Regé-Jean Page became a household name thanks to his role as the rakish Simon Basset, Duke of Hastings, on the Netflix period drama "Bridgerton."
Though his part on "Bridgerton," which takes place during the Regency era in England, was always meant to last only one season, fans were shocked last month when the show revealed the actor wouldn't return for season two.
Now, Page, 31, is opening up to Variety about why he viewed playing the Duke as an opportunity to create a new kind of Hollywood leading man.
"Me and my friends used to joke about the fact that you don’t see a Black man on a horse," said Page.
The British-Zimbabwean actor said he accepted the role the same way he chooses all his roles: with representation in mind.
“It’s so simple. I can get on a horse and I can put it on the screen; that’s step one,” he said. “I can be royalty, and (other people of color) can see the possibility of being royalty."
He added, "Standing there, wearing the boots and the jacket, doing the dances, inhabiting a space that is perfectly possible for me to inhabit, changes how you see the world."
Showing Black actors in every kind of roles on TV helps viewers of all colors better understand each other, Page believes.
“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 explained. "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."
During the interview, Page, who appears in the upcoming movie adaption of "Dungeons & Dragons," also discussed his friendship with "This Is Us" star Sterling K. Brown.
The pair met at a party during the 2016 Emmy season. Brown, 45, had been nominated (and would go on to win the award) for his role as Christopher Darden in “The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story."
After Page saw Brown from across the room he decided to approach him. Once the two began chatting, Page's brain "just turned off" from excitement. He found himself gushing to Brown about his performance, noting even subtle details about his hand gestures.
"And Sterling just smiled patiently and let me do that and then talked me through how not to be overwhelmed by this room. He reassured me and said, ‘You’ve got stuff ahead of you. You can breathe,'" he recalled.
Since then, Brown has become something of a mentor to Page, cheering him on as he embarks on new challenges — like hosting "Saturday Night Live" last month.
“He’s talked me through a couple of things that scared me,” Page said.
Brown told the outlet that Page is so down to earth that it is easy to root for him.
“He wasn’t somebody who’s like, ‘Give me a couple of years and I’ll be making $10 million a flick.’ He really loves the art of illuminating the human condition,” Brown told Variety. “If stardom comes — and stardom is clearly approaching — I don’t think he was ever actively seeking it; it just kind of happened.”