British-Zimbabwean actor Regé-Jean Page has emerged as Netflix’s new heartthrob following the premiere of Shondaland’s sexy period drama Bridgerton on Netflix over the holiday season.
Based on a series of romance novels by Julia Quinn, Bridgerton follows Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), the eldest daughter of the powerful Bridgerton family, as she debuts on Regency London’s intensely competitive marriage market.
Given her background and pedigree, Daphne is confident of her prospects to find a love match like her parents. But as an older brother decides to interfere and screen her suitors, the anonymous high society gossip writer, Lady Whistledown (voiced by Julie Andrews), begins to tear down Daphne’s reputation.
Now here comes the “prize catch” being eyed by the debutantes’ mothers — the dashing rebel of a duke, Simon Basset (Regé-Jean Page). Sparks are set to fly between the Duke and Daphne despite mutual declarations that they don’t want to have anything to do with each other.
In the production notes, producer Shonda Rhimes, who has previously worked with Regé, described the actor as “perfect” as Simon. (He previously starred in the mini-series Roots and the Shondaland legal thriller For The People.)
“I thought there was something very three-dimensional, painful and vivid about Regé as Simon. In a fascinating way, he was exactly what you imagined Simon to be when you read the books, but he also created Simon as his own, which was lovely. The stories that are built around this character are very well told and Regé is such a versatile actor that I never even knew he was British until we met to talk about this role, which is hilarious. He’s really talented and can inhabit a character so fully. I think he’s a perfect Simon.”
Meanwhile, Bridgerton creator Chris Van Dusen told The STAR in a Zoom interview that during Regé’s first “chemistry read” with Phoebe, “our jaws literally hit the floor.”
“Watching it was electric and you could feel something palpable. And I think, it was at that point that we really knew we had something special here and you see that on the show as well.”
The STAR had the opportunity to get to know the 30-something hottie, whose name Regé by the way is pronounced like “reggae,” in a recent virtual interview.
How did you build your chemistry with Phoebe in the series?
“I’m not entirely sure that we can take credit for creating the chemistry. I think Julia Quinn and Chris Van Dusen spent a lot of time creating these characters, and writing them and giving us all this wonderful chemistry to work with. So, majority of our job, I think, is getting out of that way is just kind of channelling what we’ve got and making sure that we can show it at its best. And beyond that, it’s just finding trust with the person you’re working with.
“We spent an awful lot of time together. We spent hours and hours and hours, and dance rehearsals and then the extra dance rehearsals that we organized ourselves because we were scared that we weren’t good enough at the real dance rehearsals. And then we spent hours and hours and hours on set. We spent the best part of six months almost never out of each other’s company. And so, I think everything happened quite organically.”
When the role was offered to you, was it an immediate yes or did you have some hesitation?
“(Laughs) I think the role happened quite organically. We talked about it a few times. I read it just as I was coming off the show and then we had a couple of meetings. We talked about what was exciting about the show, what they wanted to do with it, what opportunities they were to do, things that hadn’t been done and what people understand as period pieces, and how we could kind of bring in new elements of that conversation, how we could break free of the boundaries, the traditional way of making this type of show. And by the time we were done talking, I was kind of working on it. And so that moment just kind of happened. That was a very pleasant way to get into a job.”
What new things did you have to learn for this role and what was the most challenging?
“Among the things I had to learn to play the duke, how to actually suppress a sense of humor for six months at a time was the most challenging task. There were lots and lots of physical training. There was dance lessons, horse lessons, boxing lessons, etiquette lessons. Molding those all into one was a lot of fun because at the heart of all of that is just how you communicate with people, how you carry yourself, what the body language is. Dancing in particular is, I think, one of the most honest places in the whole show, and in a society that’s so restrictive. Finding this space where you’re allowed to be very honest with one another but kind of in secret; in public finding the space where you’re allowed to flirt, but only within very specific boundaries and all of that was absolutely fascinating. And so, I love being able to dive into that.”
What can you say about the casting which has been described as “color-blind” (due to the different ethnicities and backgrounds of the actors)?
“The show isn’t color-blind. Color exists in the show and people exist in the show exactly as they are. And I find that delightful. And I think that we have a gift of a cast. I think we have so many creative people working, it brings so many different perspectives, so many possibilities, these stories. It’s an embarrassment of riches that most shows don’t have the privilege of having access to. The short answer to that is that I’m delighted by it.”
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