Alison Heywood is a newcomer to the up and coming resort town of Sanditon, and like her older sister Charlotte before her, she finds the entire experience to be a thrill. Rosie Graham is also new to the scene, and she used Alison’s love of romantic novels and poetry to find the character’s plucky drive.
Jace Lacob I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
Charlotte Heywood is not the can-do adventurer we knew previously. She’s fallen in and out of love, and she’s still looking for purpose. But the Heywood family has reserves of romance, and Charlotte’s younger sister, Alison, is more than ready for love.
Alison Are these gardens not magnificent?
Carter Not as magnificent as the company which adorns them. But you do not have a drink. We must remedy that at once.
Alison He is always so attentive.
Jace Alison is on the hunt for a husband, and she seems to have found one in the devastatingly handsome Captain William Carter.
Alison I know my William and I know that he is not a liar. You and Captain Fraser are just jealous of what we have. I’m not going to let two biter loveless cynics spoil my happiness.
Georgiana Alison, you cannot simply…
Alison Three loveless cynics.
Jace Granted, this is Sanditon — true love is never as obvious as it might initially appear. And Alison has much to consider after a disastrous proposal on a lake.
Carter My dear Alison. There is a question I am burning to ask you. Indeed the rest of my life may depend upon your answer.
Alison Then ask it.
Jace Much like her character, Rosie Graham brings light and enthusiasm to the Sanditon set, and she does the same with us here on the podcast.
Jace And this week we are joined by Sanditon star, Rosie Graham. Welcome.
Rosie Graham Hello! Thanks so much for having me.
Jace It’s my pleasure. I want to start by talking about Alison, and of course. There is a youthful innocence, some might even say naiveté, to Alison Heywood. What did you initially make of the character when you first read the scripts for Sanditon?
Rosie I thought she was great fun. I think I really admire her optimism, bags full of it, and she’s so spirited and passionate, which I think are great traits. She really is a go-getter and has this energy, which I think is really nice and I think a really nice contrast to Charlotte’s in season two. You sort of see how much Charlotte has grown and changed by bringing them together. And Alison, I think, has some of that sort of, you know, naiveté and youthful innocence that Charlotte brought to Sanditon with her in the first season. So I think it’s really nice to see the sort of similarities they have, but also the contrast as well between the sisters. But yeah, I thought it was great. I thought it was just so much fun.
Jace I do want to delve into that, that sort of difference. Alison and Charlotte might be from the same family. They grew up on the same farm, but as you say, they’re very different characters. Alison in particular, seems very taken by a romantic spirit, and I’m using that with a Capital R in the sense of Romantic that Charlotte has left behind this season. What does Alison make of her older sister and the changes she sees in her when season two begins?
Rosie I think and it, you know, it’s interesting because sort of thinking about Austen’s heroines and women in particular and sisters, sort of the role that Charlotte has to take on as the eldest daughter is quite a lot of pressure. You know, she’s sort of like head of her sisters and the idol for them. And while Charlotte has spent time in Sanditon, Alison’s been at home and had to sort of take over that role and those duties, but while also receiving, you know, letters hearing all about Charlotte’s time. So I think in that time, Alison has really just been raring to go and get her opportunity to experience all of the things that her sister has. I think she sort of is really excited and empowered by Charlotte’s journey, but also mildly jealous and sort of raring to go, like to just sort of do it herself.
Jace Like Charlotte, Alison is a farmer’s daughter. Her prospects might be limited in that respect unless she can snag a husband with a fortune while she’s visiting the seaside town of Sanditon. Is that a big part of the appeal for Alison of accompanying Charlotte on this return visit?
Rosie Oh, definitely. I think, you know, according to all of the romance novels and poetry that Alison reads, that the absolute only way to find happiness is marriage. And I don’t think she sees it as a duty in the same way that Charlotte does as in, I think there is the pressure of marrying and being able to support her family back home in Willingden, and we know that the harvest hasn’t been great and there is a bit of worry about their parents back on the farm. But Alison is like a romantic idealist. And I think, yeah, according to that, that is the way to achieve ultimate happiness. You know, I think she really believes the books she reads and doesn’t see why she can’t find that on her own.
