Casting Julie Andrews as the voice of narrator Lady Whistledown on Netflix’s new buzzy period drama “Bridgerton” was such a tightly held secret that the stars of the show didn’t even know about it.
Regé-Jean Page, who plays the dashing Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, says he found out when it was announced on Twitter. “I was on the train. I was coming back from a boxing session,” Page says on the Variety and iHeart podcast “The Big Ticket.” “I literally yawped like, ‘Ah!’ on the train and everyone looked at me…I kind of melted into my seat in embarrassment. But it’s incredibly exciting. It is an almost stupidly perfect casting and we’re all lucky to bask in its glow.”
“Bridgerton,” based on Julia Quinn’s “Bridgerton” book series, takes place in 19th century England. Created by Chris Van Dusen and produced by Shonda Rhimes, the series features multiple romantic storylines, but at the center of it all is the relationship between Simon and Daphne Bridgerton (Phoebe Dynevor).
“’Bridgerton’ is something a bit like if Jane Austen met ‘Gossip Girl’ and maybe like ‘45 Shades of Grey,’” Page says, adding, “We have a lot of fun in period costumes and it is set in the Regency period in 1813. It is a romance and a fantasy and it’s a big warm Regency hug.”
Those ‘Shades of Grey’ that the British-Zimbabwean actor is referring to are the show’s abundance of steamy sex scenes. “We worked with a wonderful intimacy team headed by Lizzy Talbot,” Page says. “It frees up the work of your actors so much to have someone direct and guide you and protect you and look after you. It’s a little bit nuts that people ever did this without one.”
Page admits he tried to prepare his family for his more risqué moments. “I am shirtless a little more than I have been in the past,” he says. “I’ve been sending out warning texts to my family, like the family WhatsApp group is full of exclamation points in the middle of flashing red light emojis just kind of going, ‘I know everyone’s kind of excited for this, but just so you know what you’re getting into, there is some de-robed Regé going on this Christmas.'”
The series has been getting rave reviews for its diverse casting, including a Black Queen Charlotte played by Golda Rosheuvel. “Everyone deserves to be there,” Page says. “Like I said, it’s a big Regency hug at Christmas. It is this Cinderella fantasy with great big dances and balls and jewels and dukedoms and glamour. Why on earth would you limit who gets to receive that, who gets to play in that game? It’s a great game. It’s a great place to hang out and we all get to hang out and play together.”
Page says Van Dusen and Rhimes were determined not to make “your grandma’s period show.”
“It’s something different, something funnier, faster, sexier,” he says. “It’s a show in a period. It’s not about recreating what you’ve already seen.”
You can listen to the full interview with Page above. You can also find “The Big Ticket” at iHeartRadio or wherever you listen to your favorite podcasts.