Sanditon’s Crystal Clarke opens up about the journey that she and the series’ creators undertook to give her West Indian heiress character, Miss Georgiana Lambe, a richer and more authentic development in this second season of the show.
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
Miss Georgiana Lambe is a woman with standards.
Georgiana Thank you, Lord Kingsley. Oh! As for your proposal, I would sooner be boiled alive. Although, I do admire your carriage.
Jace As the young heiress nears the age of legal maturity, she’s torn between the obligations of marriage and the power that comes with wealthy independence.
Georgiana I am besieged by fortune hunters. Each day brings a fresh proposal. That man in the corner proposed just this morning.
Charlotte You have not been tempted to accept any of them?
Georgiana Why? I have never possessed such power. The moment I marry, that will vanish.
Jace In Regency England, Miss Lambe’s unquestionable power is nevertheless filtered through her status as a woman of color, with all the unjust limitations that that provides in a world still fundamentally unable to accept the combination of her race, gender and wealth.
Charles You changed your hair.
Georgiana You asked me how I wished to be seen. This is the hair my mother gave me.
Charles What did your father give you?
Georgiana Education. An inheritance. Which is both a blessing and a curse.
Jace As Miss Lambe faces a major choice on her future, Crystal Clarke returns to the podcast for a conversation about power, progress and what still awaits Georgiana.
Jace and we are joined this week by Sanditon star Crystal Clarke. Welcome.
Crystal Clarke Hello. Hello.
Jace It always shocks me for a moment hearing you in your American voice. I always think you’re going to have an English accent like Georgiana, and I’m always slightly thrown…
Crystal By my non-fancy, very down home…
Jace Well, you sound like me. You sound American. So, it throws me. But I am curious, when you are acting as Georgiana, do you think Georgiana’s accent?
Crystal Oh my God, that’s such a good question. I don’t know…probably, I think so, because there will be times in between takes, especially because everyone around me is English, there will be time in between takes were like, I’ll say something about, say a joke and do it like in an in an English accent, but like very on the sly. But if somebody comes up to me and they’re like, ‘Do it an English accent, speak in an English accent right now,’ then all of a sudden I can’t do it and I’m like, ‘Oh, pressure.’
Jace It has been almost three years since we first talked about Georgiana Lambe, which is crazy.
Crystal Yeah, crazy…
Jace Take me back in time a little bit. What was your immediate reaction when you got the news that Sanditon would not be returning and Georgiana’s story would be left unfinished?
Crystal Oh gosh, I was definitely disappointed. I was definitely disappointed, and then I kind of, These things happen all the time, though, in this industry, like you do the you film something or you think that you got a part in something, and then things like totally change. So there was also a sense of, ‘OK, that’s where that was, and I have to leave it there and just appreciate it for for what it was and the experience that I got out of it.’ And yeah, and just kind of like, go on from there and then…Gosh, seeing the response from people online was just so…I mean, I don’t think any of us really expected it, and I was really proud of that and really, really, really grateful for the fans online, for the Sanditon Sisterhood on Twitter.
Jace I mean, I’m curious, in that, you know, you had sort of made your peace with this, as you say, that these things sort of happen and then suddenly you find yourself back in it. What was it like to come back to the series, both with your castmates and friends on set, but also to this character of Georgiana Lambe? Did it feel like much time had passed both for Georgiana and for you, Crystal Clarke?
Crystal Oh man, for me, Crystal Clarke, it definitely felt like a lot of time had passed that pandemic, this pandemic long. But for Georgiana, it was, for first seeing people and like getting in to see the characters, It was like it was just like, it happened so easily for everybody. It was just it was seamless, and we were working with Charles Sturridge, the first part of season two. So coming back into it, so we were working with the same director that we finished season one off with, and Charles has this amazing energy and it just knows how to get you excited. And he was always so excited about things and just very determined to make sure that we were getting out of the characters the things that we felt were important, or the things that we felt lacked, ending of season one and new directions that we wanted to see things go in. And he was very much a visionary with that kind of stuff. And so it really, really helped, I think the coming together again feeling and things just kind of, they just melded seamlessly with everyone coming back. And with the new people coming in, the new cast members Rosie, and Frank, and Maxim, and Tom, like it, just it all sort of just fit together.
