Bridgerton: Shonda Rhimes Was Surprised By Fan Response to Rege-Jean Page's Exit

Bridgerton fans were shocked to learn that breakout star Regé-Jean Page wouldn't be returning for the show's second season on Netflix. Instead, the focus of season two of Netflix's most-watched original series ever will shift to Jonathan Bailey's character, Anthony Bridgerton, as it does in the second installment of Julia Quinn's romance novels on which the series is based. Still, fans were surprised by the news of Page's exit and didn't take it especially well. In a new interview published alongside the announcement that Netflix renewed Bridgerton for its third and fourth seasons, series creator Shonda Rhimes discussed how the reaction to Page's exit caught her off guard.

"I was really shocked, because usually that happens when I’ve killed off somebody that’s been around for a while," Rhymes tells Vanity Fair. "Like, we didn’t kill him, he’s still alive! [Regé-Jean] is a powerful, amazing actor and that meant we did our job—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. What would be the ever-after of this combo? I mean, really: What would Regé-Jean do, you know what I mean? We gave them their happily ever after! And now we have this next couple coming. And so yeah, I was like, whoa!

"[Page]'s amazing, but that’s our job and something that Betsy [Beers, producer] and I have been doing since—well, God, has it been 20 years now?—is 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."

When news of his exit broke, Page explained in an interview that a one-season arc for his character was always the plan. In fact, it's what drew him to the role.

“It’s a one-season arc. It’s going to have a beginning, middle, end – give us a year," Page told Variety. "[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," he added. "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.

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"I have nothing but excitement for Bridgerton continuing to steam train off and conquer the globe," Page added. "But there is also value in completing these arcs and sticking the landing."

Bridgerton's first season is streaming now on Netflix.