Jace I mean, it’s interesting that you say that, she does remind me a bit of Catherine Moreland from Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey in that her worldview is shaped almost entirely by the novels that she reads, or the romantic novels that she reads. And she seems to almost believe herself that she’s in a romance novel plot at this point, and so therefore acts accordingly. Do you see that as sort of comprising her behavior here?
Rosie Oh, definitely. I sort of had Catherine as well as a point of reference, just how they’re so adventurous and seek adventure and even when, you know, possibly putting themselves in danger. I think, you know, Charlotte is much more cautious and thinks about what she’s doing. Sometimes Alison just throws caution to the wind and decides to go for it and not think about consequence. I think definitely she sees herself and hopes her time in Sanditon will play out just like a romance novel. And I think in some ways it does, you know, I think because of that she builds herself up a bit and feels this sort of pressure to keep up appearances and what she thinks will make her, you know, succeed in society. You know, she wants new clothes and she wants to dress like all of the women she sees, and she wants to attend all of the balls and meet as many men as possible. But then, you know, we figure out that actually in the course of the season maybe that’s not what she wants and not what’s best for her. I think actually it’s Fraser that sees the real her straight away and sort of makes her realize that just being herself is enough. And this sort of dream of romanticism and the society she dreamt of maybe isn’t actually what she wants.
Jace In many ways, Charlotte Heywood was the audience’s point of view character in season one of Sanditon. But in some ways, that role gets taken over in season two by Alison. What does Alison make of Sanditon as a place and as an idea?
Rosie I think she thinks it’s just the height of sophistication, total glitz, total glamor. I mean, even. And it sort of is like, I think, just see how much it’s come on from season one. And it is the place to be. I think there’s a really good introduction to it in episode one, with Tom Parker showing the sisters around.
Tom As you can see, my dears, Sanditon is fast becoming the most desirable destination on the south coast!
Arthur And now I’m Tom’s right hand, I’ve been planning some chemes of my own. A pagoda! And even a theatre!
Rosie Obviously, we know it’s not all it appears, and there’s lots of issues there that Tom Parker gets himself into. But I think yes, I mean, such a contrast to Willingden as well. I think she’s delighted and enthralled by all of it, but I think it does intimidate her. A lot of it, you know, she’s trying, she wants to keep up appearances, and she wants it to be the best summer ever, and she wants to get the husband and really just sort of is like, ‘It will happen no matter what. This is my one chance!’
Jace A lot of your scenes, especially at first, were with Rose Williams. So I’m curious what Rose is like as a scene partner and how much the two of you work together ahead of time to sort of craft that sibling camaraderie between Alison and Charlotte>
Rosie Yeah, Rose is an angel, a real-life angel. And she was just fantastic. There actually wasn’t all that much time before we started. I just finished another job and was going straight into Sanditon sort of as soon as I came back, I was filming a film in Belfast and as soon as I came back from that, it was the read-through. But just before that, we had a really great Zoom call with Charles Sturridge, our director for episodes one-two-three, and Rose and myself. And that was great because we really just got into like what we thought the sister bond should be like, what they’re like together and sort of discussed personally, like our relationships. I don’t have a big sister. Rose has a younger sister. But I think then as soon as we started it, the bond sort of just, it just, we just sort of fell into those roles. Rose’s slightly older than me, and is a lot more experienced just as an actress. And she sort of just did sort of take me under her wing and looked after me and was just like a big sister to me. We started with so many of our sister scenes, and I think that sort, we were thrown into the deep end, but because Rose is so open and warm and generous and I really did feel comfortable with her. And then as it went on and we continued, I was just so excited to do any of the sister scenes and we would just…it felt so natural. It felt like we were just getting closer and closer and closer every time we were working together. And then by the end, you know, we just wouldn’t even be thinking it would be, you know, the cameras wouldn’t be on us, but we’d be taking each other’s hands and whispering to each other and, like checking in on each other. And so, like we just…we were so lucky with how that all worked out. I think. I love Rose. I think she’s great.
