“Bridgerton” fans, the time has come to bid adieu to Simon Basset, the Duke of Hastings.
“Dear Readers, while all eyes turn to Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s quest to find a Viscountess, we bid adieu to Regé-Jean Page, who so triumphantly played the Duke of Hastings,” the message began.
“We’ll miss Simon’s presence onscreen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family,” it continued. “Daphne will remain a devoted wife and sister, helping her brother navigate the upcoming social season and what it has to offer – more intrigue and romance than my readers may be able to bear.”
News of the duke’s departure will likely not come as a surprise to fans of the Julia Quinn novels on which the series is based, as the character’s storyline largely plays out in the first book “The Duke and I.” And the news certainly did not come as a shock to the star.
In fact, the short-term commitment was a big part of the role’s appeal, Page tells Variety exclusively.
“It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end – give us a year,” Page says, recounting early conversations with Shondaland producers, who approached him about the role of Simon after “For the People” wrapped up. “[I thought] ‘That’s interesting,’ because then it felt like a limited series. I get to come in, I get to contribute my bit and then the Bridgerton family rolls on.”
The British-Zimbabwean star adds that he relished the idea that “Bridgerton” is essentially an anthology, with each book (and subsequently season) dedicated to a different sibling’s love story.
“One of the things that is different about this [romance] genre is that the audience knows the arc completes,” he explains. “They come in knowing that, so you can tie people in emotional knots because they have that reassurance that we’re going to come out and we’re going to have the marriage and the baby.”
As such, the dashing duke’s on-screen storyline wraps up with Simon and Daphne solidifying their love story (and the duke exorcising his own daddy issues) with the birth of their first child, a son. Off screen, Page’s time in the Regency era has concluded similarly, as the actor was only contracted for one season of the show.
“I have nothing but excitement for ‘Bridgerton’ continuing to steam train off and conquer the globe,” he says. “But there is also value in completing these arcs and sticking the landing.”
When it comes to “sticking the landing,” “Bridgerton” has earned a perfect 10. The romance show has been a monster hit for Netflix, with the streamer reporting that a record 82 million households devoured the series’ eight episodes in the first month after its Christmas Day release.
The show has also been a critical success. Last week, Page scored the series’ first acting prize, winning the NAACP Image Award for outstanding actor in a drama series.
“This absolutely goes out to all of the incredible people on our team who made something so unique,” Page said, accepting the award virtually.
“It is the highest honor to represent us in the fullness of our beauty, of our glamour, of our splendor, of our royalty, of our romance, of our love,” he continued. “It is the highest honor to represent that and to represent the people I do represent and I will do my absolute best to be worthy of that.”
On the awards front, the cast of “Bridgerton” is nominated for the Screen Actors Guild Award for outstanding performance in an ensemble in a drama series, while Page is also nominated for a SAG Award for his individual performance.
Shondaland boss Shonda Rhimes posted a tribute to the actor on social media after news broke of the duke’s departure.
“Remember: the Duke is never gone. He’s just waiting to be binge watched all over again,” Rhimes wrote in her caption, adding the hashtag #ShondalandMenOnNetflixAreForever
As noted in Lady Whistledown’s post, the show’s second season will focus on the oldest of the Bridgerton clan, Anthony (played by Jonathan Bailey), and his quest for love. Based on the second book in Quinn’s series, titled “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” the new episodes will notably introduce the fan-favorite character Kate Sharma (played by “Sex Education” star Simone Ashley). Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne Bridgerton (now Duchess of Hastings) will also return for the new season, but while Page’s Simon will live on in the “Bridgerton” world as Daphne’s husband, the character will not appear on screen.
Of course, this is not the last fans will see of Page, who previously starred in History’s “Roots” remake and Eugene Ashe’s “Sylvie’s Love” with Tessa Thompson and Nnamdi Asomugha. The actor recently wrapped filming on the Russo brothers’ Netflix spy thriller “The Gray Man,” starring Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans. He is next set to take on the world of “Dungeons & Dragons” with a leading role in a new film adaptation for Hasbro/eOne and Paramount.