Shonda Rhimes clears up speculation that Rege-Jean Page was acting like a diva

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Dear Reader, we have heard so much news about the future of Bridgerton. Last week it was announced that season one stud, Rege-Jean Page, wasn’t returning for season two. This didn’t come as a surprise to those who have read the books but the rest of us threw ourselves onto our sofas and mourned. We recently found out that Netflix has ordered two more seasons of Bridgerton, extending the show for a total of four seasons. At the same time we heard that Rege left for creative differences. In a new profile for Vanity Fair, Shonda Rhimes and her co-producer, Betsey Beers, cleared up some of the rumors. Shonda and Beers have been working together for 19 years. They reminisced over the first show they produced together (which bombed) and how Grey’s Anatomy made them a household name. On the Bridgerton front, Shonda said that she was shocked at the reaction from fans when it was announced that Rege-Jean wasn’t returning. Shonda said it wasn’t like they had “killed off” the Duke of Hastings and that Rege-Jean had only signed on for one season. Below are a few excerpts from their conversation with Vanity Fair:

Vanity Fair: Were you expecting Bridgerton to be this huge?

Shonda Rhimes: With the pandemic and all the stuff that got postponed, I honestly don’t know that I was thinking about how it was going to do. We were more truly focused on wanting the show to be really good.

Betsy Beers: The hard thing over the pandemic was actually really understanding the number of people who were watching. It felt very abstract to me.

Rhimes: Because we were trapped in our houses! I also think for us, we don’t focus on the things that we can’t control. We could drive people crazy in marketing, but we couldn’t have any control over who watched.

Speaking of fans getting attached, there’s been so much shock about Regé-Jean Page not returning. Were you surprised by the outpouring of grief?

Rhimes: I was really shocked, because usually that happens when I’ve killed off somebody that’s been around for a while. 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!

Beers: It’s delightful that fans were so invested in his character, and he’s a wonderful actor and a terrific guy. I just want to say that. Okay? He is.

Rhimes: [Laughing.] He’s amazing, but that’s our job and something that Betsy 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.

I’ve seen reports that you offered him a deal to return to do some cameos for season two and he turned it down. Is that correct?
Rhimes: We made a one-season deal with him at the beginning of season one. That was the plan: come and do one season as the duke. Anything else that was extra and wasn’t really the plan when we started wasn’t the plan when we finished. [Rhimes later clarified that Page was invited to return for season two cameos, along with a few other season one characters outside the Bridgerton family.] So there’s a lot of fantastically interesting talk that’s been going on, mainly cause I think people are having a hard time letting go.

[From Vanity Fair]

I am so excited that Shonda Rhimes cleared up the insidious speculation that Rege was behaving like a diva. I am tired of people constantly trying to malign Black actors and artists that gain some fame by labeling them difficult, like they did with Nicole Beharie, Gabrielle Union, and Ray Fisher, effectively sidelining their careers. I am sure that Rege could not fly back and forth to set under COVID protocol for cameo roles. But like many of you have said on Twitter, when things go back to normal Rege could make a cameo in season three or four.

It was wonderful reading about how Shonda and Betsey produce shows and how excited they get when a show does well. I also thought it was adorbs when Shonda said she and Betsey have spent the last twenty years finding great guys for their shows. Of course that is why everyone responded to Rege-Jean Page enthusiastically.

I liked how pragmatic Shonda and Betsey were about Bridgerton. They did not know how well it would do, they just loved the source material. To me that is real art. Do your very best to create something you love with no expectation of the outcome and you end up with a hit. And my god Shonda and Betsey have been making hit after hit the last two decades. Hitmaking with hot men is Shonda and Betsey’s personal brand of magic and that is why I will always stan Shondaland.

photos via Instagram

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29 Responses to “Shonda Rhimes clears up speculation that Rege-Jean Page was acting like a diva”

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  1. Astrid says:

    Thank goodness they cleared up the “diva” bit.

    • Elizabeth Regina says:

      The racists never liked him in the first place. They liked that they fancied him but the actor is an intellectual, knows his worth and has always been a little anti establishment. He had worked for Shonda before and she loved his intensity and presence. If he were a diva, she would not have cast him in another of her shows. I hope he moves on to bigger and better. Plus his back needs a rest after carrying the weight of the series.

