LOS ANGELES • Rege-Jean Page will not return for the second season of record-breaking Regency romance Bridgerton (2020 to present), Netflix said last Friday, prompting howls of despair from fans of the dashing Duke of Hastings.
The wildly popular series from Grey’s Anatomy (2005 to present) creator Shonda Rhimes puts a modern twist on the books about an upper-class family in early 19th-century England, including colour-blind casting.
British-Zimbabwean actor Page was a breakout star for the first season, but his character’s storylines largely conclude in the opening volume of author Julia Quinn’s original books, which each follow a different sibling of the Bridgerton family.
“Dearest readers, while all eyes turn to Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s quest to find a Viscountess, we bid adieu to Rege-Jean Page, who so triumphantly played the Duke of Hastings,” said a letter on the show’s Twitter account. “We’ll miss Simon’s presence on-screen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family.”
In January, Netflix announced that Bridgerton had become the streaming platform’s most popular new series, watched by more than 82 million households.
It cast several black actors – including Page – in high-society roles despite the fact that slavery was abolished in England only in 1833 and racism was rife.
“Remember: The Duke is never gone,” wrote Rhimes on Instagram. “He’s just waiting to be binge-watched all over again.”
But some fans were apoplectic, with one writing: “It’s a joke, right? If not then you just killed that show.”
“This better be a belated April Fool’s joke,” wrote another.
The first season followed Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor) as she made her debut in Regency London, seeking a husband, while the second will focus on her brother, Lord Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey).