Bring back April Fools’ Day.
“Bridgerton” gossip columnist Lady Whistledown announced Friday that Season 1 heartthrob Regé-Jean Page will not reprise his role as Duke Simon Basset of Hastings for the second season of Netflix’s hit period drama. Sadly, this does not appear to be a belated April Fools’ prank.
“Dearest readers,” wrote Whistledown in a statement shared to the “Bridgerton” Twitter account. “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.
“We’ll miss Simon’s presence onscreen, but he will always be a part of the Bridgerton family. Daphne [Bridgerton] will remain a devoted wife and sister, helping her brother navigate the upcoming social season and what it has to offer — more intrigue and romance than my readers may be able to bear.”
Not long after, Page bid “Bridgerton” fans farewell with an Instagram post.
“It’s been an absolute pleasure and a privilege to be your Duke,” he wrote Friday. “Joining this family — not just on screen, but off screen too. Our incredibly creative and generous cast, crew, outstanding fans — it’s all been beyond anything I could have imagined. The love is real and will just keep growing.”
Page quickly emerged as the breakout star of the Shondaland series’ freshman season upon its splashy streaming debut in December. He portrayed the smoldering, rakish love interest to Phoebe Dynevor‘s belle of the ball, Daphne — a fan-favorite character he later reprised while hosting “Saturday Night Live.”
Last week, Page landed an NAACP Image Award for his romantic turn as Regency England’s leading man. And in February, he picked up a coveted SAG Award nomination for male actor in a drama series.
Based on bestselling author Julia Quinn’s “The Viscount Who Loved Me,” the upcoming sophomore season of “Bridgerton” will focus on Jonathan Bailey’s reformed rake of a bachelor, Anthony (and his signature sideburns), on his quest for marriage. (The first season was inspired by Quinn’s preceding novel, “The Duke and I”; hence Page’s central role.)
Set to star opposite Bailey in Season 2 is “Sex Education” actress Simone Ashley, who will make her “Bridgerton” debut as Kate Sharma, billed by Netflix as a “a smart, headstrong young woman who suffers no fools.” Season 2 was scheduled to start production this spring in London.
Because each book in Quinn’s saga centers on a different member of the Bridgerton dynasty, the duke is not nearly as key a player after the conclusion of his and Daphne’s love story. Still, news of Page’s departure has come as an unwelcome shock to many who burn for the duke and can’t imagine the series moving forward without its biggest draw.
Leave it to veteran storyteller and executive producer Shonda Rhimes to quell the fandom’s misery with some words of wisdom.
“Remember: the Duke is never gone,” she tweeted Friday. “He’s just waiting to be binge watched all over again.”