Jace So two roses intertwined…
Rosie Very confusing. Rose and Rosie. We called each other a bunch of roses.
Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…
Jace I want to go back to episode one. There is such a sense of excitement to Alison, the first time she sees the sea out of the window at the Parkers’ carriage. For a lot of us, that might not seem like much. But what does this vision represent to Alison? Is it as though the entire world has suddenly expanded, or opened up to her in this moment?
Rosie Oh, yeah. I mean, I think you know, they have a fairly humble upbringing and a big family and raised on a farm and they all, you know, I really love like you don’t see so much, but just the snippets we see of Willingden in season one. And it’s sort of like everyone piles in and everyone is very, they’re all very much involved in all of the farm life. And I think because of the books Alison reads, she sees this bigger world and she sees that, you know, these stories she gets swept up in. I think like, you know, we sort of said she wants herself in those narratives. And I think this is her chance and it’s like nothing she’s seen before. So everything is new and everything is exciting, and she’s meeting people she’s never met before. And I think it’s funny the scene where I first meet Lady Denham and I don’t really, you know, I don’t really say much. And I think Alison would just be so intimidated and be like, sort of be like, ‘Lady Denham is goals. I want to be her. How do I keep my cool and be calm and collected in front of her?’ And yeah, I think she’s just sort of enthralled by all of it and inspired by everyone she meets. And also, I love that, you know, she really does make the most of everything like, you know, just in episode one, it’s like she wants to see everything at once and like, it moves quite quickly for her. You know, she wants to get the ball rolling.
Jace I want to jump back quickly to talk about Alison and Georgiana Lamb. The two of them become friends very quickly, despite the fact that they come from very different economic backgrounds. And I’m just curious about how Alison sees Georgiana, given Alison’s expectations about becoming a sort of lady of leisure in the future. What does she make of this heiress whose life is so different to her own?
Rosie I think it’s, you know, she probably sees her as this Girl Boss, I think. I think, you know, maybe they bond as well because Georgiana is spirited and sassy and they both are mischievous, as well. And they, I think, bring out, like, Georgiana really brings that out in Alison, how adventurous she is and they sort of get up to mischief together. And so I think, you know, Charlotte is trying to, you know, keep everyone on good terms and look after her, but is being a bit of a protective older sister, where Georgiana gives her the opportunity to sort of like, be a bit naughty. And Alison really likes that about her. I think she also would just love hanging around with such a stylish, like, beautiful, powerful young woman. I think she’s probably quite in awe of Georgiana.
Jace I mean, Let’s dive into a little bit about Alison and Carter and Fraser. I mean, if it is love between Alison and Carter, it’s something else altogether between Alison and the scarred, rather gruf Captain Fraser at first. I mean, if Alison and Carter are all sunshine and puppies, what are Alison and Fraser? How does she see this standoffish young man with his deadpan humor and a seemingly stoic nature?
Rosie Yeah, I think because Fraser treats her differently than every other man sort of treats her, and she’s almost a bit like disarmed by him, and she doesn’t like that he’s not falling at her feet or, you know, desperate to woo her, and I think because of that, because maybe he treats her more similarly to the lads she would have grew up with in Willingden, she just takes a bit of a disliking and she’s like, ‘Oh, you’re that rude and you’re bit curt and you’re standoffish and and I don’t need to try with you because you’re not trying with me.’ And she sort of jumps on offense. But what I really like about their relationship is there’s sort of this battle of wits, you know, and she gives as much as she gets from him. And you know, it becomes more and more affectionate, how they sort of slag one another off and, that’s something she never has with Carter. And, you know, she dreams of this ideal romantic scenario, and it sort of happens. It’s presented to her. She wakes up, Carter saves her heroically, she decides, ‘OK, this will be my love story. It’s love at first sight.’ And then she sort of is blind to everything else because I think she’s so desperate for the happy ending. And so it’s just like, surface surface surface. Also, you know, we knew that she is wooed under false pretenses and Carter’s giving her what she thinks she wants, which is just love poems and compliments and flowers. When you know, we discover that actually she needs more than that and wants, and doesn’t want that. And that’s not what will give her the happy ending. I think, you know, Fraser sees the real her straight away, and she hasn’t even really seen herself because I think she falls victim to feeling like she really needs to keep up pretenses and be a certain way and be a certain type of woman to survive Sanditon and succeed in the town. But then it’s when she sort of like, lets her guard down and realizes that she can be herself.
