Charlotte Heywood is finally able to properly grieve her sense of loss, but the choices she makes at the end of this second season are surprising, to say the least. Rose Williams is ready for the story still to come in season three.
Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
You’re no doubt familiar with these cautions by this point, but nevertheless, I must warn you: if you haven’t watched all six episodes of the second season of Sanditon yet, this podcast might not be the best listen for you.
Okay. That’s out the way, and we can finally say: Charlotte Heywood is engaged! But…not to who you’d expect.
Charlotte May I introduce Mr Ralph Starling
Ralph Charlotte talks of you often and with great fondness. I assume she’s told you our happy news?
Georgiana What news is that?
Charlotte Ralph and I are to be married.
Jace After spending her summer by the sea avoiding a dull farmer from home, Charlotte seems to have changed her tune. Although, considering what happened to her — we shouldn’t be surprised.
Colbourne You are the girls’ governess and I am Master of the estate. I am your employer! It was deeply inappropriate and I feel only shame and regret.
Charlotte That is all I am to you? A member of your staff?
Jace This isn’t the first time Charlotte has let us all down by letting the supposed correct choice get in the way of her heart.
Charlotte I’m resolved to leave Sanditon, Mr Colbourne. You were right in what you said. We let our emotions get the better of us. I mistook what I was feeling for a certain kind of affection. But I realise now I … I could never feel such tenderness for a man who’s shown me so little respect. I will miss the girls a great deal. But I cannot be your governess, if that is what you came to ask.
Jace Having already filmed the third season of the series, Rose Williams knows what’s on the horizon this time for Charlotte, and she offers a tantalizing preview in a new conversation.
Jace And this week we are joined once again by Sanditon star Rose Williams. Welcome.
Rose Williams Hi, thank you so much for having me.
Jace So when we last spoke, you teased Charlotte Heywood’s journey this season, but now viewers have had a chance to see the season in full. What do you make of Charlotte’s character arc in season two of Sanditon?
Rose Oh, good question. I see chapter two for Charlotte as a transformational chapter where potentially in season three, we see her confidently coming into her true sense of self, in season two she’s finding it. She’s decided to forge a path of independence, pursued it and come across the obstacle of her emotions with Coulburne. And again has returned back to Willingden to regroup again. I see it as a season for her as a character and this season as a whole, as a space of inner work and transformation.
Jace We are introduced at the beginning of this season to Charlotte’s younger sister Allison, who accompanies Charlotte to Sanditon, and we’re able to see the seaside through Alison’s now more innocent eyes. How does the character of Alison reflect Charlotte and vice versa?
Rose I really love this character relationship, it really echoes that of Jane Austen and her younger sister Cassandra, and other characters in Austen stories that we know and love so much. I think Alison really does echo Charlotte in series one. They’re different girls. I think Alison has a more romantic view of life, where Charlotte is inspired by the ingenuity of the town and the expansiveness of Tom Parker’s business model and meeting all the different characters. Alison is definitely more inspired by the romanticism of the place and the potential of meeting a man, which is something so new and exciting for her, growing up in Willingden. So those differences in the characters, but the commonality between a young Charlotte and a young Alison is this spirit of adventure and longing just to experience life outside their quaint, quiet village life.
Jace You mentioned Charlotte’s quest for independence. Charlotte begins the season dancing not just to the music, but also between romantic partners and to her own tune, looking to find her way in the wake of Sidney Parker’s death. How does Charlotte’s grief spur her to act to become that independent woman, one who could support herself without a man?
Rose I think that being confronted with loss in a way that she hadn’t experienced for, ever before, really. When your heart really breaks, it does open you up to a new version of yourself, it’s like a crack. It cracks you open in ways that you. I didn’t realize was possible, and to Charlotte, her heart being cracked open by the experience with Sidney meant that it encouraged her forthright strength is actually in pursuit of independence, I think if she if she hadn’t had been through what she’d been through and felt that depths of pain when she lost the man that she fell in love with, she wouldn’t be so determined to forcefully go out and make money for herself because it’s at the expense of her, the her family. She’s concerned about how it will reflect on her sister and feels that heavy weight of responsibility. Yet because she’d been through so much pain, she almost like had no choice but to strike forward. It’s having that emotional experience that forces her forward in a way, I think.
