Regé-Jean Page on the Importance of Donning the Duke and Why Representation Matters

In this screengrab, Regé-Jean Page, winner of Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series category speaks at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards Virtual Press Conference on March 27, 2021 in Various Cities.
In this screengrab, Regé-Jean Page, winner of Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series category speaks at the 52nd NAACP Image Awards Virtual Press Conference on March 27, 2021 in Various Cities.
Photo: Getty Images for NAACP Image Awards (Getty Images)

Regé-Jean Page is everything.

Sure, I may still be smitten by his role as the dashing Duke of Hastings in the Shondaland smashing hit, Bridgerton, but let’s be clear—Page’s star power goes beyond this Regency-era drama.

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In fact, his star is so bright that Page has already secured two major projects that are slated to come out in 2022 and 2023: The Gray Man with Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans, and Dungeons and Dragons, respectively. (Plus there’s also been talk about him being the next James Bond but Page swears he has “nothing to say” about it. We’ll see about that.)

However, the promise of seeing more of him on our big and small screens wasn’t enough to keep fans from feeling utterly devastated when word got out that Page wouldn’t be returning for season two of Bridgerton—even though it’s something both Regé-Jean and Shonda Rhimes knew from the beginning.

Sitting down in a recent interview with Variety, Page explained:

It was kind of always the plan. In the books, you kind of have one sibling per and Simon was this bomb of a one-season antagonist, to be reformed and to find his true self through Daphne. I think one of the bravest things about the romance genre is allowing people a happy ending. People were very scared of Shondaland for that reason. They like to kill off favorite characters and mess things up and bring the drama. The one thing I saw that fans were quite concerned about with that is that, the point [is] when you pick these books up— you’re almost guaranteed, there’s a little promise that things will be okay. Like ‘we’re going to take you through this and then we’re going to tie it up so you can go home and have your happily ever after.’ And that’s kind of how we framed and tied it.

Shonda Rhimes added, “The Duke was beautifully written. There are many actors who could have played the same role but brought a very different presence. The choices that Regé made in scenes built a performance that is not only unforgettable for so many viewers but also remarkable in its nuance.”

And perhaps it’s that nuance, that duality and the ability to portray a Black man in a rarely-seen-before setting, that drew Page to the role in the first place. Noting the fact that Black love isn’t and hadn’t been shown in this way before, Page acknowledges that exploring the “complex internal life” of Black characters onscreen is a large part of the reason why he tells the kinds of stories that do.

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“What you don’t see is glamorous, ambitious, Black love on screen. You don’t see Black folks with status, with jewels, with nothing to worry about than dealing with our own selves. It’s usually someone else and it’s like ‘you know what? We’ve got a complex, internal life too.’ And if nothing else, in imagery, I think that’s been very powerful for people. And I hope that whatever people carry forward from that, whatever work comes out of that from other places, that it’s been nourished by just simply seeing what’s possible.”

He later added, “As Black people, we’re very used to empathizing with the world through white people’s eyes, because they’re the protagonists. I know what it’s like to look at the world and empathize with Superman because I spent my whole life doing that,” he explains. “What’s revolutionary, in its own way, is getting folks to see the world through my eyes, because then they are in my skin and looking at the world through me.”

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To read the full interview with Regé-Jean, head on over to variety.com.

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