Alison There is someone. I knew it. What is her name?
Fraser I cannot say.
Alison Then tell me what is she like?
Fraser Oh, she’s a rare creature indeed. Delicate yet strong. Guileless yet wise. But in truth, I am quite undone in her company.
Alison Does she know of your feelings?
Fraser No, no, no. No good could come of that, Miss Heywood. Her heart belongs elsewhere. Besides, I know she could never look on me with tenderness.
Jace I want to talk about the scene where it does shift, which to me is sort of the scene where Alison and Fraser are caught in the rain together.
Alison We are soaking wet!
Fraser How observant you are, Miss Heywood. It is a rare gift.
Alison If only wars were won on wit alone, Captain Fraser. May I ask who you are gathering flowers for?
Fraser If you must know, they are for Colonel Lennox.
Alison And I am sure he will be quite swept off his feet. Tell my brave Captain Carter, I will write to him.
Fraser Aye. He will be glad to hear it.
Jace And Alison realizes that she doesn’t know whom he was actually gathering flowers for. How do you play the Beatrice-Benedict aspect of the scene with Fraser and that fine line between repartee and subtext? And what was it like filming this particular scene with Frank Blake?
Rosie Oh, it is really fun. It was a really, really beautiful location. And and I remember we were both just like, ‘Wow, like this is fantastic!’ like, it looked beautiful. So I think we were actually both sort of swept up in the like glamor and romanticism of the scene, we also I was very excited for the rain machine action. I think that was very fun. I love it and I’m a sucker for it. And also Frank, II think it’s really cool. He wasn’t supposed to ride in on horseback, but he, Frank Blake grew up on an equestrian center, so he knows his way around the horses. He’s like an excellent horse rider, so Charles was like, ‘Well, let’s make use of that!’ And then he put in a really cool way, rides in, jumps off the horse and is picking flowers, which rends his character even more as like, cool, talented, you know? And I really enjoyed the scene because I think it’s important that they’re both intelligent and they are both well-read, and that’s without them trying to prove that to each other just shows it. You know, it’s not like Carter trying to impress with the poetry. They both just do get on and are on the same page. And like, can give as good as they get with one another. And so I think that’s a great scene, but I think it’s quite heartbreaking because I think you sort of see how Fraser’s feeling towards Allison at that point. But still, the scene ends with, ‘Send my love to my brave Carter,’ or something like that. And you’re once again reminded of the sort of sorry position that Fraser is in. And I think that, yeah, that’s a great scene.
Jace All of that sort of bubbles to the surface at Lady Denham’s Garden Party in episode four. Fraser throws Allison’s description of him back at her, the Spartan course unrefined soldier that he is, leading her to declare that there must be a beating heart beneath that uniform. And he admits that he’s in love, and he then describes her so beautifully, but says that her heart belongs elsewhere. Does Alison truly not realize that he’s talking about her here?
Rosie I really don’t think she does, because I don’t even, I think he describes her in such a beautiful way, with words that Alison doesn’t even see in herself yet. I think, you know, she is confident and spirited and energetic and optimistic. But I think she, in the discovery of her love really is discovering herself as well. And so I think like, she can’t possibly fathom someone describing her so beautifully and articulately, which makes it all the more lovely and emotional when you know, we find out that those words were about her and that she found out, yeah, that he was talking about her. I think, you know, she and that moment, she really thinks, ‘Wow, this is a really nice man, who wouldn’t want his love, anyone would be lucky to have Captain Fraser!’ But just still, it’s that last bit of this blindness to the fact that, oh my god, she could have Captain Fraser. Those words are her words, you know? And again, I think episode four is my favorite, and it’s such a dramatic episode. So juicy.