Jace But it is this this real act of self-determination. I mean, she swears off marriage. We we see her at the beginning of the season at that dance in Willingden and she’s being circled by Ralph Starling before she returns to Sanditon and becomes a governess. How radical a position is this for a woman in Regency Era Britain to say, ‘I’m not going to get married?’
Rose Oh, like very, very unheard of, very unusual, risky and frowned upon, and rare. Yeah, because the options weren’t there. There’s no there weren’t any other options. I would like the scene in episode one where Charlotte’s at the breakfast table, and she’s been too scared to tell Mary Parker of the idea of going to this interview to become a governess because she knows what the reaction will be. And I think I love the way Kate played it. She was Mary was astonished ‘You simply can’t do. This is just isn’t an option. The only the only women that go through this sort of an older age. This is the last resort,’ she says. ‘This is a last resort. Like, what on Earth are you doing? It was great to bounce off of that energy from Kate and then and Rosie playing Alison in a state of dismay for the family and. Yeah, that’s my favorite moment, because despite her being against all odds, she still pushes through it, and knows that if she follows her dream and does what she really wants to do, that will open up the path for her sister. She doesn’t know how that will look yet. But somewhere inside, she knows, although this is going to hurt you right now, me going off to my dream will essentially assist you in some way in the future.
Jace I mean, it is selfless in that way. At the same time, she does inhabit this very odd position romantically. She doesn’t have Allison’s sort of sunny naivete or Georgiana’s fortune. She’s a farmer’s daughter as snobs like to remind us and her, and too young to really be a spinster despite Allison’s jibes. I mean, what sort of life is she looking to create and how far down the rungs of society is she willing to go?
Rose I think she doesn’t really catch, doesn’t really care about the rungs of society. She cares about strength of character and what a person’s essence is and what they’re adding to the world. So she was inspired by Tom Parker and his vision. She was inspired by Young Stringer and him pursuing his dreams. She’s inspired by how Miss Lambe carries herself through society. She is inspired by strength of character, so she doesn’t. She doesn’t know what that looks like for her. But I do think there’s a willingness to explore every and any avenue that will lead to essentially a level of independence.
Jace Despite her her keen intelligence. She doesn’t have a lot of options in terms of finding gainful employment at this time. Why does governess become the de facto route she must take in order to find work?
Rose Because that literally is the only option that there is. I read, it’s quite funny. I read a quote. I was quite interested in reading as much as many quotes from Mary Wollstonecraft as possible, because I know Jane Austen was inspired by her, and she’s a very staunchy, grounded, strong willed feminist from that era. And she, I think, spent some time as a teacher and a governess and hated it. Jane Austen also referred to the job as being frightful. I can’t remember the exact quote, but both women that I kind of wanted to research into and fill in for the character of Charlotte were very much against the idea of governesses. I think because in the indoctrination of a young woman to become quote unquote marriageable was something that they found quite gross. But it kind of is the perfect opportunity for Charlotte, it’s it’s in town. There is literally no other option. She can walk back from work and see her friends. And also she’s drawn to these two young girls as much as Augusta, and Leo learn from Charlotte. Charlotte learns and receives from them. She really respects Augusta’s confidence and kind of humorous, sprightly, yes, spicy and at times very rude attitude, because she sees a freedom in Augusta and she sees a freedom in Leo and learns from them and wants to be around and wants to encourage and facilitate these girls that finding their own personal freedoms because they’re very free spirited and free willed young women.
Jace I mean, in that respect, this season is a lot about female independence. We see that with Charlotte, with Georgiana, especially with Augusta and Leonora. Do you, given the way that this season examines women’s often constrained roles in society, do you see Sanditon as being an inherently feminist show then?
Rose I like to think so. Yeah, I like to think so. For all of the female characters. I mean, Lady Denham, the matriarch of the town, strong women. Miss Lambe, incredibly strong woman, Charlotte’s spirit represented a level of strength and want to be free to be young introductions with Augusta and Leonora. Absolutely. I think Justin made it very clear that he wanted to stay true to the themes in essence of Jane Austen’s works, and I think he did a really good job of that. So the answer is yes.
