In a Vanity Fair piece on Tuesday, she joined fellow executive producer Betsy Beers in conversation, noting that the reaction isn’t one she would have anticipated. “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!” she said. “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.”
The reaction left Rhimes wondering: What would the actor’s character, Duke of Hastings Simon Bassett do, if he were to return for Season 2, alongside his romantic interest, Phoebe Dynevor’s Daphne Bridgerton? (Dynevor will, in fact, be returning in the season to come.) “What would be the ever-after of this combo?” she said. “We gave them their happily ever after! And now we have this next couple coming. And so yeah, I was like, whoa!”
In the interview, the producer noted that she has often had to kill off popular characters, over the course of her last 20 years in show business. “That’s our job… is finding guys. I mean, hopefully ladies too, but finding men that our audiences find devastatingly attractive and they become incredibly overly attached to,” said the Shondaland founder, who was also behind such series as Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, “and they get enraged…when we move them about in any way.”
The news of Page’s exit was first unveiled on Netflix’s Twitter account, in the form of a letter penned by Bridgerton character Lady Whistledown. Following the announcement, Rhimes wrote on Instagram, “Remember: the Duke is never gone. He’s just waiting to be binge watched all over again. #ShondalandMenOnNetflixAreForever.”
While Page’s turn in the period drama thrust him onto the world stage, as an actor to watch, his character was never intended to appear in the series, after the end of Season 1, according to sources familiar with the matter. Deadline hears that given Page’s immense popularity, an effort was made to bring the actor back for guest star role in Season 2, but the deal never materialized. Still, the character will supposedly be referenced in the series, going forward.
Created by Chris Van Dusen, Bridgerton is based on a series of novels by Julia Quinn. Taking a look at wealth lust and betrayal within the context of Regency-era England, through the eyes of the powerful Bridgerton family, the series was recently renewed for a third and fourth season.
With the show in the rearview mirror, Page has already lined up his next projects. He is slated to star, opposite Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, in Joe and Anthony Russo’s action thriller The Gray Man, and will also appear in Dungeons & Dragons, from directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein.