love that. So, I’d love to dive in and chat about how you got into acting and how you ended up pursuing your career in the entertainment industry. What encouraged you to pursue a career in acting? 

It was a natural evolution, the love for acting and for theater and film and TV. I was so bad at school, like horrendously bad. I’m not academic at all. So my parents threw me into everything. I did tennis, I did swimming, I tried every instrument possible. And then I was like, “I think I want to be so many different things.” And my mom was like, “Well, that’s a job too. You can be an actor and you can explore all kinds of different people.” And I always had been drawn to people. And as a kid, I would do weird things.

I grew up in the States and Australia. So I had an American accent and then I had an Australian American accent and then I came to England. And so I was good with accents and I would pretend to be different people and see what I could get away with, just out of fun. I just had a love for characterization and exploring being different people as a kid. I went to schools that were really big into drama and dance and I fell in love with it. And I think for a while it was a form of escaping until it became a platform to tell stories. I’m very visual, so I love learning through film, TV, and documentaries. I found it such a powerful platform that I really wanted to be a part of it. And then I went to drama school when I was 18 and when I came out of drama school, I started working. I was really determined and just wanted to do it. There was never a never a plan B. 

That’s so cool. You definitely transform yourself also for this incredible character you play on Bridgerton. Cressida is such an incredible fashionista – Mean Girls hits Regency Era.

Yeah, that’s Regina George!

Bridgerton. Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper in episode 306 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

It’s just so incredible, all the sets and the costumes and your complete transformation to get into character. Tell me a little bit about the transformation that we’re seeing in Season 3 and how your role is evolving in the series.

I was so lucky this season to dive in and have the opportunity to explore her in such a wonderful, complex way. It was a huge gift and was nerve-wracking as well, because there’s so many shifts. I really wanted to do her justice and allow the audience to see a softer side to her in an organic real way. And I was so fortunate to work with Claudia [Jessie], who I have a great friendship with, and so that really blossomed. That’s evident on screen as well, which we love watching because we’re like, “Oh, you can see we’re really good friends!” And that shines through. We’re proud that that is evident on screen. But yeah, it was daunting, but I also was like, “I’ve been given this opportunity and I’m just going to do my best with it.”

And with each step, I didn’t know what was coming. I never wanted to know what was in store and I hadn’t read the book purposely, because I knew that they would be taking it in a different direction. I just wanted to allow the scripts to really direct me and to focus on each step so that I was honoring where she’s at each time and wasn’t foreseeing anything or preempting anything. I feel like she’s having a real rollercoaster of a journey and she has so many different layers to her. She’s sharp, she’s soft, she’s easily opened up and then also so quick to put her armor back on. And so much of it is in the writing. It’s written really well and the words are so beautifully formulated on the page that she speaks to me. I could just hear her. And that was the case when I auditioned as well. I was like, “I think I get this one.” I feel like actors find themselves just going, “I get this person. This person I understand.” And they find a life inside of you. And she was one of those that I was like, “I know who this person is. I really hope I get to play her.”

And do you relate to her personally at all? Obviously she plays a bit of a villainous, bitchy character in the show. At the end of the day, there must be a level of humanity that you also see in that character. 

Drama school was such a gift in the fact that we played so many different sorts of characters during our training and we were always told that you can never judge a character. And I’ve had quite a few characters that have been pretty complex — I’ve played some people who are killers, and had to find compassion for them. It is very layered and it takes a lot to figure out where that comes from. People are a product of something, you know, they’re not just born that way. To find the human side to her, I knew that there was more to it than her just being the villain. And you can see in the first two seasons that her mom is very controlling. I knew then that that was a huge factor so I always leaned into feeling for her and knowing that it was a mask. She’s also so young, she’s a product of her environment. And then now we get to see her open up and, of course, she then shuts down again. But she’s hardened from the life that she’s experienced. And she’s desperate to free herself from it. So I think we see her fluctuating between the two.