Jace Coulbourne is cut from a slightly similar cloth to Sidney Parker, who could be quite cruel to Charlotte in season one. Coulbourne is often rude or indifferent to Charlotte’s snobbish or patronizing, or at times, even outright sexist. What does Charlotte make of her employer initially, and how do these two draw each other out?
Rose I think initially, Charlotte finds Mr. Coulbourne to be extremely emotionally detached, and she’s interested in that. On behalf of Augusta and Leo, she can see that these two young girls really need parenting, need some form of guidance. And the Mr Coulbourne provided them a home, yet no emotional connection, he doesn’t seem to be interested in engaging with them on any level other than seeking out a to help them become quote unquote marriagable. So she’s she wants to find out who he is on behalf of the girls and in that pursuit of finding out who she really is behind the furrowed brow and sense, dismissive sense of humor. She sees this, yes, similar to Sidney, but very different men. The softness in Coulbourne comes from at past pain, he feels like a protector in a similar way to Sidney, but that the different he fits his competence. Coulbourne essentially feels so much, which is why he shuts down and shuts the door. And I think Charlotte can sense that on a level and seeks to bring out the real him, which proves to be difficult.
Jace To say the least.
Jace Charlotte spends the first part of the season grieving Sidney without being able to publicly grieve him, but she finds her footing. And for me, by the time she goes up in a hot air balloon, I felt like we had seen the return of the brave, plucky, headstrong Charlotte Haywood again.
Charlotte It’s like a dream! I feel as if I were flying.
Lennox Is it too late to mention I am not enamored of heights?
Charlotte Fears are there to be conquered.
Lennox You are quite unlike any woman I’ve ever met, Miss Heywood.
Jace Do you feel the balloon scene was a turning point for Charlotte?
Rose Yeah, that’s really. That’s really nice that you picked up on that, definitely because it was a new experience for her and literally being lifted above the ground of being shown the town and the thrill and the excitement of of a new experience definitely shifted something inside her. And seeing Tom have a successful afternoon and then being reminded of all those elements of Sanditon that she loved so much at the beginning and to see the fact that more and more people have flocked to the town. And she’d also had a really nice afternoon. That afternoon she’d had a picnic that Harriet Park with Colbourne and the girls, and she started to see a new side of Mr Colbourne that it’s nice that you picked up on that. I’d say that that definitely was a moment that lifted her above her grief and reminded her of all the things that she loved about Sanditon.
Jace at the ball. Tom finally recognizes the feelings that Sidney and Charlotte had for each other. I know that Sidney would want to see you dancing again, he says, as do I. What does this moment mean for Charlotte, this acknowledgment of her grief and her love for his brother?
Rose That was such an important moment, me and Chris, but I knew and felt and communicated about that being a really lovely way to. Sometimes it really doesn’t matter how many words there are but the meaning and just that small sentence and the way that Tom says it to Charlotte and look in his eyes is it’s a form of closure for her, like a real moment of emotional closure because it’s the acceptance that like the acknowledgment of the true sense that connection and feeling. So that feels like a very loving moment of closure.
Jace And you see that, you see that on your face that Charlotte is able to finally let go. Yeah, because I do feel like she’s holding on to this so tightly and time gives her permission to to let go. Yes, Charlotte does dance at the bar with Francis Lennox and with Colbourne. Dance scenes to me are to Austin what explosive battles are to Marvel movies. What was it like filming this particular dance scene with Ben Lloyd-Hughes given Charlotte and Coburn’s dynamic until this point?
Rose Oh it was really nice, actually. I actually I had to learn it, so I didn’t have any rehearsal times, so I was really nervous about getting all the steps. But Ben was a lovely dancing partner and we both us and Tosha, the director felt. Really, really happy and inspired by the beautiful choreography by Sammy Murray, and she did series one as well, that treated an absolute genius. She’s amazing to work with. Not only did she come up with beautiful choreography, but she’s the most adaptable, personable, like quick teacher, but is a total joy to work with her. So real credit to Sammy for this piece and this piece of choreography in this dance, but I really enjoyed doing it. Both me and Ben, we just both invested in making it very sweet. I think the music reflects it to light a sweet coming together. It’s not. It’s not like, I don’t think, any dances we saw in series one. It’s a there’s a gentleness to it as a gent, there’s a gentle and like blossoming of each other. Finding a finding a real connection. And the music in the movement to really reflect that. And I really, really enjoyed that scene.
Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…
Jace Colbourne comes clean after finding a shaken Charlotte, and he tells her the truth about Lennox and his late wife and about Leo’s parentage. And she learns that Colbourne’s wife, Lucy, after having given birth to Leo, walked out into the rain to her death. Does that moment bond the two of them in a sort of shared loss?
Rose Yes, I think so. That definitely connects them. She suddenly understands this man that had confused her so much, and she sees that the reason that he finds it hard to express his emotions is out of fear of anything bad happening to the girls. So he makes sense to her in that moment, and she feels an enormous amount of compassion towards him.
Jace And then they kiss for the first time here, falling into one another on the sofa. What sparks this passionate moment between them, do you think?
Rose I think the openness that they’ve just been, she’s just been through quite an ordeal with Lennox and feels comfortable enough to be honest with him, and she obviously finds it very difficult to speak on something that he probably hasn’t spoken on since it happened. And that level of openness and honesty creates the intimacy that we see.
Colborune I have been thinking on our conversation last night. I must apologize. I’d said too much. I beg you never speak of it.
Charlotte I’ll not breathe a word. I too have known heartache and betrayal. I had sworn off love and marriage. And yet…I have come to realize …I cannot hide myself away. I must live my life. Is it not time you did the same?
Jace And they kiss beneath the tree this time. What does this kiss represent for these two? Is it finally a declaration for both of them of that decision to live?
Rose Yes. That’s really nice. I think so. I think absolutely. I think it’s like a, as you referred to the Charlotte individual journey when she goes up in the balloon, that marks like a joy in her, and she is reminded of all of the things that she loves about the place and that lightness returns. And then with that kiss under the tree, the intimacy, again, the fact that they come together and kiss definitely represents like a willingness to, yeah, to step into feeling, to step into life to and let go of the griefs that they’re holding on to.
Jace And what do you see as having prompted that realization in Charlotte? Why has she now realized she can’t keep her heart trapped in amber?
Rose I think because she’s seen…I love that expression, trapped in amber, heart trapped in amber. Because she’s seen how with Coulbourne, him holding on the past has so negatively affected people around him and himself that there’s no good in holding on to pain because ultimately it ends up spilling over, hurting yourself and hurting others around you. In his case with the girls, and she sees that she doesn’t want that to happen to her. She doesn’t want to be defined by this heartbreak and loss, so in that moment, she realizes she must step forward and really should be able to let go. I think she wants as long as she says to Augusta at some point, ‘That’s what I’m trying to do, I’m trying to forge a new life. But the key is trying.’ Whereas by the end of the season, when she’s heard Colbourne’s story and seeing him as an example, that’s really when she makes a decision to move on.
Jace So it’s Charlotte and Colbourne have to watch as Leo confronts Lennox about whether he’s her true father and he lies telling her that Colbourne is her father. Does Charlotte’s perception of Lennox alter at all in that moment? Has he redeemed himself even an ounce in her view with this sort of noble lie?
Rose Absolutely not. I don’t think it’s a noble lie. I think it’s a move of cowardice, I think.
Rose I didn’t. I don’t think he’s lying for the sake of the child. I think he’s lying because he doesn’t have the capability to love. Some people are born without empathy. There’s no repercussions for their actions in the world. I think Lennox is an example of that. And in that moment when he says that Colbourne is Leo’s father, I don’t think it’s a selfless act. I think that he couldn’t say anything other than that because he doesn’t have the capability to own to the pain that he’s caused others. Because if if he owns up to that truth, then it would be like a tower of cards that all fell down, and it would be like, I’m pulling a string that wouldn’t stop, kind of it would all start coming apart. So I think he lied on behalf of himself rather than the protection of of the child.
