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Shonda Rhimes Jokes About Backlash Over Rege-Jean Page’s ‘Bridgerton’ Departure: ‘We Didn’t Even Kill’ His Character

She wasn’t ready! Bridgerton fans are still having a hard time dealing with Regé-Jean Page‘s unexpected exit from the series — but Shonda Rhimes wasn’t prepared for such intense backlash.

Related: 'Bridgerton' Adds New Cast Members Ahead of Season 2: Meet the Stars

“I was really shocked because usually that happens when I’ve killed off somebody that’s been around for a while,” the 51-year-old Shondaland exec — who has a habit of killing off beloved characters — teased during an interview with Vanity Fair published on Tuesday, April 13. “Like, we didn’t kill him, he’s still alive!”

Page, 31, confirmed earlier this month that he wouldn’t be part of the Netflix show’s second season, which will place Anthony Bridgerton (Jonathan Bailey) in the spotlight. The For the People alum portrayed Simon Bassett, the love interest of Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor), whose courtship and marriage were the central focus of the hit debut season.

Shonda Rhimes Jokes About Rege-Jean Page Bridgerton Departure
Shonda Rhimes and Rege-Jean Page Shutterstock; Netflix

Rumors recently surfaced that Page quarreled with the Bridgerton team over creative differences and turned down a $50,000 per episode deal. However, Rhimes denied that there was any pushback. The producer gushed over the “powerful, amazing actor” and claimed that the response to his exit “meant we did our job.”

Rhimes added: “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.”

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The Chicago native and her producing partner, Betsy Beers, were proud that they succeeded in “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,” she told the outlet.

During an interview with Variety following the news of his Bridgerton departure, Page revealed that he had agreed to a “one-season arc.” Rhimes confirmed that the team behind the scenes was prepared to say goodbye to their first leading man.

“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,” she explained. “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. … He’s a busy man!”

News broke on Tuesday morning that the period drama had been renewed for seasons 3 and 4. “Bridgerton swept us off our feet,” Bela Bajaria, vice president of global television at Netflix, said in a statement. “The creative team, led by Shonda [Rhimes], knew the material and delivered a beautiful, emotional, romantic drama for our members. They have some exciting plans for the future, and we think audiences will continue to swoon for this show. We’re planning to be in the Bridgerton business for a long time to come.”

Related: ‘Bridgerton’ Cast: What Rege-Jean, Phoebe and More Look Like in Real Life

Dynevor, 25, has yet to comment on her onscreen husband’s exit but fans can still expect to see her in the coming seasons.

“Daphne 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,” an official statement from Netflix, written in the voice of Bridgerton‘s town gossip Lady Whistledown, confirmed earlier this month.

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