‘Bridgerton’s’ Kelly Valentine Hendry recalls casting Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor: ‘Simon and Daphne came alive’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

When you know, you know — and casting director Kelly Valentine Hendry certainly did when Rege-Jean Page and Phoebe Dynevor read together for the roles of Simon, Duke of Hastings and Daphne Bridgerton, respectively, on Netflix’s Regency-era hit “Bridgerton.”

“We never went, ‘That’s the person, that’s the person’ for those roles because Rege, truthfully, wasn’t available until right at the end [when] he became a possibility. And when he read with her in L.A., that was the first time Simon and Daphne came alive,” Hendry tells Gold Derby at our Meet the Experts: TV Casting Directors panel (watch the exclusive video interview above). “And that was it. It was done. So all of those months leading up to it, we weren’t quite sure about people. You couldn’t quite put your finger on what it was … and then those two did what you guys have seen onscreen and it’s like, ‘There you go. There is the duke and duchess. Our job is done.’ Thank God because it was quite late.”

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Hendry and her team saw “a couple hundred” people from all over the world for  the lead roles — and that’s on top of the “hundreds and hundreds” who auditioned for the large ensemble cast. “We had to think about it as an ensemble, as a whole from Day 1 anyway, so we knew we had the Featheringtons, we knew we had the Bridgertons, and you had to create this world,” she explains. Once the process started, “we realized, you know what, the Featheringtons are naturally becoming funny,” leading Hendry to look for actors with a faculty for comedy in the search.

While Page, much to fans’ dismay, is not returning at all for the second season, Hendry is hard at work casting the sophomore installment, which will follow eldest Bridgerton Anthony’s (Jonathan Bailey) romantic escapades. “Sex Education’s” Simone Ashley has already been cast as the female lead, Kate.

“We have a lot of new people,” she teases. “There is a lot of lords and judgy mamas and obnoxious suitors and they’re everywhere – everywhere you look. And they all have to have skills as well. There’s a lot of dancing, a lot of horse riding, the occasional fencing. It’s a lot.”

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