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

The family dynamics with your character and the new season is so interesting. Her father is just not a very nice guy — you actually feel for her. He is so mean to her, and obviously her mother is controlling. But the father just wants to send her away to the boondocks and to marry her off to some old creeper and the whole time you’re just like, “Poor thing! I get why she’s such a mess.” I do think it’s interesting how the family dynamics played a much bigger part in the new season and how you got to see that side unravel a little bit more for her. What sort of challenges did you face playing this part of the role?

It’s a long shoot. It’s nine months. So it’s a lot to keep yourself in that place. You know, feeling someone else’s pain and holding on to that and then shaking it off when you come home. And sometimes I went, “Am I leaning too far into the sadness of this character?” You know, where are the boundaries within that? And what light can I bring to her as well? And when you’re shooting for a long time, you really have to note each day, “Okay, this is where this is at.” You can have some likeness and just allow the script to take you somewhere. And for me, it was also learning to let go of control and realizing that I’m not in control of her. It’s not just me. The other actors also change and shift the dynamics of the scene and listening and responding to them. Allowing everybody to have the characters built through everyone. It’s like, I play her, but the costume also has a huge amount of input and when I wear those clothes, I feel so much of her and who she’s developing into. In the first two seasons, we see her with smaller shoulders, and suddenly, that’s grown. And then she has these beautiful coats on and she’s maturing and becoming an adult. So I was like, wow, I’m feeling more mature as this character because of what I’m wearing. The hair and the makeup, and then our wonderful directors as well, shifting it into so many beautiful different places. It really opened up the performance for me and allowed me to explore so much more, which was so cool. 

Bridgerton. (L to R) Joanna Bobin as Lady Cowper, Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper, Dominic Coleman as Lord Cowper in episode 305 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

Let’s talk a little bit about these incredible costumes. You must have so much fun getting into wardrobe, but it must also be incredibly tedious between the hair and the makeup. And then those garments — they put Alexander McQueen to shame. They’re so fabulous! Tell me about the wardrobe that you’ve been wearing. And it’s also a little lot bolder, more dynamic and dramatic this season. 

Yeah, they really shifted into a couture direction this season with the show. They are structurally so spectacular. I was quite emotional in my fittings because [Costume Designer] John Glaser is a legit genius. I mean, the way he sees fabric and sees someone’s body and how he designs for each individual person is really unbelievable and they’re made to fit you. So that’s wild in itself. Like, wow, this does fit like a glove. They’re actually really comfortable. And I kept the corset this season. We had a choice whether we wore one or not. And I did want to wear one because she is corseted in her life with her family — with her mom, her father — so it felt right to be in a corset. The sleeves were unbelievable. And I love that as we progress through the season, she almost is dressed even more sweetly. You know, she’s wrapped up like a little bow, like a present when she arrives at Penelope’s to blackmail her. And it’s a really interesting contrast to see this girl who is desperate in this most beautiful, lavish outfit. The sadness masked with that is really sad, actually. When I watched it, I was like, “Gosh, it’s really sad to see.” It adds so much to the performance, the costumes. 

It must. How long does it take to do the hair alone? That must take hours! 

Two and a half hours, because I wear a wig. A lot of it is prepped before and they’re actually really light. I think they found a way throughout the seasons to make it more dynamic so that we’re not logged with these things and our heads are in pain! They’re done so meticulously and it’s quite quick. I love getting ready in the morning with the girls. I’m so close to them all. It’s amazing to sit in the chair and start your day like that. It gives you a nice wind-up to the day. Gradually, you’re like “I’m awake now!” because you are up at around 4:30 am in the car and then start hair and makeup at 6:00 am to be on set for 8:30. So it’s a good way to wake up in the morning with some tunes.

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

Have you become good friends with a lot of the other cast members? 

Yeah, we’re so fortunate on this show. And, you know, when we say that we all really get on, we really do mean that we really get on. It’s been five and a half years since we all started or were cast and we’ve grown up a lot as well. And it’s wonderful to see people getting recognized for their work and their talent and their skill — and also who they are as people. Some of the most kind, loving people I’ve met are on this show. So I feel very lucky to work with them and to call them my friends as well.

