“I was really shocked because, usually, that happens when I’ve killed off somebody that’s been around for a while,” she told Vanity Fair in a new interview. “Like, we didn’t kill him, he’s still alive!”
Netflix and Shondaland announced Page’s departure on April 2 with a letter from Lady Whistledown herself. “Dear Readers, while all eyes turn to Lord Anthony Bridgerton’s quest to find a Viscountess, we bid adieu to Regé-Jean Page, who so triumphantly played the Duke of Hastings,” the Instagram post read.
The furious response from fans was immediate and intense. Even Kim Kardashian mourned the actor’s departure, but Rhimes would like to point out that each Bridgerton novel by Julia Quinn is meant to focus on a different member of the British family.
“[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,” Rhimes said. “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!”
Ultimately, as Page previously told Variety, his stint on the show was always meant to be a one-off (though Rhimes did confirm to Vanity Fair that he was later invited to return for cameos in season two). “That was the plan: come and do one season as the duke,” she said. “Anything else that was extra and wasn’t really the plan when we started wasn’t the plan when we finished.”
Shonda Rhimes also pointed out that finding actors that audiences get “overly attached to” is kinda her whole thing. “He’s amazing, but that’s our job and something that Betsy [Beers] and I have been doing since, well, God, has it been 20 years now?—is finding guys,” Rhimes said of an impressive list that includes Patrick Dempsey, Eric Dane, Tony Goldwyn, and now Page. “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.”