Jace Now he’s a rake, and we see that not only here, but in his dealings with Tom Parker, that there are no consequences, as you say, for Lennox. And he is one of those people that sort of drifts through life, avoiding any sense of repercussion or consequence. And in this moment, he could accept that, but chooses not to.
Rose Yeah, yeah. Yeah, exactly. He chooses. He chooses to live in the lie for himself.
Jace I think we finally we finally get a very happy Charlotte. She has sort of found a path for herself. She has a career. Colbourne has opened himself up to her. But this is Sanditon, after all, and romance never runs smooth. She shows up at the house, and despite their earlier kiss, Colbourne suddenly acts as though he’s just her employer, and he sacks her, saying that they’ll agree her employment was terminated by mutual agreement. What does Charlotte make of this sudden transformation here, and how does she reconcile what she knows he felt for her with this sudden coldness to her?
Rose I think she…she allowed himself to be vulnerable, which is something that she wasn’t sure about doing anyway. And she feels that it backfired again. So but because she’s been doing stuff in the past, it doesn’t hurt as much, but it’s just more of a this time. It’s more of a disappointment, and it facilitates her to create more of a boundary like with and as was so grateful, it was a female director with, Tosha, she said. Charlotte needs it in the scene when he comes back and tries to explain himself, but she really helped with direction, saying like, No, this is. This is a time when she’s drawing a boundary that suits you. It’s like, I’ve just like the setting and I love it. And the saying, although like practice or the action to quote unquote ‘bleed later’ like in battle, ‘bleed later.’ And I think that’s really important. But she bleeds, she means to not to bleed in front of him. She gets emotional when she’s talking to him, but she doesn’t get…what I’m saying is that she felt empowered to create a boundary, even though it’s painful. She’d been through too much. It was a great disappointment. So it’s a combination of feeling extremely disappointed, but also an opportunity for her to really seriously draw a boundary.
Jace But as you say, she does bleed later. She doesn’t break down in this moment. And in fact, it seems it takes all of her courage to simply just sort of walk away.
Jace And to me, it wasn’t really just a broken heart. So soon after opening herself up again, but it was something more powerful. It was her entire sense of pride here that she’s not going to sort of throw herself on his mercy, but she is just walking away.
Rose Yes, exactly. Self-confidence, ultimately.
Jace The audience knows the full story of why Colbourne has suddenly changed his tune after his meeting with Lennox, but Charlotte doesn’t. What does she think happened? Why does she believe that Colbourne has now rejected her? Does she see Lennox’s hand in this at all?
Rose I don’t think she sees Lennox’s hand, I think she sees a man that has a complicated relationship with his emotions and who leans on pushing people away in order to protect his own feelings. But she doesn’t have the time or care to figure that out. She feels like, ‘That’s your journey, Mr Colbourne. I am not going to wait. I’m not going to wait around for you to act accordingly and correctly.’ So this is essentially her not even wanting to bother with herself, with the wise, more of a strong knowing that this behavior was not good enough. And I don’t have the time to bend over backwards and compromise my own sense of self and emotional world because you can’t seem to figure yours out.
Jace And she she puts that on on the table, and when he tries to apologize, she just says she’s leaving. And yes, she mistook what she felt for affection, but she could never love a man who would treat her that way. Do you see this moment as Charlotte at her best and most independent — standing up for herself and pushing him away, even if it causes her hurt?
Rose Yes, I think so. I think that she thinks this is a strengthening for her, for sure.
Jace ‘I cannot be your governess if that is what you came to ask.’ Does she think for a moment that he’s there to declare his love instead of offering a business transaction? Would she have said yes, do you feel in that moment if he had,
Rose Um, I don’t know that she would…I don’t know that she would. I think she’d say this is like, how can I trust a man whose emotions seem to change like the wind. I think that if he had come with a declaration of love, she would…she’d still hold a level of boundary because his actions and his words have been so muddled that he’d have to prove himself over a course of time. I don’t think that her knees would buckle and she’d, you know, beat her heart would swell. And then it would be a happy ever after, I think he had confused her and she’d still maintain a level of boundary.
Jace We next see Charlotte dancing at Alison’s wedding, and Charlotte introduces Georgiana and the Parkers to Ralph Starling, to whom she’s engaged. But again, it doesn’t quite look as though Charlotte’s really happy. There’s another emotion that flits across her face. How should we read that expression at the very end of season two? Is it doubt that she’s feeling?
