This spring saw the second season of Bridgerton launch on Netflix, breaking the streaming giant’s viewership records in the process. The Regency-era romantic drama remains in rude health, then, despite losing its original leading man that helped ensure it became an international phenomenon in the first place. Regé-Jean Page played the dishy Duke of Hastings in 2020’s first season but he was entirely absent from its sophomore run.
While that was disappointing for Simon Basset’s bevy of fans out there, folks were holding out hope that Page could turn up in season three or whenever his busy schedule might permit. It seems, however, that the 34-year-old Brit has ruled out any potential return to the ‘ton. In his latest comments on the topic, Page revealed that he would be happy for show’s bosses to recast his role. “They’re free to do as they like,” he said, indicating he’s truly washed his hands of the series.
Bear in mind, there’s no official indication that producers are planning on recasting the Duke, so fans don’t need to worry about watching an imposter fill Simon’s shoes. The bigger conundrum here is why Page seems so dead-set on moving away from the Duke, given that it was Bridgerton that made his name. So what’s the story here? What’s the actor himself said about it and what other reasons for his exit could there be?
What has Page said?
When it was first announced that Page was out of the picture for Bridgerton season two in April 2021, fans were aghast, so it didn’t take long for the star to talk to the press to clear the air. Once the news came out, Page spoke to Variety to explain why he wasn’t involved.
“It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end—give us a year,” Page recalled, when talking about how the part of Hastings was pitched to him by Shondaland bosses in the first place. “[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.”
“One of the things that is different about this [romance] genre is that the audience knows the arc completes,” Page continued, explaining what the appeal of doing Bridgerton was for him. “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.”
“I have nothing but excitement for Bridgerton continuing to steam train off and conquer the globe,” he concluded, before maintaining that it was for the best if he put his spoon-licking days behind him. “But there is also value in completing these arcs and sticking the landing.”
What might Page not be saying?
Page’s comments are all well and good, but his arguments fall somewhat short when you consider the fact that his on-screen wife Phoebe Dynevor, whose character arc as Daphne was also completed by the end of season one, returned for a prominent recurring role in season two. Likewise, both Jonathan Bailey and Simone Ashley, who played the second year’s leads Anthony and Kate, have confirmed they’ll be back for season three.
The remits of the romance genre may have given Page an easy way out of a long-term commitment, then, but it’s clear that it was his personal decision to leave. If so, the actor has yet to fully open up about why that might be. Looking at his upcoming list of projects, though, it seems the obvious answer is that he wanted to embrace a range of new challenges. For instance, he appears in Netflix’s new thriller The Gray Man and will soon be seen in Paramount’s Dungeons and Dragons movie.
But is there a much more clandestine reason for Page turning down any chance at a Bridgerton return? Let’s go full conspiracy theorist for a moment and ponder the question: what if Page is in talks to be the next James Bond? Ever since he wooed the world over the Christmas ’20 season, RJP has ranked among the most popular suggestions for the next 007. While this was just hearsay at first, it’s entirely possible that producers have reached out to him at this point.
Production on Bond 26 might be a ways away, Bond bosses must have started the process of replacing Daniel Craig to some degree and, who knows, maybe they’ve exchanged secret words with Page. In which case, it would make sense for him to withdraw from Bridgerton. Naturally he wouldn’t want to be tied down to an ongoing show if it could damage his chances to don the super-spy’s tux.
Or maybe eight episodes of wearing britches and saying words like “indubitably” was enough for him and he can’t stand it anymore. Only time will tell.