Jace And then things go horribly, horribly wrong. Carter takes out a boat and he proposes to Alison, who happily accepts. And this seems like the perfect fairy tale moment, the culmination of all of Alison’s dreams predicated on all of those romance novels that she’s read and devoured all these years until she falls out of the boat, and Carter almost lets her drown because he can’t swim. What goes through Allison’s mind in this moment that she’s drowning?
Rosie I think it just total horror and disbelief because she, you know, she really, why would she not believe everything that Carter had said? This is her first sort of, I imagine, romantic involvement with anyone. And she’s basing it all on the books that she’s read. And in those, there’s the happy ever after, and there’s the perfect endings. So she believes that this man has saved 50 men at at Bidassoa, swimming and in battle, and is as brave and heroic as all of the heroes she reads about. And so I know that when the time comes for her to be saved, he’s absolutely useless, it’s just heartbreaking. And I think, yeah, the moment, the sort of scene that follows after when it all becomes clear, when then it’s Fraser, who has the wet shirt, and Carter didn’t jump off the boat to save her, it was Fraser that had to save her. He couldn’t even swim! That must mean that every single thing has been a lie. And just at the moment, she thought her dream was coming true and it was all going to work out for her. So, yeah, it’s a huge, huge moment for Alison and just heartbreaking because it’s like everything that she threw herself into and she was so open and honest and passionate and about. And, you know, it was all on false pretenses and it was all based on lies.
Jace I love that scene, as you say, that Carter is still in the boat. We get this great moment with Fraser and Alison on the shore. And then there’s Carter kind of in this little tiny boat and he doesn’t know what to do. This supposed savior of 50 men from drowning and the truth. You see it on your face that this is where the truth clicks for Alison about Carter. And it’s sort of her ‘Oh, I’ve made a huge mistake’ moment.
Alison You cannot swim? You would have let me drown …
Carter No! When Captain Fraser arrived, I was just about to dive in –
Alison Stop! No more lies! Charlotte was right. You were never at Bidassoa, were you? Was he?
Fraser It is not my place to say.
Alison Was any of it true?
Carter My feelings for you are true.
Alison You are nothing but a coward. And I’m nothing but a fool. And you, you knew and you said nothing.
Jace With whom do you think she’s most angry in this moment? Carter, Fraser or herself?
Rosie Good question. I think a big part is humiliation. She’s totally humiliated, and as I sort of said, it’s not like she’s been hiding this great love she had she thought she had for Carter, it’s been made very clear, very apparent, and everyone will know that it’s all been a massive failure and she’s and let herself fall into this trap. I mean, even you know, the scenes before when Charlotte warns her, ‘I don’t think Carter is the man he said he is,’ and the way she was then lashed out and rude to her sister because she was so desperate for her love story to be true. So I think it’s a huge part of being so disappointed in herself, I think humiliated and hurt by Carter. But I think the hurt towards Fraser is that, by this point, she feels like they are good friends and they’re connected. And, you know, he’s a bit of an ally in someone that she’s been able to confide in in Sanditon and she really valued that. But yeah, I think a big part of just humiliation and being so disappointed in herself and ashamed of what’s happened, and it feels like it’s been a resounding failure, you know?
Jace And yet…we’ll see. So much of Alison storyline is based around her fondness for poetry, it’s where she gets a lot of her romantic notions. It’s how Carter is able to win her over, even though he’s borrowing Fraser’s poetic knowledge and feelings. And I’m curious, are you a fan of poetry? Did you turn to the Romantics in an effort to feel at home in the role of Alison Haywood?
