Shonda Rhimes is shocked that Bridgerton fans are so shocked by the news that breakout star Regé-Jean Page will not be returning for Season 2 — in part, because it’s not as if the Duke of Hastings got hit by a Seattle city bus.
Netflix (via Lady Whistledown) announced earlier this month that Page won’t appear in Season 2 as Simon Basset — a move that was widely expected considering the triply-renewed period sudser’s next chapter will take a page from Julia Quinn’s second novel and focus on Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s (Jonathan Bailey) quest for a bride. (That said, Page’s leading lady, Phoebe Dynevor, will be back, given that “Daphne will remain a devoted wife and sister, helping her brother navigate the upcoming social season and what it has to offer.”)
Yet even though the books foretold Page and Simon’s absence, many fans feel they are being deprived of one of the show’s main attractions.
Juxtaposing the Bridgerton backlash with what she has observed over the years whenever ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy offed one character or another, Rhimes told Vanity Fair, “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 [the Duke], he’s still alive!”
Rhimes affirmed that Page had always and only been signed to a one-season deal, though he was invited to return for Season 2 cameos — reportedly at $50,000 a pop, though by some accounts he declined since his character would not be the focus. “[T]here’s a lot of fantastically interesting talk that’s been going on, mainly ’cause I think people are having a hard time letting go,” Rhimes said. “He’s a busy man!”
Rhimes said that the passionate reaction to Page’s Season 2 absence demonstrates that, when all is said and done, Shondaland did its job right. “He’s amazing, but that’s our job and something that [production partner] Betsy [Beers] and I have been doing since… well, God, has it been 20 years now? Finding guys — I mean, hopefully ladies, too — but finding men that our audiences find devastatingly attractive and they become incredibly overly attached to, and they get enraged about when we move them about in any way.”