Jace What was that first day back like, how did it feel to put on Georgiana’s clothes again?
Crystal t was a new Georgiana because it was the it was a we kind of she had a glow up, in so many words. Georgiana has definitely had a glow up. She’s got the money and she’s a bit better at spending it when it comes to like her glam these days. And then in the same sense, that kind of it just felt like to have this more, if we were going for a more mature Georgiana, not too mature, obviously, but obviously some time had passed and we that’s what we wanted to get out of it. And because so much time had passed for me, it just. That worked perfectly in in being able to step into the same character, but one that felt a little bit more mature. And I don’t know if it was like, I don’t know if the time had been shorter, if it would have felt different if that makes any sense?
Jace It does. I mean, she feels very different, to me, as a viewer. Watching as the Georgiana that we meet at the beginning of season two is different than the young woman certainly, that we met at the start of season one. She still has that sort of brash, headstrong quality, but she seems far more aware of her position and her power. I think we see that even just from the start with the sugar boycott. What do you make of that transformation? Where how do you see that happening and where does that awareness within her come from?
Crystal I think. It’s living some life, really, and her experience with Otis, her experience with Sidney, all of these things, and she’s not comfortable, per se. But there’s a sense of, this is where I am. This is where I’ve been, and I’m just going to have to make the most of it in whatever way that I can. And I think with the fortune hunters and stuff like that, that’s like giving her this sense of this understanding of like the true power that she does have, people might stare at her. Sure, they might stare at me. They might think whatever, but who’s got all the money? Who’s really in control here? And what can she achieve with whatever power she has?
Jace This lamb is a wolf.
Crystal Yeah, I think she’s got more of a sense of that. And even just the power that comes with being a woman. You know, and the wanting to go out and take Alison out to flirt with soldiers and stuff like that, there’s like an understanding in the power of the sexuality of a woman there. It’s not like something that we’re like, we’re not like totally head on talking about. But it’s definitely part of what what’s going on in Georgiana’s head, if that makes sense. At least that was how I was seeing it. It was very much, ‘hot girl summer.’
Jace You mentioned conversations with Charles Sturridge, the director, on the first half of the season. Given your previous comments about sort of unpaid labor on Sanditon and in terms of educating the white crew about the realities facing a woman of color, what sort of conversations did you have with either Justin Young or Charles Sturridge or the producers about Georgiana’s arc specifically this season and about BAME representation behind the scenes on the series?
Crystal Yeah, so we had a lot, a lot of conversations. Justin and I had a lot of sit down conversations and not just with Charles, but also with Tosha, who directed the second half of season two. And then we had two consultants come on who were consulting. There was Sharon, and we had one British black history consultant as well. So there was a lot of conversation that I had with Justin, and I really appreciated his vulnerability of being able to be like, ‘Look, I am…I didn’t feel super comfortable with writing a black character. And so that stopped me at a lot of points in season one because I just didn’t know the perspective and I didn’t know what to say,’ and that was like, such a good moment to be able to be like, ‘Okay, I understand where you’re coming from and then we can like sit down and I know that you’re open then, to whatever I come to you with, ‘because it was really about trying to make this process where we were all working together and it was a collaboration and not combative all the time. It’s really easy for that kind of stuff to become like, ‘Well, you’re not understanding me and I’m not understanding you. So obviously you don’t care and blah blah blah.’ But it’s really just like, this is all new for all of us. And then writing from this perspective in a voice that is supposed to be reminiscent of Jane Austen is like, totally new, you know? So it came with a lot of challenges, but everyone was like, Justin was behind it. The directors were behind it. The producers were behind it. We still had a long way to go, but there is like a lot of forward movement, a lot of progress.
