11:48am PT by Lesley Goldberg
Inside Rege-Jean Page's 'Bridgerton' Departure
Netflix's Bridgerton sent shockwaves through its seemingly large fan base last week with the formal announcement that leading man Regé-Jean Page would not return for the second season of the Shondaland drama.
Page originally signed on to the Regency England-set series with a one-year deal to play male lead Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings. The plan from the start was for each season of Shonda Rhimes-produced drama to focus on a different one of the eight Bridgerton siblings and their quest for marriage. That follows the same trajectory as author Julia Quinn's best-selling book series on which Bridgerton is based.
While season one focused on the story of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) and her romance with Simon (Page), showrunner Chris Van Dusen told The Hollywood Reporter ahead of Bridgerton's Christmas debut that he hoped both characters would be back beyond the show's freshman season. "I would love to be able to see them again and also at the same time explore the other brothers and sisters of the family."
Sources close to the show tell THR that Page was offered an opportunity to return as a guest star in three to five episodes of season two — at a rate of $50,000 an episode — but declined for a multitude of reasons.
Page told Variety that he was drawn to Bridgerton because the role was a "one-season arc" with a "beginning, middle, end" that allowed him to come in, "contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on."
Page, sources say, is laser focused on his burgeoning film career. The actor, who previously worked with Shondaland on ABC's two-season legal drama For the People, recently wrapped filming the Russo brothers' Netflix film The Gray Man, opposite Chris Evans, Ryan Gosling and Ana de Armas. He next stars in Paramount's big-budget Dungeons and Dragons feature, opposite Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez and Justice Smith. Sources note Page's camp has also been flooded with film offers following his breakout role in Bridgerton, which also led to a critically praised gig hosting NBC's Saturday Night Live in February.
Sources say nearly everyone close to the show knew Page only had a one-year deal for Bridgerton. The plan from the start was for the sophomore season to be based on Quinn's The Viscount Who Loved Me and revolve around Jonathan Bailey's Anthony Bridgerton, with Page's Simon never planned to be part of the story.
Few could have predicted that Bridgerton would become Netflix's most watched original series ever or that Page would become its fan favorite. Sources say the production reached out to Page's camp in January or February with an offer to return — after he and the show broke out — even though plans for season two never included his character, Simon.
With Page's film career taking off and an awareness that Simon would not be a focal point in season two, the actor declined to return to the Shondaland drama. Page's season one leading lady, Dynevor, will continue to be featured in Bridgerton as her character, Daphne, remains an integral member of the family at the center of the show.
Reps for Netflix, producers Shondaland and Page declined comment.
Production on season two of Bridgerton recently began in London as the show's first table read took place March 29. Page, meanwhile, completed filming The Gray Man last week and will begin a months-long shoot in Ireland for D&D at the end of the month.
As for a return in a potential third season of Bridgerton, sources say the door remains open to Page. As the show's Lady Whistledown said following Page's departure, "We'll miss Simon's presence onscreen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family."
Mia Galuppo contributed reporting to this story.