Rose I found it really hard to do that scene because I so didn’t want that for Charlotte. ‘Don’t give in!And I think that she’s more embarrassed because she knows. She knows her friends, they know her Georgiana and the Parkers know her. They know her. And she knows on some level that they know that this isn’t right. So the reason she’s been avoiding telling them is because she’s aware that they’ll question her decision. And so it’s a fear of her friends’ reactions. She’s trying her best to put on a good face and be confident in this decision she’s made to save her family. She thinks, ‘Right. My sister’s done it. My family require me to do the same. So on behalf of them, I will just give in and marry Ralph because it makes sense for the Heywoods,’ but yes, she’s nervous. She’s nervous that her friends are going to confront her with the truth she’s not willing to accept.
Jace I mean, for a character that was all about moving forward all season, she’s suddenly at the very end of the season, moves completely backwards and where she was at the start of season one with this guy that she doesn’t want to marry, but is sort of just there.
Rose I know. I know! Tell me about it!
Jace It is a sort of knife to the heart, and you sort of realize that there’s obviously a lot more story here.
Jace What can you tease about what lies ahead for Charlotte Heywood then in season three?
Rose I think I see season two for her as transformational, and I see season three as her sitting comfortably in who she really is, like finding out, remembering and realizing who she really is and which ultimately will hopefully lead to a version of happiness for her. So, further self-discovery spurred on by other characters meeting different challenges. But yeah, I guess that’s what I’ll say is a further sense of of self-discovery.
Jace I was going to say if season one was about Charlotte finding love, and season two was about her finding her own path in the face of loss, then I was hoping that season three might then represent Charlotte finding and accepting Charlotte?
Rose Yes. Yes, exactly. That’s a very beautiful way to put it. Absolutely.
Jace I mean, in a twist, she ended up not choosing either of the two men in her love triangle at the end of season two, but she did end up back in Willingden, engaged to Ralph Starling.
Jace Does she find herself being swept away by Ralph? Or is there the possibility of someone else on the horizon?
Rose Ralph, just…she’s known Ralph all her life. It was kind of a foregone conclusion for her family. He represents home. He’s a good man. He is similar to her father. The way in which they live, they live simply of the land, focus on community. He’s a very good, good man that she knows through and through. And so she hopes that in marrying, I think somebody that she knows so well, that he’ll…it will allow for her to continue to discover herself as he’s such a kind of safe grounding stone, but ultimately she feels in his stomach that maybe this isn’t the right thing to do. She’s grappling with the decision. She doesn’t know what it will look and feel like, but she feels as if she has no choice.
Jace Hmm. So without spoiling, of course, can you say whether there might be a happily ever after ending in the works for Charlotte Heywood?
Rose I’d say that in the spirit of Jane Austen, that is heavily on the cards.
Jace Hmm. What can you tell us about your role in the upcoming Spaghetti Western series, That Dirty Black Bag?
Rose Oh yeah, that’s a very different world. That was quite enjoyable to step from that character, she’s called Simone, into Charlotte because, wow, like, what a difference. So that’s the joy of it for me to explore different parts of myself and different worlds and different realms to research. But yeah, I play a character called Simone, she works in the brothel in the town, and there’s a grit to her that would make characters in Sanditon’s toes curl. So it’s very, very enjoyable to jump from different worlds.
Jace I can’t wait for that.
Jace Rose Williams, thank you so very much.
Rose Thank you.
Jace Next on MASTERPIECE, we turn our attention a little closer in history, to London in the swinging sixties — and the peril of post-war British facism.
Vivien Hello. My name’s Jane Carpenter. I’ve come to see Mr Jordan. I’m Peter Fox’s friend. All for the folk, and the folk for all. Perish Judah.
Lee Take a seat.
Jace Sarah Solemani, the writer who adapted Jo Bloom’s novel Ridley Road into a miniseries of the same name, joins the podcast May 1.
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.
Sign up to get the latest news on your favorite dramas and mysteries, as well as exclusive content, video, sweepstakes and more.