‘Sanditon’s Rose Williams on Waiting to ‘See What Happens’ With Possible Season 2
Helmed by writer and executive producer Andrew Davies, Sanditon follows heroine Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) as she navigates the titular coast town where she stays with the Parkers and meets Sidney (Theo James). Playing out in Pride and Prejudice fashion, their relationship begins rather rocky before turning into mutual love. But unlike Austen’s usual format, Davies’ season of Sanditon leaves viewers wanting more as they discover Sidney’s become engaged to Eliza Campion (Ruth Kearney) — a woman he previously loved but now plans to wed in order to help his family financially.
Intended to continue further, the show was canceled at ITV unexpectedly, and while hope remains for continuance at PBS, we spoke with Williams about the show’s future, which direction she’d like to see Charlotte’s story lead and more.
Your character Charlotte Heywood is among the ranks of Jane Austen’s other quintessential heroines. As an actress, how does it feel to be a part of that club?
Rose Williams: Such an honor and a privilege. I remember the moment that I got the part, and I was thinking about all of the actresses before me who had played Jane Austen heroines. I’ll always remember that moment and that feeling. [It’s such] an honor to have the opportunity to explore one of Jane Austen’s characters in such a way.
And it especially makes me think of Jennifer Ehle, because I worked with her on a film a few years ago and played a younger version of her character. So she was my first thought, because if ever you think of a Jane Austen heroine, I think most people would kind of picture her as Elizabeth Bennet. I’m so, so grateful to have played the part.
Were there any other Austen performances or characters that influenced your portrayal of Charlotte?
It was interesting speaking with the writing team because Charlotte’s character arc was expanded so much by Andrew [Davies] and the team. When they were looking into which direction to build her there was references to Jane Austen herself.
And I thought that she had some similarities with Katherine from Northanger Abbey, just that naivety, but Charlotte is more practical due to her upbringing on the farm. I like looking at and thinking about Katherine and how she kind of lived in a bit of a dream world and had her ideas about what the world was. But in actual fact, she learned from her mistakes, and I think Charlotte has her ideas about what the world looks like, but in a similar way she learns from her mistakes. So that’s another character that I liken that to in my head.
Fans of Austen have become accustomed to happy endings and Sanditon‘s finale didn’t end on the happiest note. If the show were to continue, do you think there’s happier times ahead for Charlotte? What would they look like?
When I’m talking about it or thinking about it, I always say the part that I quite like about the ending, despite it being sad, is that normally we see that it’s a woman that has to marry in order to save her family, or the woman’s always in search of a husband, but in this case, actually, it’s the man that has to marry and not for love.
However, if it was to continue, I wouldn’t want to just see a marriage and that be it. I’d like to see her be fulfilled in the world of work and fulfilled in the world of romance. I think if I was in charge, I’d like there to be a balance between her pursuing her dreams and still exploring, and also finding a little reconciliation in the heart.
I wouldn’t want it just to be all centered around a boy. I’d like her to kind of take her lessons and her inspiration from Tom Parker (Kris Marshall) and the [builders]. I wouldn’t want all that to go down the drain, I’d want that to be an element of her self exploration in that direction. There are more, as well, but yeah, I’m a big fan of the happily ever after like anyone else.
Sanditon has been getting some major love stateside. Is there anything you can tease about the show’s future or a possible second season on PBS?
It’s lovely because when you make something it’s so contained and the experience of actually making the show, it’s still contained within the crew and the cast, and it’s something we all do together and you never know how it’s going to pan out when it goes outside of the bubble of making it.
So it’s such a really lovely feeling to be able to share it and to know that people enjoyed it and invested in the characters. So that’s something that feels really nice. But I’m in exactly the same boat. Whenever a message goes out or a tweet goes out, I’m in the same position — I know as much as anyone. I just have to go with the flow and see what happens. But it is very lovely to see that people care about the characters as much as we did filming it. So unfortunately I’ve got no information that I can give you.
In the case that the show were to continue, were you told anything by the writers about how Charlotte’s story would go on in another season?
I did know at the beginning [of production] how this first season would end. I got a rough draft. I knew what the direction of the story was, but I didn’t know the details and the ins and outs of the story. I just knew the bones of it. But unfortunately, no, I don’t know. We’ll have to ask Andrew.
Fans have rallied around Sanditon — there’s even a petition. Is there anything they can do to improve the show’s chances of survival?
It’s hard to say because there’s lots of different production companies involved. I think what everyone’s doing is the most effective thing because it means people are noticing. So what everyone’s doing in the moment is really the best thing. And so thank you to everyone. I wouldn’t really know how to best advise, but I would say that especially on Twitter —all of the mentioning — people definitely see that stuff. So thanks everyone.
There were strong feelings about the way Charlotte and Sidney left things in the finale, but viewers shouldn’t forget that Young Stringer (Leo Suter) was also affectionate towards her. Who do you think is the better prospect for Charlotte in terms of romance?
I feel like I shouldn’t really have an opinion on this, or I should be un-biased, but I think that there’s definitely that kind of inexplainable love exposed beyond sense between Sidney and Charlotte. It’s Charlotte’s first experience of that and then she’s dealing with this magnetic pull to this person and she doesn’t know where that’s coming from or why. So there’s a romantic element of that kind of undeniable connection that she has with the person.
However, I have a feeling that Stringer, potentially, would be a more stable partner. I think Stringer is a perfect example of how a man should go about trying to call to a lady. He’s respectful, he lets her know his feelings, he doesn’t push too hard, he’s present, he doesn’t get angry with her. I think Stringer’s a good example for young men out there.
After this experience, what’s one memory or part of the filming process that you’ll never forget?
It was learning about the Regency period and what that looked like for men and women in that time. The camaraderie between us as a cast and a crew was amazing. Witnessing a creative vision come alive, seeing the production design sketches and then seeing the sets being built — just witnessing the very creative way that the studio space was used.
I couldn’t pinpoint one thing. I’d just say as a team effort across the board with the production, with the crew, and with the cast, it was such a treat to create this world together as like a family almost. So that’s how it feels when you’re on set for that amount of time, and you kind of build a family. So yeah, it was just incredibly inspiring to work with very talented, hardworking people.
People may be obsessing over Sanditon, but is there anything you’re enjoying watching at the moment?
At the moment I’m staying with a friend and she has a 13 year old, and she’s introducing me to shows that I didn’t know existed. We were watching grown-ish the other night and we’ve been watching Grace and Frankie, I hadn’t gotten into that before.
Sanditon, PBS Masterpiece