Regé-Jean Page Talks Inclusivity in Hollywood and Life After ‘Bridgerton’

Regé-Jean Page posed elegantly for the latest issue of Variety as he discussed racial equality in Hollywood, his departure from Bridgerton, and what is to come. The 31-year-old actor is best known for his captivating portrayal of Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, in Netflix’s Regency-era drama, Bridgerton. Page’s passionate character captured the hearts of audiences as a result of his romance with Daphne Bridgerton, played by Phoebe Dynevor.
Liam Daniel / Netflix

Regé-Jean Page posed elegantly for the latest issue of Variety as he discussed racial equality in Hollywood, his departure from Bridgerton, and what is to come. The 31-year-old actor is best known for his captivating portrayal of Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, in Netflix’s Regency-era drama, Bridgerton. Page’s passionate character captured the hearts of audiences as a result of his romance with Daphne Bridgerton, played by Phoebe Dynevor. 

After a wildly popular first season with—according to Netflix—over 82 million households watching, fans were excited to see more of Page in later seasons. When the show announced the beloved Duke would not be returning to Bridgerton for a second season, fans were heartbroken, even angry. However, Page explained in his Variety interview that the Duke’s exit is justified since his character arc is complete.

“Simon was this bomb of a one-season antagonist, to be reformed and to find his true self through Daphne,” the actor stated to Variety. “I think one of the bravest things about the romance genre is allowing people a happy ending.”

Bridgerton executive producer, Shonda Rhimes, has made a name for herself for creating series that often abruptly write or kill off characters such as Grey’s Anatomy. In the Variety featureRhimes recalled that although she was used to the outpour of emotion after writing a character off, she did not expect that reaction for Simon. She assumed fans would recognize the happy ending as a sign that Bassett’s story had come to a positive end. 

“We’re used to speculation and drama when I kill a character off of a show, but this was different,” Rhimes stated to Variety. “Regé was just doing what his character was written to do — ride off, alive, into his happily ever after.”

Page’s role as the Duke is just as impactful off-screen as it is on-screen. Seeing a Black actor in this role is impactful for audiences and even encourages diverse thinking.

“As Black people, we’re very used to empathizing with the world through white people’s eyes, because they’re the protagonists. I know what it’s like to look at the world and empathize with Superman because I spent my whole life doing that,” Page stated in his interview with Variety. The importance of a complex Black male lead is clear as it allows for audiences to see the world through his eyes, as well as allow the viewers to connect with Black characters, which has been restricted in the past due to the lack of diversity.

Page’s portrayal of a Black man with status is revolutionary in terms of representation. While People of Color historically have been excluded from prominent roles, particularly leads with a romantic plot, Simon is a central character and a major pillar in the season. Page’s memorable performance as the Duke paved the way for equality in television, especially period pieces.

“It’s so simple. I can get on a horse and I can put it on the screen; that’s step one,” he stated. “I can be royalty, and [other people of color] can see the possibility of being royalty. Standing there, wearing the boots and the jacket, doing the dances, inhabiting a space that is perfectly possible for me to inhabit, changes how you see the world.”

Simon’s character introduced a conversation of representation and diversity and its importance while delivering pure entertainment and whimsical love in season one of Bridgerton. Although Page is not returning, he has many roles lined up, including James Bond in an upcoming installment of the film series.

Meanwhile, production on Season 2 of Bridgerton has begun and will focus on the second book in Julia Quinn’s series and highlight the life and experiences of Lord Anthony Bridgerton. 

For the full feature, check out Variety’s cover story.