Jace Did you feel then as though the experiences of Georgiana Lambe and of Crystal Clark were in being not just seen but actually understood and appreciated?
Crystal Oh yeah, definitely. Definitely. There was a worry at first. We went through many drafts of the script like right from the beginning, and there was a worry at first that it was the character was going to be sidelined in favor of bringing in these new characters and them taking up so much space that it kind of like. The we’d lose relationships that were already established, so we had a lot of conversations about that stuff and did what we could to work through it because I also think it was really good bringing in those new characters. And also I just liked having those new guys around. They were all really amazing, and it’s a really sweet, very Jane Austen little storyline that one, with Rosie and the gang.
Jace On the subject of relationships, there is one relationship that I relish, particularly this season between Georgiana and Arthur Parker, played by Turlough Convery.
Arthur Oh gracious. I fear we must be leaving Miss Lambe, or I shall be late.
Georgiana Could you not just leave us to it, Arthur? And return after your meeting?
Arthur Oh, Mary would not approve of my leaving you unchaperoned. Or Miss Hankins for that matter
Charles There is a certain … alchemy that occurs when a painter and a sitter are alone. As someone with such a feeling for art, surely you can understand that?
Jace What do you make of Georgiana and Arthur’s rapport and what is Turlough like on and offset?
Crystal Turlough is like, and I’ve said this before, is like an antidepressant, okay? He comes on set, and all of a sudden, if he like, he doesn’t even have to be talking straight at you, he just can be talking and he’s talking into the ether into the room, and he just cheer you up. He’s so kind, so supportive, such a sweetheart. And I loved having those scenes with him, and to be honest, we were trying really hard to get even more of us in together because we both really love that relationship between Georgiana and Arthur. It’s interesting because in season one. Georgiana, kind of like brushes Arthur off for a good good bit of time there, and I think we start to see in season two is how much of them and their connection has to do with them how like Arthur feeling like an outsider in some way that we’re not yet aware of, and I just think that’s really beautiful how we kind of start to see that open up.
Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…
Jace Sidney obviously sort of kept her somewhat contained. She had a guardian who had very sort of strong ideas about her behavior. But now she’s able to run circles around her new chaperones, the Reverend and Miss Hankins.
Miss Hankins You must sing up, my dear! How is the lord to hear you unless you raise your sweet voice to His ear?
Georgiana I have long since concluded that the lord is deaf.
Mr. Hankins The lord is not deaf, Miss Lambe.
Georgiana Then why does He persist in ignoring my prayers?
Jace What does she make of these two as her new chaperones?
Crystal Making her read Bible verses and sing boring hymnals all day like, ugh. I think she’s, you know, she’s a bit smarter than that, and she’d like a bit more, like, intellectual stimulation and a bit more fun. But she definitely doesn’t see them as bad people. They come out and they help her handing out stuff for the sugar boycott. She knows they mean well, but it’s just, you know, it’s annoying.
Jace She wants excitement.
Jace And she gets it. You know, she catches the eye of Charles Lockhart, the noted portraitist who has arrived in Sanditon, and he brings a sort of aura of scandal about him. Both Georgiana and Lockhart seem to care little about what other people think. Is that the thing that initially attracts her to him, how he can just flout convention?
Crystal Yeah, definitely. And I think there’s a sense of, you’re different, yeah, you’re different. I’m different. And the constant, like, hunger to be seen by somebody is like…he is looking at her like he sees something and just she, I think she’s curious. She wants to know what it is he feels.
Jace I mean, there is that moment when he gives the toast to Napoleon at the mess dinner that seems to clinch it for Georgiana, she can’t help but smile. What does she make of that moment and his willingness to insult the British officers gathered? Does she see Lockhart as a fellow provocateur?
Crystal Oh, yes, definitely. And I think there is. I think there’s kind of a sense we’re there that she’s been in Sanditon for this long and is kind of she seems to have kind of chilled out on that front. And so to have him come in and stand up and say all those things and just like generally be. However, he was being in that room really start to light a fire under her to be like, Wait a second. Where’s that voice that I’ve had, I had all this time, why am I? It would be nice to use it again. Look at him using his, you know? And then we start to see that more with the sugar boycott as time goes on.
