Why was Francesca Bridgerton actress Ruby Stokes replaced in Netflix series?

Strange things have been happening in the “ton”, dear reader, and even Lady Whistledown herself would be surprised at how dramatically one of the Bridgerton sisters has changed since we last saw her in season two of the hugely successful Netflix series.

Francesca – who is the younger sister of Anthony (Jonathan Bailey), Benedict (Luke Thompson), Colin (Luke Newton), Daphne (Phoebe Dynevor) and Eloise (Claudia Jessie), and older sister to Gregory and Hyacinth – looks very different in the third season as she is played by a new actress, Hannah Dodd, who replaces Ruby Stokes in the role.

Ruby actually left Bridgerton midway through filming the second season, due to other commitments. As well as her part in the show as Francesca, she had won the lead role of Lucy in the Netflix series Lockwood & Co, based on the bestselling supernatural detective books of the same name.

So Ruby – who had a minor role in the final episode of season one of Bridgerton but was expected to have a bigger part to play in the second season – departed the ton after shooting three episodes of the second season of Bridgerton to start the other series.

Ruby Stokes as Francesca
Ruby Stokes (far left) as Francesca Bridgerton -Credit:LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX
Hannah Dodd as Francesca
Hannah Dodd joins Bridgerton season 3 as Francesca -Credit:LIAM DANIEL/NETFLIX

Bridgerton executive producer Chris Van Dusen explained to TV Line at the time: “I love [the character of] Francesca, but we lost her midway through Season 2. After exhausting all other options, she unfortunately had to come out due to reasons beyond our control.”

Ruby explained to WhattoWatch the reason behind her decision to leave: "Leaving was always going to be a difficult choice, but something about Lucy spoke to me. It was a chance to explore a very different character and I’ve learned a great deal playing a young adult at the helm of a show. I just felt it was an opportunity I couldn’t turn down!"

Unfortunately, Lockwood & Co was cancelled by Netflix after just one season. Meanwhile, Ruby’s role was recast for Bridgerton season three, with Colchester-born actress Hannah Dodd taking on the part of the younger sibling who makes her debut into society this season.

Hannah Dodd and Nicola Coughlan
Hannah Dodd and Nicola Coughlan in Bridgerton -Credit:LAURENCE CENDROWICZ/NETFLIX

Hannah, 28, began her career as a model and a dancer before starring in the teen series Find Me In Paris. She also appeared in the period drama Harlots, as Sprite in the Marvel movie Eternals, and alongside Millie Bobby Brown in Enola Holmes 2 in 2022.

While the character of Francesca doesn’t get her own story in the novels until book six, When He Was Wicked, her role is substantially larger in the show this year, with her own potential romances running alongside the main story of Penelope and Colin’s friendship/love affair.

In a preview to the series, Netflix describes Francesca as “a bit of a mystery within her chatty, extroverted family. Despite her reserved nature, she goes along to get along when it comes to society affairs, fortified with a dry wit and pragmatism that confound the fickle ton yet seem to draw attention when she least desires it".