It must be quite a transformation when you’re on set and actually playing this role that’s rather backstabbing. Cressida becomes a bit of a villain in the new season. Let’s talk a little bit about some of these exciting plot twists that we have coming up – including the fact that she pretends to be Lady Whistledown, which is quite a massively pivotal role to play!  It’s an extreme departure from what one would have expected. So maybe you can elaborate on the buildup to that, as well as how you approached those scenes as an actress. 

Yeah, I did know that was coming, but in the book, it’s very different to how it’s written in the scripts. In the script, there’s a real force of desperation that she needs to free herself and get herself out of the situation that she’s in. And this seems like the perfect ticket to freedom, but she hasn’t thought it through at all. It’s like, “this is a great idea!” A light bulb moment. She’s like, let’s go! And really commits to it. I admire her for committing to all of these things, but then we start to see it really unravel, because she’s constantly chasing the next thing. You know, now she’s got to go in front of the queen and essentially is asking for money from the queen — but that’s stealing from the queen. And then she gets outed by Lady Whistledown, that it’s not her, and it’s a mess. So she hasn’t had time to stop and go, “Okay, what am I doing here?”

Even though she does revert to being cruel and cunning and starts to manipulate the situation to the best of her ability, it really comes from a place of, “oh my God, what am I going to do?” And the only other option she has is to give in. But that would be to see a life that’s so restrictive. And Eloise has opened her mind to seeing the possibility of life, and how beautiful it can be. She so badly wants to chase that and to figure out who she is and what she wants from life. Going to her Aunt Joanna’s in Wales is just not where she’s going to find freedom and happiness. I think she will stop to realize what she’s done in order to get there. When you try to climb your way to the top, you’re pushing on a lot of people and stepping on a lot of people to get there. And that’s not the way to go about it. But it’s not something she’s aware of. She’s got a naivety to her. And having that naivety and ignorance to things does get you into trouble. 

Bridgerton. (L to R) Jessica Madsen as Cressida Cowper, Nicola Coughlan as Penelope Featherington in episode 308 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024

I did think it was fascinating the shift when she decides to blackmail Penelope towards the end. This is such a dramatic moment. 

It’s about control and power. You know, and so she goes, “Okay, this is what I can do. I can go and blackmail her and then I’ll get even more money.” Which sucks because I wish she didn’t do it. 

Do people actually recognize you on the street as Cressida? Do you ever get fans coming up to you? 

Yeah, I have since this first half of this season has come out, I’ve had a few people come up to me and be like, “are you Cressida Cowper?”

She’s the perfect character to hate. She’s not a likable character, per se. There is humanity to her, but she maintains this presence as a classic bitch. There must also be that component of the fans’ negative reaction to her. How do you manage to deal with not taking any of that personally?

Well, one, I don’t read it! Yeah. But actually the response from this first half has been really wonderful to see. People are really warm to her and said they’re surprised that they feel for her and they like her. And I, you know, I am a bit like “Oh gosh, I hope, you know, I’m not hated too much.” Cause I do know that a lot of people find it difficult sometimes to separate an actor from the character. But that’s part of the job and we can’t always be nice because we have stories to tell and people to represent. And you know, we have to jog people’s attention. We have to provoke and have people think about things and, and reflect on their own lives and people that they know and different stories that are around us all the time that we see represented on TV. I’ve never been one to really take much personally, which is something I’m very glad my parents gave me. 

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

That’s smart too as an actress. You know, you have to separate the character from yourself. It’s two different things, obviously. Bridgerton has become such a phenomenon, right? I think because it launched during the pandemic, where everybody was also at home streaming, non-stop, all day, all night. You know, it really sunk under people’s skin and they were obsessed by the show and all the spin-offs of the show. How does it feel to be part of such a groundbreaking series? 