Jace I mean, I loved their first encounter, which is particularly scathing, he says, of her haughty yet inscrutable, Georgianna turns around and says of him that he is arrogant and affected. Is this banter playful, or does Georgiana initially strike to wound? Or is she issuing a challenge in that scene sort of defying him to make her change her opinion of him?
Crystal I like the second one because she’s yeah, she finds it interesting, but at the same time, she’s been through all of this stuff where she doesn’t know like who she can trust, and she’s not sure that she can trust herself. When and her opinion on other people because she thought she could trust ODIs and look what happened there. So I think it’s also, yeah, it’s a lot of is also. What do you just assume I should, I’m supposed to like you? Why do you just assume that? Prove it to me. Work harder for it.
Jace She is horrified that Lockhart would sketch her from memory. He asked her how she’d like to be seen, and she recounts to Arthur a feeling of ‘being seen as a curiosity never allowed to forget. I was neither one thing or the other.’ How does that exchange encapsulate Georgiana’s existence as a woman of color?
Crystal Oh, I mean. What we start to really get into was is the dichotomy of like she. She’s a woman of color. She’s the daughter of her mother was a slave, but her father was a plantation owner. The money was from off the backs of people who look like her, who were enslaved. There’s this yeah, this constant struggle of. I have this station in this power, and this comfort, but I also know the pain and the trauma that is built on top of and that is still is still present. And the people who look like me, who still don’t have not even this station and this power, but like in this amount of money, but like, basic human rights. And I think that moment speaks to that a lot and where we start to follow Georgiana into even season three, with those questions about identity and coming to terms with those two things.
Jace What compels Georgiana then, to allow Lockhart to paint her? Is it that she wants to see herself through his eyes with what Arthur calls ‘the clarity of his eyes as an artist?’ Or is it related to those sort of inner conflicts…
Georgiana He asked me how I would like to be seen. I didn’t know how to answer.
Arthur In my experience people see the world through a particular set of views and … prejudices. But not Mr Lockhart. He sees things with a rare clarity. Perhaps this is what it means to be an artist.
Georgiana Mary thinks he is not to be trusted …
Arthur Well, maybe Mary doesn’t know you or Mr Lockhart like I do.
Crystal I think it’s a bit of both to be honest and, this is especially like, I think even at the most at its most basic level. She does like him. Right. And she does she has been hurt and she is looking, she said, I think there’s the scene with Charlotte where she’s talking about finding him, but the exact line was but some kind of joy, like whatever it is, even if it’s not the same as Otis. Because I think she’s talking to Charlotte about not, you know, trying not to recapture what she had with Sidney and stuff. And so I think at the most basic route, it’s really like she’s curious, definitely. But she about like, being wanting to see what he sees. But also she is just like. She does want fun and she does want intimacy. And. Yeah, she’s just it’s it feels I think there’s also the sense that it feels dangerous and it’s offensive, something that she shouldn’t be doing because she shouldn’t.
Jace She shouldn’t.
Crystal Because Mary would be horrified.
Jace I mean, she tries, she tries to keep things proper in that way. You know, he goads her with his sort of familiarity. He says, ‘I’m not asking you to bare your skin, Miss Lambe, but to bare your soul. You offer me Miss Lambe, but I wish to find Georgiana and Georgiana shuts that down. She says that he needs to refer to her as Miss Lambe. Why is she so emphatic here about that distance between them and her position? She sort of reinforces that in that moment.
Crystal Oh, I think there’s still a…there’s definitely just still a fear there. And when we start out season two, there’s the the line about, ‘I’ve never possessed such power,’ and that power becomes this sort of armor. And I think that in that moment, it’s reengaging that armor because she’s like, so afraid of getting hurt again. And. she’s allowing this to happen, but she wants it to be on her terms, because that’s the only way for it to be safe.