Rosie Yeah, yeah, I definitely am. And yeah, I sort of, I actually recently seen the play and Cyrano de Bergerac, which I think, you know, there’s definitely inspiration that’s been drawn from that and the story of the the poet. And so and I adored, I saw a production of the play in Glasgow, where I’m from, and it was written in Scots. And then I also saw James McAvoy play Cyrano de Bergerac in London. So I was really familiar with that story. And yeah, how heartbreaking it was. But also in terms of poetry. Yeah, I think I’ve always been a fan of poetry, definitely sort of Scots poetry as well. I’ve always been a fan of Robbie Burns…
Jace Robbie Burns, of course…
Rosie Our poet laureate of Scotland. We did this thing in my primary school every year, we had the Burns Competition. And you used to have to learn a Scots poem and perform it to your class, and then they’d vote for a winner. And I entered every single year, and I was fiercely competitive. I won it quite a few years and that was like, my whole year was working towards the Burns poetry. And I still celebrate Burns Day every year, so I definitely love poetry.
Jace Can you give us a taste of some Robbie Burns then, off the top of your head?
Rosie You know, what’s a line…Oh my love is like a red red rose that’s newly sprung in June. My love is like a melody that sweetly played in tune. I will mess up the rest of the lines. There’s also a funny one, that’s for grace. I remember this because my granny’s house in the Highlands, it’s written on her sort of tablemats, and it’s a way to see grace before you eat your meal. And it’s Burns. And it’s just, Some hae meat and canna eat, And some wad eat that want it, But we hae meat and we can eat, Sae let the Lord be Thankit!
Jace Looking ahead and without spoiling, what can you tell us about what’s coming up for Alison in these final two episodes? Where’s her story going in the broadest sense?
Rosie And in the next two episodes, I think we really see Alison come into her own and quite a lot of self-discovery. You know, he’d been on the journey of it, but I think she really sort of finds out where her heart lies, what makes her happy, and like who she is as a young woman. And also, hopefully, hopefully, you’ll see a good bit of joy.
Jace Fingers crossed. This isn’t your first brush with a show with a rather passionate and engaged audience. You sort of obliquely referred earlier to your role on Outlander, where you played poor Morna Cameron, and Outlander has a similarly devoted audience to Sanditon. What was it like playing Morna on Outlander and what do you make of passionate fandoms?
Rosie It was amazing. Outlander was my first professional job. I was 19 and everything about it was so exciting. I sort of again, you know, Outlander is filmed in Scotland, just outside the city I grew up in. And I think Scotland in general is quite naîve to how huge the show is. So it really wasn’t until it came out. And I mean, actually, most of all of my scenes were sort of caught like, I’m only in a tiny, tiny bit. I did a few scenes with some, like all my lines, were cut. So I like was sitting down to watch it. I was like, ‘Oh, well, I thought it was more.’ But although I was only in it briefly, which was fantastic and everyone, all of the crew in the cast there are the greatest people, and the costumes are so cool, I think is a great show. But until it came out and you know, I was in it just a snippet and I had all these people like tweeting me and saying ‘Morna, Morna!’ I was like, ‘Oh my goodness!’ but that was definitely my first taste of anything like that. And I couldn’t believe it. And everyone was so friendly and so passionate. And yeah, it was amazing to see and made me feel so included, even though it was just this tiny wee sort of guest role. And it is incredible. Like, I love just how much of a community is and God, like power to the people! It’s amazing, and everyone is so friendly, so kind, you know, really make you feel so welcome. People like tweeting you happy birthday. I’m like, ‘You guys don’t even know me yet. You haven’t seen it!’ But yeah, you couldn’t wish for better fans of a show, it feels very lucky that they’re already there supporting it before it’s even come out, you know, so I just hope that they’re pleased with what we’ve done. You know, I hope the they’re happy with it all, and because they deserve it, you know.
Jace Rosie Graham, thank you so very much.
Rosie Oh, well thank you for having me. So nice to talk to you.
Jace While Charlotte Heywood may be stuck in neutral, her best friend, Georgiana Lambe, is moving full speed ahead with an unexpected new romance.
Georgiana The very person. We are due at Mr Lockhart’s studio, but poor Miss Hankins is rushed off her feet. I don’t suppose you would mind … chaperoning me?
Arthur Alas, I have an important meeting in an hour!
Georgiana That would be time enough. I know Mr Lockhart would be delighted to see you.
Arthur Well. I suppose I could spare … a little time.
Jace Crystal Clarke returns to the podcast April 17.
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.