Shonda Rhimes, executive producer of Bridgerton, recently responded to the collective reaction to the news that actor Regé-Jean Page will not return for season 2. Bridgerton season 1 premiered on Netflix last Christmas. It's the first title to come from Netflix’s overall deal with Rhimes.
Bridgerton is a small screen adaptation of author Julia Quinn's series of novels of the same name which explores love and lust among Regency-era Britain’s aristocracy. Season 1 adapted the first book in the series, The Duke and I, which follows the eldest Bridgerton daughter, Daphne (Phoebe Dynever), as she searches for a suitable husband. She finds one in Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings, played by Page. Each book in the series focuses on the trials and tribulations of a different Bridgerton sibling’s search for love. Upon the announcement of season 2, which will bring the second book, The Viscount Who Loved Me, to life, it was also confirmed that Page would not return. However, this came as no surprise to fans of Quinn’s novels, who are aware that the second book focuses on the love quest of the eldest Bridgerton, Anthony.
However, for many Bridgerton viewers, Page’s departure did come as a surprise. And a rather disappointing one, at that. The reaction even shocked Rhimes. The executive producer, who is most known for creating Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How To Get Away With Murder, expressed disbelief at the strong response during an interview with Vanity Fair, comparing it to the reactions she usually gets "when I've killed off somebody that's been around for a while." Rhimes continues:
I was really shocked, because usually that happens when I’ve killed off somebody that’s been around for a while. Like, we didn’t kill him, he’s still alive! [Regé-Jean] is a powerful, amazing actor and that meant we did our job—every season, our job is finding the right people and putting together this incredible, world-shifting romance. I don’t know that I expected this much of an explosion, given that every book [in the Bridgerton series] is a different romance. What would be the ever-after of this combo? I mean, really: What would Regé-Jean do, you know what I mean? We gave them their happily ever after! And now we have this next couple coming. And so yeah, I was like, whoa!
As for Page's absence from Bridgerton season 2, it's worth noting that his contract was for only one season; the actor has turned down the possibility of making a cameo appearance to work on other projects. He has publicly expressed gratitude for the support, but also stated that he loves the anthology-like progression of the series, which has just been renewed for seasons 3 and 4.
Though Bridgerton has lost a beloved character with Page, there’s likely more where the Duke of Hastings came from in the steamy department. Though fans are upset about the actor's leaving, they should be glad that the show is taking on new breath and following the events of the source material. This is an example of the show-creator's dedication to prioritizing the story from Quinn's original novels over mere optics. As for Page, fans won’t be without him for long—he will be starring alongside Chris Evans and Ryan Gosling in the upcoming Russo Brothers’ film The Gray Man.