Who Is Bridgerton ’s New Character Michaela Stirling? Book Differences, Actor Details & More

Courtesy of Netflix.

Warning: this post contains spoilers for Bridgerton season 3 on Netflix, as well as Julia Quinn's Bridgerton book series.

In the finale of Bridgerton season 3, a character named Michaela Stirling makes quite the entrance as newlyweds Francesca Bridgerton and John Stirling get ready to head off to Scotland.

"I caution you” are Michaela Stirling's first words to Francesca, who has just married her cousin John. "Every sordid detail John has spoken about me is a lie," she continues. "The truth is far worse."

Even before Michaela utters what are undeniably some unforgettable first words, Francesca's reaction upon seeing her, mouth agape and all, already lets viewers know Michaela won't be just any character — as Julia Quinn's book readers could infer from the name and family relation alone.

Series showrunner Jess Brownell confirmed season 4 of Bridgerton likely won't arrive until 2026, meaning we have a two-year wait between seasons and more than enough time to gather all the clues we need about our new and existing characters, starting with the one poised to stir things up quite a bit: Michaela Stirling. Below, find everything we know about the new characters introduced in Bridgerton's season 3 finale, including how the story compares to the books.

→ Michaela Stirling in the show
→ Julia Quinn on the genderswap
→ Michaela Stirling's actor
→ Michaela Stirling in season 4
→ Michael Stirling in the books
→ Book and show differences
→ John Stirling's fate

Who is Michaela Stirling?

<h1 class="title">All You Need to Know About Bridgerton's New Character Michaela Stirling </h1><cite class="credit">Courtesy of Netflix.</cite>

All You Need to Know About Bridgerton's New Character Michaela Stirling

Courtesy of Netflix.

Michaela Stirling is a new character in Netflix's Bridgerton series. She is a genderswapped reinterpretation of the character Michael Stirling, who first appears in Julia Quinn's When He Was Wicked, the sixth book of the series, which follows Francesca's love story. Much like her book counterpart, Michaela Striling is the cousin of Lord John Stirling, Francesca's husband.

"The reveal of Michaela versus Michael, from the books, is something that I've been pitching from season one of the show," showrunner Jess Brownell admitted to Teen Vogue. “My approach to telling a queer story on Bridgerton has been to look to the books for thematic cues. I didn't want to just insert a queer character for queer character's sake. I want to tell a story that accurately reflects a queer experience, and the first time I read Francesca's book, I really identified with it as a queer woman. Maybe not in the way Julia Quinn intended.”

<cite class="credit">LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX</cite>

Brownell admitted she got Julia Quinn's blessing for the genderswap. "We talked about the fact that with almost any single book, there would be a side of the fandom that would be disheartened to see their favorite characters changed. I don't think that there is any book that wouldn't happen with, so for me, again, it came back to story, and it came back to character. Because Francesca's book resonated [with me] in the way that it did, it felt like a natural adaptation," she explained.

Related: Bridgerton Showrunner Clarifies Benedict’s Sexuality & Talks Francesca’s Queer Plot Twist After Season 3 Finale

Speaking to Glamour, Brownell also clarified that "the reveal of Francesca's future queerness negates what she has with John." She added: "I personally don't believe in a hierarchy of relationships. Every relationship is different, and lots of different kinds of love are valid. The kind of love she has for John is very real. It's much more based on companionship and friendship and respect and shared interests than it is perhaps on passion. But passion is just one element of a relationship. Going forward, I'm hopeful to tell a very nuanced story about Francesca having two great loves in her life."


Has Bridgerton creator Julia Quinn said anything about Michaela Stirling's genderswap?

As mentioned above, Brownell has confirmed she got Julia Quinn's blessing for the genderswap in interviews. However, Quinn herself also publicly stood behind the change in a statement posted to her Instagram account on June 25, 2024.

“Anyone who has seen an interview with me from the past four years knows that I am deeply committed to the Bridgerton world becoming more diverse and inclusive as the stories move from book to screen,” Quinn said in her statement, adding that “switching the gender of a major character is a huge change," so, of course, she had some hesitations.

“When Jess Brownell first approached me with the idea of turning Michael into Michaela for the show, I needed more information before conferring my agreement,” Quinn continued. “I trust Shondaland's vision for Bridgerton, but I wanted to be sure that we could remain true to the spirit of the book and of the characters.”

Per Quinn, she and Brownell had plenty of conversations about the genderswap and she made it clear that “it was extremely important to me that Francesca's abiding love for John be shown on screen” as she had to fight for the story to be included in the books in the first place. "

“My publisher was worried that writing about Fran's love for John would take away from Michael's role as the eventual romance novel hero,” Quinn explained. “But I felt that if I didn't show how deeply she loved John, and how deeply Michael, his cousin, also loved him, then their feelings of guilt at falling in love with each other after John's death made no sense. I didn't want to just tell the reader that they loved him. I wanted the reader to feel it.”

“I'm confident now that when Francesca has her Bridgerton season, it will be the most emotional and heart-wrenching story of the show, just like When He Was Wicked has always been the true tear-jerker of the Bridgerton book series," Quinn continued. "Honestly, it may pack even more of a punch since John is getting a lot more time on the screen than he ever did on the page, and I think it's fair to say we've all fallen a little bit in love with him.”

Quinn rounded off her statement, writing, “I am grateful for your understanding and touched by your deep commitment to the characters of the Bridgerton world. I ask that you grant me and the Shondaland team some faith as we move forward. I think we are going to end up with two stories, one on page and one on screen, and they will both be beautiful and moving.”