    • CoffeChamp says:

      Agreed. They are smart ladies and knew what they had to do and cleared it up.

  2. Lucy2 says:

    Glad they cleared that up. It was very unfair to him for people to be saying he got too big for his britches and quit.
    I love the design of that award she is holding! I think it says for costuming? So cool.

  3. Edna says:

    Now if only these malicious (and quite frankly racist) commenters would stop with the Rege is a diva nonsense. Always trying to tear someone down cause they’re jealous of his/her success.

  4. Jais says:

    Glad they cleared it up. Also, I am still v angry about Nicole Beharie. I thought her and the lead could’ve had a real x-files mulder and scully vibe but they went in a whole diff direction. Lame AF.

  5. CROOKSNNANNIES says:

    I haven’t read the books but I do wish they could have kept him around and gotten rid of Daphne. I know that wouldn’t actually make sense but I found her such a wet blanket. And was shocked Page could generate enough chemistry for them both.

  6. Sigmund says:

    I’m glad she cleared that up. I think it’s exactly as she presented it—each book features a different couple, and so they only contracted him for one season. He deserves to capitalize on his current fame. Most of the people trying to make this into a bigger thing than it is are doing so because they want to portray a black actor as being arrogant, or because they haven’t read the books and don’t realize that most romance series don’t focus on the same couple for multiple books.

  7. Sofia says:

    I definitely do think if there wasn’t a pandemic he could have found time to film a few scenes but he’s striking while the iron is hot and quite frankly I don’t blame him. He most likely will come back in Seasons 3+4.

    Ive heard the Anthony and Kate story is really good and the actress they’ve chosen is unbelievably gorgeous so I’m excited!

    • Mary Ann says:

      The actress who will play Kate, Simone Ashley, is actually so good that I was disappointed for a second when she was cast—only because she plays a mean girl SO well in Sex Education that my first reaction was dismay that Kate would be so mean, LOL. I loved the book series, especially that one, and I am so excited, I think she will be amazing.

  8. Savu says:

    Shonda is a legend. Every time I see her, I think of that Women in Hollywood speech she gave about how she’s breaking the glass ceiling because of all the other women (especially of color) who tried and created little cracks. It was just so moving to me.

    What a slap in the face to ABC, too. Look what happens when you let Shonda & Betsy do their thing. I love it.

  9. Lauren says:

    She had already made clear when it was first announced that he left the show that there wasn’t any drama and that they were pretty friendly, but still people kept btching and moaning, and here she is having to clear up again that there is no drama. I’m very happy that Shonda cares enough to make sure that his reputation isn’t tarnished by false rumors.

  10. Catherine says:

    She should have issued a statement confirming what rege-jean said about it being a one year deal immediately. At this point the diva narrative has been established. It is hard to shake that. They could have also emphasized that it is based on the based on the books for audiences that weren’t from that fan base. She had to have been aware that he was being compared to Katherine Heigl who was viewed extremely negatively and known how potentially damaging that could be to rege-Jean. The way things spread these days you have to nip it in the bud. I’m glad this came out but I’m afraid that there is already some irreparable harm. I think they never intended for him to be back but then his popularity led them to offer the cameos and it annoyed them that he turned it down. At this point she needed to make a direct, definitive statement that the rumors about him being difficult were false and praise his professionalism. In this article she just talks about her point of view. She talks about the contract says he a great guy but does not directly refute the negative insinuations. Maybe I’m being to sensitive but if were in this situation I would want her to say specifically that those things that have been written are false.

    • Darla says:

      No, I agree. I think she’s annoyed too. I admire her and I root for her and I love what she did with ABC when that idiot there said that awful thing to her about Disney passes. I know that was both racism and sexism, and boy did she show them. I love that. However…I also wouldn’t want to work for her and I think she held back at first quite purposefully. Just my view.

      • nothing to see here says:

        Agreed as well. She has been around this world long enough to know how it’s all played. She could have nipped it in the bud right away, but chose not to. That doesn’t mean that there is a rift, or that there are not good feelings all around, but I do think she chose to send a subtle message.