It’s quite hard to get your head around it. And I think when it came out, none of us really could grasp the impact that it had because it was the pandemic. When we came back to film the second season, we were like, “Oh, we’re just back with all of our pals and doing this.” But it’s very humbling. I feel very lucky and very fortunate to be a part of this show. I have a lot of love for Shondaland and how much they take a risk on people. When we first started off, a lot of us who were younger weren’t known names or anything like that. They really were looking for people who could do these characters justice. And that felt really amazing. So we’ve all grown up together on the show. And for us, it’s very normal — which I know must sound a bit nuts — but the set’s a very normal place to be. We’re just having some crisps and a can of Coke and doing our thing. It’s very familiar, but I do feel very lucky. 

Before landing the role of Cressida, you were acting in quite a number of other productions. How do you feel your career has evolved since taking such a remarkable role in Bridgerton? Do you feel like it significantly impacted the opportunities you’re getting now? 

Well, because I’ve been on the show, I like to think it will. I definitely have really interesting material coming in. It feels like there’s a very exciting chapter for me coming up. But yeah, it was lovely this time around to be in a dress. Because I think in the past I’ve always played quite dark characters, quite raw and rough around the edges. And it was great to be Cressida and to lean into my feminine side. I’m up for everything. I’ll do anything. I want to play cool roles — characters who feel complex and interesting — and work with great people. It’s my dream. 

I saw that you’ve been previously featured in the movie Rambo: Last Blood and these productions are just one extreme to the other to Bridgerton, right? But you’ve also done quite a few period dramas. Mr. Selfridge and Tina and Bobby. You have been repeatedly going back to these historical dramas. What interests you in performing characters from different eras? 

We love period drama in the UK, that’s for sure! Delving into loads of different eras is really fun. The costumes are amazing. The way you speak and the way it’s written is really fun to explore. I think we speak so differently in today’s world. It was really fun to play something very different. I’ve done some horror films, which are really fun as well. I love shooting a horror film. They’re actually the funnest to shoot. You do have a lot of laughs on horror films. It’s always fun when you’ve got choreographed things, like the stabbings. Choreography is really fun in a show.  Same on Bridgerton, we get to dance. So I like to use different skill sets and be challenged and tested. I always want to play a part that has a challenge to it. 

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

Are there any roles that you would love to play in the future? 

I would love to do some action. I think action would be really fun. I’d get into some stunts. I’ve never used a sword. I’ve done guns, so swords would be quite fun. But for me it’s really heavily about characters and a lot of my favorite films are foreign films. I love indie films as well. To Leslie was one of my favorite films in recent years, where they had a very small cast and they shot it over two and a half weeks during lockdown. The performances in that are just so incredible. And it’s a beautiful story as well — It’s simple, but it’s told so beautifully. For me, it all comes down to the other actor you’re working with and how far you can go to explore with them. 

What do you feel have been the most challenging aspects of your career so far?

You have to have a lot of patience as an actor … perseverance and patience. There’s a lot of downtime, and it’s pacing yourself and making sure that you’re in the best form that you can be because you never know when the next part is coming. It’s very unpredictable. There is a lot of rejection, but I do also think that not taking everything personally is really important. And when the part is right for you, it will happen. I think it’s important to hold on to that. You want to work with people who also want to work with you and you have to have a lot of faith and hope. But when you’re doing the job, it is the best job to have. So it’s worth it. 

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

So on a personal note, I understand that you recently came out on Instagram as queer, which has gotten a lot of attention in the press and news. Can you tell me a little bit about how important it is to advocate for LGBTQ+ representation in the entertainment industry and why you decided to share this side of your personal life at this time?

Yeah, it felt like the right thing to do. And I really wanted to share that. I felt like I had a responsibility to be supportive and open about it and to share my pride in it too. I like to think that we’ll get to a place where it doesn’t matter what your sexuality is. But right now, we’re not in that place. There is still prejudice and I think we have to continue to be brave about it. I like to think that there’ll be a time when it doesn’t matter whether queer characters are played by straight or queer people and vice versa. All of that can just become normal. We’re not quite there yet, but it’s been so amazing to see in the last couple of years how strong people are and brave people are and that a lot of it is changing. But yeah, I thought, if more people had done that when I was younger, I think I would have had a very different life.