Jace She accepts Lady Denham’s invitation to her garden party, where Georgiana discovers an enormous sugared cake, leading Georgiana to give a really passionate and quite beautiful speech about the sugar boycott.
Lady Denham Oh? You would offend your hostess for the sake of this absurd sugar boycott? When will we hear the end of it?
Georgiana When every last slave is freed, my lady. I know you believe me a hypocrite because I am a beneficiary of the very trade I seek to boycott. But I cannot change the past. All I can do is speak, for those who cannot. The fact is anyone who buys sugar perpetuates this evil trade. So, if you are not troubled by the thought of men and women toiling all day to harvest your sugar, then by all means, enjoy your cake. But I must decline.
Jace Do you see this moment as a profoundly pivotal one for Georgiana, one in which she finally attempts to reconcile that tension between her wealth and the suffering caused by the slave trade?
Crystal Oh yes, definitely. And it felt. It felt so, so good, it felt so good to do. It’s just it’s like step one for her and we continue to see that journey, but it’s such a beautiful, it’s such beautiful words, as well.
Jace What did you make of the scene when you read it in the script and when then you had to actually deliver that speech on the day?
Crystal I was like, ‘Yes!’, like, ‘Nice…finally!’, because there’s definitely a sense where we were trying not to be, so not….We wanted it to come out very naturally, and you want there to be emotion in it. You know, you want it to be like, not just this feeling of, like, ‘I’m pounding my fist on a table,’ but they’re, the emotional journey it took, it takes for that character to get to that moment. And also the journey for us behind the scenes of being able to write that moment in — it felt good.
Jace It is this sort of cathartic moment for her that has been we’ve been building towards for four episodes at this point. And she’s finally able to deliver that, I mean, what I’m curious about is how much of this came from those conversations with you or having members of the team who had backgrounds or experiences similar to Georgiana as people of color.
Crystal There was definitely a lot of talk between Justin and the consultants in trying to figure out what things would be historically accurate at the time that we could draw attention to to be able to flesh out this part of Georgiana’s story of identity. And not just skirting over the fact that she, that all of her privilege comes from, you know, slavery and racism and so all of that stuff is definitely from the conversations that we started having after my Instagram post, post season one. But yeah, there was also a lot of work that Justin and the consultants did to try and figure out what stuff was historically accurate and what would work, to include her and to also include the the influence of Otis when it comes to the sugar boycott.
Jace in this speech shifts something within Georgiana. She sits for Lockhart again, but this time she’s more willing to open up to him. She talks about Otis and the sugar boycott, that she talks about her dreams, and this time, they nearly kiss. What has in this moment shifted within her that she can now be herself in front of Charles Lockhart? Has she finally sort of accepted that that dichotomy?
Crystal Yeah, I think she’s just, she’s beginning to trust him and her, yeah, her walls are just slowly beginning to fall down, and I don’t think it’s that she didn’t want them to. Because if she didn’t want them to, she would have never shown up there. You know, she would have gone. So she’s just slowly getting more brave and slowly beginning to feel like, ‘OK, yeah, I’m getting cues that I can trust this person.’
Jace I want to talk about one of my favorite Georgiana moments from this entire season, which is in episode five. It’s a very small scene, but it to me was absolutely breathtaking. Georgiana sits down in front of her mirror and she lets her hair down, and it connected her to this identity as a woman of color in this moment. What did you make of this, this small scene?
Crystal Oh, I loved it. And I think originally it was written where with there was I think there was a few other stuff going on, and we kind of condensed it down to that. To the simplicity of that. And there’s so much in those moments of just, without all of the armor and all of the jewels and everything else, I just, I think it speaks for itself, I’m glad that you felt that way.
Jace I mean, I mention it, I think because it’s particularly rare in a period drama to see a woman of color reveling in and appreciating her natural hairstyle. It’s a powerful reclamation by Georgiana of her identity and connecting with that mother that she never knew. Do you see this scene, then, as a key to understanding Georgiana’s dueling nature?
