UK: Zim-born Regé-Jean Page says playing Diablo and JRPGs made him an actor

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In the weeks before filming Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves, Wizards of the Coast copywriter Sarra Scherb gathered stars Regé-Jean Page, Chris Pine, Michelle Rodriguez, Sophia Lillis, and Justice Smith and directors John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein around a table for a special D&D one-shot about a party being chased across a bottomless chasm by a sentient drilling machine. Obviously.

Everyone played as the character classes of their characters in the movie — Page as a paladin, Pine as a bard, Rodriguez as a barbarian, Lillis as a druid, Smith as a sorcerer, and Daley and Goldstein as… a two-headed bird creature. According to Page, the group found an immediate rhythm.

“We were all playing our characters, feeling that vibe, seeing how you could push the other characters, what kind of energy they bring to it — [D&D] is just an improv game for actors, you know?” the actor tells Polygon. “And learning that if you do something crazy, you’ve got Chris Pine sitting next to [you], he’s going to take that ball and run with it, he’ll throw it across the table, and you’ve got Michelle Rodriguez to knock it out of the park. […] That’s what we rolled into set with, the idea that if we were having a good time, if we were being creative, if we were inhabiting this world in that spirit of fun, that’s what we wanted to come out of the screen at you.”

At the moment, Page is the epitome of the posh leading man. After breaking out as the much-desired Simon Basset on Netflix’s Bridgerton, the 34-year-old English-Zimbabwean actor was immediately picked up to star alongside Ryan Gosling and Chris Evans in The Gray Man, then thrown into the speculation ring as an obvious pick for a James Bond reboot. His Honor Among Thieves character, the far-holier-than-thou paladin Xenk Yendar, is another dashing role, albeit one that offered Page more swordplay and screen time with Tabaxi babies than his previous roles. (Unless we missed those in The Gray Man, in which case we will offer a correction.)

Unlike his past brushes with action spectacle, Honor Among Thieves takes advantage of the light-footed charisma that made Page such on a star on Bridgerton. But it also gives him a chance to cash in his lifetime of gaming cred. If there’s any confusion, Page is — and we say this with absolute love — a big nerd. And when we bring up his days playing the Diablo games, he immediately flashes back to his days descending below Tristram and battling hellspawn.

“I lost like half of my adolescence to Diablo,” he says. “Diablo was the crack of my day. I lost a lot of overnight sessions to that game.”

Page says he was drawn to the Diablo series because he loves “things that free up my mind and my imagination.” And wouldn’t you know, his Diablo 2 class of choice was paladin.

Regé-Jean Page in paladin armor riding a horse in the woods in Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among ThievesPhoto: Aidan Monaghan/Paramount Pictures

“I liked that mix between support classes and hero classes,” he says with total authority. “I liked that I could do a little bit of healing, a little bit of support, a little bit of buffs, but also I could kind of run out in my armor and do a little bit of hack-and-slash. I like to have my cake and eat it.”

Page was not a one-franchise kid. Though he bounced around from England to Harare, Zimbabwe, then back to London for drama school, he clocked hours on a number of foundational JRPGs. Breath of Fire, Chrono Trigger, the Final Fantasy games, Lufia — “just whatever I could get my hands on,” he says. “These are the hours of my youth. This is what forged me.”

Page was forged in the fires of late-’90s/early-2000s gaming, and today carries that institutional knowledge to the set of Dungeons & Dragons. He says playing the Diablo games absolutely affected the way he considers and leans into roles, Honor Among Thieves included.

“It’s just learning that everything is: How can you create the most fantastical and unusual world to share with an audience? How can you foster your imagination and create a space where you can think of things that will bring joy to an audience? That’s the heart of this movie. What that background gave me was knowing that Dungeons & Dragons isn’t about dragons or magical swords. Yes, that’s all there, but it’s about the feeling you have when you’re gathered around a table with your friends and this crazy stuff happens that no one outside of that room will ever understand again, but that you’re laughing and talking about it for weeks afterward. If you get that feeling in the audience, that’s what we’re shooting for.”

With Dungeons & Dragons: Honor Among Thieves locked and ready for theaters, there’s only one big question left: Will Page play Diablo 4 when it drops in June?

“I’m steering clear, man,” he says with a hardy laugh. “I’ve done my time. I got a job! I gotta hold it down.”