Yeah. Did you feel it was challenging to come out publicly? Was that a big decision that you had to make or was it just a natural progression? 

No, it wasn’t. I think it took me a while to identify my queerness and to allow me to figure that out in myself. It was a journey, and it’s not been so obvious to me throughout my life. Growing up with very straight representation everywhere, from adverts to books, I didn’t have it in my head that I could live that way. That was normal, you know? That’s something that, now that I know that of myself, I want to be able to stand proudly and be like, “Yes!” But no, it was an exciting thing for me to come out. It felt like it was the right time. I probably would have done it sooner, but it felt like Pride Month was the right time to do it. I also like to be very private with my life. So I also didn’t want to expose any of my loved ones in the process of doing that.

JESSICA MADSEN – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine.

Yeah, fair enough. I do find that a lot of English talent, you know particularly film and TV talent tend to be far more private in the UK and Europe. It’s interesting – for example, Instagram and social media aren’t such a thing. It’s just a very different concept of privacy. So what advice would you give to other aspiring actors or actresses who are starting their journey and would love to get the opportunities that you have had in the industry?

To be true to yourself and to check in with yourself and stand strong and take risks. You know, I think we only limit ourselves. People can try to limit you around you, but you’ve got to be brave and just go for it. What you think is going to be a potential failure never really is as much of a failure as you think it’s going to be. You have to just throw yourself out to every opportunity and wholeheartedly believe that you can do it. I wish sometimes I had a little bit more faith in myself when I was younger to take risks. I was a little more conscious of, “Oh gosh, can I, can’t I?” And I think you just have to be like, “Well, I don’t know, but let’s see, and just go with it, and give in, and have fun, and find joy.” Because without the joy in anything, life is difficult. If you feel like you need training, go and find classes or workshops that you can do or go to drama school. For me, I didn’t feel like I was quite ready to just start working. And I did have an agent before I went to drama school. I was like, I need a place where I can just go and fuck up and see what happens. I needed a safe place. And so it really gave me that. And it, and it stretched my skills and it made me a little bit more of a risk-taker and a better listener.

Obviously, you must have had quite a busy time with the new season of Bridgerton just releasing. Do you have any other projects in the pipeline that you want to share or any exciting plans for the summer that you’re looking forward to? What do you do when you’re not on the set of Bridgerton

When I’m not doing Bridgerton, I really love doing photography. I’m trying to get arty and weird with that with whoever’s up for it. And I love to paint as well. I try to keep creative. I think it’s really important in between filming to remain creative and spontaneous. I’m hoping London will get sunnier, because I love the city when it’s sunny. I’m hoping for that and then I have a trip to Ibiza planned, so I’m looking forward to that! 

That should be fun! 

Yeah. I really want to work as well. I miss work so much. So I hope that some new work will come my way soon.

Oh, I’m sure it will. And you can dance the summer away on the beach in Ibiza and just celebrate the incredible new season that you’ve just released. It’s very exciting. I’m curious to see where it’s going next in future seasons since she’s become such an important character to the show.

Congratulations on all that! And thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me. I really appreciate what a pleasure it has been to interview you. 

Thanks so much!

Head over to The UNTITLED podcast on Spotify to check out the full interview by Indira Cesarine and Jessica Madsen for our debut episode! 

Jessica Madsen – Photographed by David Reiss for The Untitled Magazine, Interview by Indira Cesarine live now on The UNTITLED Podcast on SPOTIFY

Interview by Indira Cesarine for The Untitled Magazine
Photography: David Reiss

Stylist: Emily Tight at Carol Hayes Management
Make up: Emma Miles at Caren using Augustinus Bader
Hair: Davide Barbieri at A Frame 
Nails: Chiara Ballasai at The Only Agency 
Photography Assistant: Gabor Herczegfalvi
Stylist Assistant: Alfred Humpries



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