Who plays Michaela Stirling in Netflix's Bridgerton?

<h1 class="title">2022 Toronto International Film Festival - "The Woman King" Premiere</h1><cite class="credit">Isaiah Trickey</cite>

2022 Toronto International Film Festival - "The Woman King" Premiere

Isaiah Trickey

Michaela Stirling is played by South African actor and NYFA alum Masali Baduza in season 3 of Netflix's Bridgerton. Speaking about the casting choice with Glamour, Brownell said Baduza "absolutely nailed" her audition for the role.

"We flew her out the moment we saw her tape to do a chemistry read with Hannah [Dodd, who plays Francesca]," she told the outlet. "I remember the moment Hannah met Masali. After Masali left, she said, 'Well, that's her.' Hannah could feel it."

Brownell added that she and Baduza chatted at length about "the weight and importance of her role" and praised her for her "wonderful energy." She added: “I can't wait for people to get to know her more. I'm just sad that people are only getting to meet her for those 10 seconds at the end of season 3 because she's incredible.”


Will Michaela Stirling appear in Bridgerton season 4?

<cite class="credit">LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX</cite>

The short answer is: Yes, Michaela Stirling will appear in Bridgerton season 4. However, we don't know exactly in what capacity. Speaking to Glamour, Brownell openly confirmed we will see more of Baduza as Michaela in the upcoming season 4 of Bridgerton but refused to share more details.

ICYMI, when Bridgerton premiered on Netflix, it followed the same order as Julia Quinn's book series, first centering on Daphne's love story, mirroring the plot of book one, The Duke and I, and then Anthony's, which is told in the series' second book The Viscount Who Loved Me. However, the show started deviating from the books with season 3, which centers on Colin Bridgerton and Penelope Feathritington's friends-to-lovers story and corresponds to book four in Quinn's original series, titled Romancing Mister Bridgerton.

Related: Bridgerton Showrunner Confirms Two-Year Wait for Season 4

While the love story for season 4 has already been picked internally, it is yet to be publicly shared. Brownell admitted it's going to be either Benedict, Eloise, or Francesca, adding, “All three of them have a lot of growth still ahead of them, and that's very intentional.”

The showrunner also teased that production for the show will move to Scotland at some point. "I can't say when. But at some point, the old Bridgerton production will pick up its crew and do some shooting in Scotland," she teased.


What happens to Michael Stirling in the Bridgerton books?

<cite class="credit">LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX</cite>

In the books, Michael Stirling ends up marrying Francesca following John's unexpected death from an aneurysm just two years after they first tied the knot, which could mean Francesca and John's story is yet to be explored fully in the Bridgerton series before we move on to the new romance.

In the books, Michael inherits John's title as the Earl of Kilmartin, as well as his estate and duties. However, he and Francesca don't start a relationship right away. Though it is later known that Michael felt something from Francesca from the first moment he met her, after John's death, he flees to India for four years, leaving Francesca in charge of the Kilmartin estate. Upon his return to England, the two reconnect and later marry, welcoming two children: John Stirling II and Janet Stirling II.


Will Michael Stirling and Michaela Striling's storylines be the same?

<cite class="credit">LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX</cite>

Seeing much of the plot in When He Was Wicked is moved by the fact that Michael is a man, you can expect the Netflix show to take some liberties while adapting the story for Michaela. However, Brownell has said she will still honor the book's "themes" when adapting the story for the small screen.

"I know for people who love the book When He Was Wicked that Michael Stirling is one of their favorite characters," she told Glamour. "I understand that people are going to have feelings about the fact that this character won't appear exactly as they expected. But first of all, we are going to try to honor the themes of the book as much as possible. Obviously, some changes will have to be made to the storyline, but there are ways to honor a lot of the book."

"I would also just say that the book still stands. Michael Stirling still exists in book world. Whereas, queer audiences haven't gotten the chance to see themselves represented in a major way on the show, which is a show that is in so many other ways so inclusive," she added. "So I would just ask people to channel some empathy for those viewers, and to understand the importance of us allowing those viewers to see themselves represented."

Speaking to Deadline, Brownell also teased that Francesca and Michaela will have their happy ending. "There are certain elements of her story, historically, that allow us some wiggle room in terms of creating a happily ever after, which we very much want to have," she said. "I think when approaching a queer story, it's very important to me that in this world of happily ever afters that we are able to see a queer happily ever after and not let it be queer trauma."


Will John Stirling die in Netflix's Bridgerton?

<h1 class="title">Bridgerton. (L to R) Victor Alli as John Stirling, James Duke as Minister Hughes, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 308 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024.jpg</h1><cite class="credit">LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX</cite>

Bridgerton. (L to R) Victor Alli as John Stirling, James Duke as Minister Hughes, Hannah Dodd as Francesca Bridgerton in episode 308 of Bridgerton. Cr. Liam Daniel/Netflix © 2024.jpg


While we don't know for sure, it does look like John Stirling, played by Victor Alli, will die on Netflix's Bridgerton, much like in the book. Speaking to People, Alli seemed to tease his character's fate, saying, “It's going to be quite tough [for Francesca]. Someone who she loved, or still loves maybe, is gone. That's tough. And she becomes a widow really early on, and it's going to be so hard. We've never seen anything like that for any of the siblings, any of the Bridgerton siblings. So yeah, it's going to be so hard. And I don't know how she's going to handle that. I don't know what she's going to go through or the challenges she may face, but my hope is that she is able to get through.”


Originally Appeared on Teen Vogue

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