'Sanditon': Theo James & Rose Williams on Their Characters' Undeniable Chemistry

Kate Hahn
Preview Masterpiece/PBS

Fight or flirt? It can go either way on the PBS drama Sanditon — adapted from Jane Austen's 1817 unfinished final novel — whenever saucy country girl Charlotte Heywood and worldly snob Sidney Parker (Rose Williams and Theo James) meet.

She's opinionated. He has a mean streak. But they have chemistry. And they can't avoid each other: She's the houseguest of his older brother, Tom (Kris Marshall), who's hopeful that Sidney's cash and connections can turn the seaside backwater of Sanditon into a resort town.

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"[At first] Sidney thinks Charlotte is obnoxious, ignorant, unsophisticated," says Williams, who loved shooting ballroom scenes such as the couple's first dance in the January 12 premiere. "He comes to know she is very capable and wise."

In the January 19 episode, Charlotte helped set a workman's broken leg, prompting Sidney to suggest they may have "gotten each other wrong." It takes a lot to impress a British gentleman — especially an aloof one still scarred by a past romance.

(Credit: Courtesy of Photographer: Simon Ridgway/© Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019 )

"He's a bit of a broken person," says James, who early in the production distanced himself from his onscreen love interest to help maintain that feeling of awkwardness while their characters get to know each other.

As more is revealed, Williams adds, the pair will draw closer: "They sense that there's something deeper about each other, which is why they can't seem to stay away."

Sanditon, Sundays,  9/8c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)