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Who is Masali Baduza? Meet Bridgerton’s Next Leading Lady

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Well, it’s safe to say avid readers of Julia Quinn’s Bridgerton series did not see that season three finale coming!

Warning spoilers ahead.

Masali Baduza as Michaela Stirling in Bridgerton Season Three.
Masali Baduza joins Bridgerton as Michaela Stirling. (Credit: Netflix)

Who is Michaela Stirling in Bridgerton?

The final episode of Bridgerton’s season three saw Francesca’s new husband John Stirling introduce 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.”

Whilst the quick scene may not seem to be a big deal, it’s actually quite significant for fans who are familiar with Francesca’s Bridgerton book, When He Was Wicked, which sees the Bridgerton sister fall for John’s cousin Michael, in a slow-burning friends-to-lovers storyline that’s full of heartbreak, twists and turns.

Bridgerton showrunnerJess Brownell previously told Deadline that she had envisioned “the Francesca queer story from the beginning,”

“When I read her book, I, as a queer woman, really related to her book. Maybe in a way Julia Quinn didn’t intend, but a lot of Francesca’s book is about feeling different from her family and from the world around her and not really knowing why,” she explained. “In the book, I think it’s mostly just about being introverted. But I think for a lot of queer people, not every queer person, but a lot of queer people, that sense of feeling different from the time you’re young, is part of our stories. So it felt like a natural one to gender bend.”

Masali Baduza Red Carpet
The South African actress is set to return to Bridgerton. (Credit: Getty)

Who is Masali Baduza?

While we may have to wait for season four to learn more about Francesca and Michaela’s storyline, that hasn’t stopped fans from learning what they can about the South African actress who is set to join the cast.

The 28-year-old actress was raised outside of Cape Town and graduated from the New York Film Academy Los Angeles in 2016.

She made her film debut in 2019 and has since added a number of acting credits to her portfolio, including Noughts + Crosses, Sephy, and The Woman King alongside Viola Davis.

Her upcoming role in Bridgerton, while still a surprise to many, was not completely left-of-centre. Her name had been mentioned sporadically by fans on Reddit over the past year after internet sleuths noted that she followed (and was followed back by) several leading Bridgerton actors.

Bridgerton's Francesca played by Hannah Dodd.
Francesca’s story is full of twists and turns. (Credit: Netflix)

Will Masali Baduza be in season four of Bridgerton?

Although her scene in season three of the hit Netflix show may have been brief, Jess Brownell made it clear in an interview with Glamour that she plans to bring Masali Baduza back as Michaela Stirling, and to give Francesca and Michaela a “happily ever after, as we have with every other couple.”

The showrunner revealed to the publication that Masali made an immediate impression on both her and Hannah Dodd, who plays Francesca after the two actresses met in a chemistry read.

“After Masali left, [Hannah] said, ‘Well, that’s her,’” Jess said, adding that Masali “is an incredible actress, and she and I have had a lot of talks about the weight and importance of her role. She’s really stepped into it with wonderful energy. 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.”

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