Crystal Absolutely, because there’s also that sense of like, the pinned-upness of things. And never getting to see her without that just felt wrong. You know? Like, it felt like if she was pinned up, if her hair was pinned up all the time, it’s just not realistic for that character, like for or her and for the freedom that she was trying to feel, in terms of her identity, she wouldn’t all the time just be around hair pinned up. If she’s starting to question these things, if she’s like, ‘What makes me, me?’ That’s going to be something that’s going to be like door number one, that you open up and you say, and it usually is for women of color like there is, there was this turn towards natural hair and away from, not totally away from it, but more this acceptance and finding the beauty of your natural hair and like celebrating that because we grew up, I mean, I at least grew up in in the ‘90s, in the early 2000s where it was, a lot of it was a lot more like, you straighten your hair. And that’s the only option because like if you go, you can’t get a job. If you go into a workplace at work, interview with braids or, you know, when my mom was working in the ‘80s, like, you can’t get a job in a bank if your hair is like, natural, if you can’t put it back into a bun or straighten it so, it felt like it would be a good thing to be able to have more of those moments, I think we even had it out when she’s walking along and talking with Mary in the garden, outside the house, and there’s a little scuffle we had because they wanted me to have Georgiana’s hair pinned up in that moment. And I was like, ‘No, absolutely not. Like, I don’t want, I understand the thing of the time period. But at the same time, if we’re going to tell this character’s story, then there’s got to be, if this is the point where she’s starting to feel this way. She’s not going to all of a sudden be like, Oh, I’ve got a pin in my hair out before I get out of the house. If she’s not going to do it and I don’t want there to as she’s going along this journey, she you don’t want there to be this sense of shame about it.’ If that makes any sense?
Jace It does, I mean, what you just said, it reminded me from a few years back, there was a scene on How To Get Away With Murder, where Viola Davis…
Crystal Ugh, yes.
Jace Where she sits in front of the mirror and she take off her wig. Yes,
Crystal Takes. That. Wig. Off! Yes.
Jace And there was this sense that something innately groundbreaking had occurred in that moment. She took her makeup off. She took her wig off. Do you see this scene in a period drama, no less, is doing something similar in terms of representation?
Crystal Now, listen, I’m not going to say I’m Viola Davis. Okay? I’m not doing that. You’re not going to trick me.
Jace I am making this comparison.
Crystal Yes, I think it’s a similar vein. Definitely. There’s so much that is tied in with black women and our hair like so much and. Absolutely. It’s in the same vein.
Jace Georgiana dances with Lockhart at the ball. They use Esther’s dramatic entrance as a cover for their escape. Lockhart tells her that he’ll finish her portrait and then leave for Europe, but he invites Georgiana to join him as his wife. How tempted is she to take him up on this offer and elope with him?
Crystal Oh, oh, she’s speechless. She’s speechless. Gosh, of course she’s tempted, I mean, the whole this is like the culmination of all of the like, the curiosity and the danger and the adventure like, it’s the moment of, ‘Do I…is this what I really want? And she’s totally tempted. She definitely wants to go.
Jace There’s one episode left this season. What can you tell us about what’s ahead for Georgiana Lambe in the final episode?
Crystal Let’s just say: there’s always hope.
Jace And looking ahead in the broadest possible terms, what can you say about season three?
Crystal Season three— you thought you knew Georgiana Lambe. Season three…you really now you really know Georgiana Lambe, you just wait. It should be Sanditon: The Georgianna season.
Jace Mm hmm. Crystal Clarke, thank you so very much.
Crystal Thank you. Thank you.
Jace With a single episode left in this thrilling second season of Sanditon, our heroine Charlotte Heywood is still struggling to find her way in the world.
Alison What will I say to him?
Charlotte Tell him he has won your heart, just as you have won his.
Alison Could it be that my cynical sister’s heart has softened?
Jace The never-cynical Rose Williams returns to the podcast to unpack a full season of surprises, April 24.
MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Susanne Simpson.
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