  11. Keball says:

    A significant percentage of the audience LOVED The Duke of Hastings. I’m glad she cleared his name because I would love to see him in other Shonda Projects. The problem Shonda may run into is that the Duke overshadowed the other male characters. Anthony’s love story may not get the same views but at this point I’m sure they have come to that realization which is why they are trying to get Rege in a few scenes

    • molly says:

      This was my thought exactly. The actor who played Anthony was fine, but Rege definitely outshined him. If they were both on the second season, I’d spend the whole time wondering when Simon was going to be on. She needs the audience to fall in love with Anthony and the other lead characters if future seasons are going to work.

  12. Veronica S. says:

    I mean, I don’t even know how it became a conversation point. He had one season, the show was clearly always going to match season to book, so he was understandably always going to have to find more work. Dude’s smart to strike out while his profile has a boost. He’ll likely revisit later seasons in cameo when COVID restrictions are lifted is my thinking. Hardly a controversy at all.

    • Christine says:

      Agreed, this is why my Mom always told me to read the books first!

      To the best of my recollection, the Duke doesn’t even appear in any significant way until we get to Colin’s story, except for the second epilogue of Anthony’s book, which couldn’t be included because it’s like 20 years in the future and spoils pretty much all of the other siblings and their stories. Colin is…book 4, I think?

  13. lascivious chicken says:

    She didn’t create Bridgerton. Chris Van Dusen did! So tired of him getting erased. This isn’t just another Shonda show. She didn’t write anything and she didn’t cast this herself.

    • Common sense says:

      Lol, calm down. No one is erasing Chris. There wouldn’t be any Bridgerton (the TV series ) without Shonda. She was the first one to read the books and brought them to Chris’ attention. She is the one that saw the potential for a TV show.
      BTW: Shonda was very much involved in the casting process, she specifically wanted Regé to be the Duke from working with him on for the people. Phoebe said in interviews that Shonda was in the room when she auditioned.

  14. Wiglet Watcher says:

    I couldn’t get through the 1st season. If it wasn’t for the coverage on this site I would have thought it was just the latest decent enough to binge in quarantine show.
    The diversity of the cast was cool, but the storyline was not my cup of tea.

    • Grant says:

      Same. I liked the diversity in casting but I didn’t think any of the characters were especially compelling, especially the Bridgerton children. I thought many of the sons were actually pretty awful.

  15. Ann says:

    I’m glad she said something but I wish she had gone further. Viewers are so quick to label actors who leave shows as Divas, too big for their britches, etc., even when, as in this case, the actor was under a contract for a certain period of time and he fulfilled it like a pro. It can be very harmful to them.

  16. Rice says:

    Unpopular opinion from a black woman: The Duke of Hastings was a little annoying. The actor was great eye candy and he had some wonderful lines. But I was secretly rooting for the Prince or whatever he was. I haven’t read the book but I’ve heard that the show is pretty much in line with the book series. Also, I agree that the Bridgerton brood, except for maybe Eloise, was annoying as well. The Queen and Lady Danbury kept me watching the season.

  17. Lea says:

    Honestly, it doesn’t make sense to say that he wasn’t supposed to come back when Phoebe Dyvenor was. He was offered cameos, he declined. Do I think it is a bad decision, both for the show and himself ? Yes. Does it have anything to do with him being a black actor ? No.
    I understand that he doesn’t want to be seen as the Duke of Hastings forever. But cultivating a special relationship with your early fans through cameos would have been great.

  18. Ally says:

    Is it wrong that I liked hearing diva rumors about a man for the first time in a while haha? But did they only clear them up because he’s a man…? Who knows.

  19. FF says:

    Thanks for this. The smearing of up and coming PoC actors careers by labelling them difficult, “divas”, or possessors of a bad attitude is an old tactic as it very often works to “justify” blacklisting.

    People rarely question the narrative given and blame the actors.

    So I’m glad to see this being thoroughly debunked by Rhimes and Beers because I’ve seen cases where rxrcs know actors were only signed on for one year but let damaging rumours persist without refuting them. They pulled that one with Freema Agyeman.