Justin Young Welcomes Us Back To Sanditon With Open Arms

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Sanditon head writer Justin Young is as thrilled as you are to return to the most desirable destination on the south English coast. He returns to the podcast as well for a preview of a second season of romance and intrigue, and offers his thanks to the passion and commitment of the series’ many active fans.

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Transcript

Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.

After an untimely cancellation, a global pandemic, and more than two years of waiting, we can finally say the words: welcome back to Sanditon.

CLIP

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  schemes of my own. A pagoda! And even a theatre!

Jace Our heroine, Charlotte Heywood, returns to the bustling seaside resort with her younger sister Alison, searching for a new sense of purpose after her disappointing previous summer by the sea.

CLIP 

Alison I fear we look hopelessly parochial. We must ask Papa to send us money for clothes at once.

Charlotte  He has little enough to spare.

Alison  It would be an investment. How are we to attract rich husbands unless we look the part?

Charlotte  I came here to avoid all that!

Alison You came here to avoid a certain man. Not marriage altogether. Why would you wish to do that?

Jace But despite her best wishes, the town seems determined to push Charlotte into a new relationship. Elsewhere, heiress Georgiana Lambe is on the cusp of both longed-for maturity and unwanted marriage.

CLIP

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.

Alison You are not the only one who has been trying to evade a proposal.

Jace With a full season of mischief and romance on the horizon, series head writer and executive producer Justin Young returns to the podcast for a thoughtful preview of the storylines still to come.

Jace And this week we are joined once again by Sanditon head writer, Justin Young. Welcome.

Justin Young Thank you, Jace. It’s great to talk to you again.

Jace So now that viewers have had a chance to see the first episode of Sanditon, what was your pitch for season two?

Justin My pitch for season two was that it was a continuation of series one, but at the same time, we wanted it to feel like a new beginning, a new beginning for the town, new stories and we wanted, you know, it’s been a couple of years since the audience saw season one. Of course, I’m sure everybody watched season one again in order to refresh their memories, but I think psychologically it felt like time had passed. So we wanted to make sure the characters that the audience know and love, we were picking up their stories. But at the same time, as I say, we wanted it to feel like a brand new beginning for Sanditon. It looks different. It feels different. And I very much pitched to MASTERPIECE that, you know, we would have a whole load of new stories kicking off with intrigue and romance and all of the things that the audience liked in series one, we just wanted to do more of. We thought, ‘Well, let’s have more love stories, let’s have more intrigue, let’s really set as many interesting threads running as we can that are really going to drive through the series.’

Jace So you’re doubling down on a lot of those elements?

Justin Doubling down, exactly. And the great thing about being able to take a pause, the mixed blessing of it was, we were able to look objectively at the show and the series and sort of dismantle it and rebuild it, if you like. And that that meant that visually we were able to look at, you know, what could we do better? How could we build on the success of season one and really make it even lusher? I think as your viewers will have seen, I think it feels like a far more classical Jane Austen world, I think it’s visually far richer. You know, we’ve used much more location. It’s much more cinematic, it feels like a much broader world. And I think narratively as well, I think in some ways we’ve gone for a tone that’s a bit more classically Jane Austen. I hope it still feels very much like the same show, as I say, we were very keen for it to feel like a continuation. But I think I think there’s a kind of possibly more narrative ambition, as I say, we’re juggling more plots than we had in season one. So hopefully it feels like a richer stew for the audience to enjoy.

Jace So I want to dive into that, that sort of narrative aspects of it. When we last spoke, you described these three seasons as a sort of trilogy, ‘The Charlotte Heywood Trilogy,’ looking at the three seasons collectively as a novel of sorts. If that is the case. How do you see season one and season two fitting into that broader story? Is season two a turning point then psychologically for Charlotte Heywood?

Justin Yes, it absolutely is. There are two shifts really. And I think there’s the shift that Charlotte undergoes at the end of season one. When we saw her come into season one, she was wide-eyed. She wanted to see the world, but she was still and, you know, we knew that she was feisty. We saw her handling a gun, but she still had quite a narrow experience of the world. And across series one, we saw her gain a bit of experience. And then at the end of season one, of course, she had her heart broken. And so we imagined that in the aftermath of that, she has really tried to move on from that. She’s had nine months to try and put it behind her. But as we learned in that first episode, she’s also been getting pressure from her father to marry this man, Ralph Starling. All we know about him is that he seems like a decent guy, but Charlotte clearly doesn’t want to marry him. And then the kind of inciting incident, if you like, for Charlotte, is that Mary comes to see her, as we see in the prologue for season two to tell her the news that Sidney’s died. And I think what that does is all of the psychological progress she’s made in the intervening months is kind of exploded. She’s trying to put him out of her mind and it brings it all back, only even more so. And so I think that’s the starting point. The starting point for season two is about Charlotte is now doubly grieving. She’s grieving the marriage that wasn’t to be, and she’s grieving the man that she loved, but she’s in this position where she can’t grieve him. And I think the story for Charlotte across that season two, is how she navigates A., her grief, and B., how will she manage this decision she’s made not to marry, to swear off marriage. She’s made this very, very bold choice to be a governess to, to sort of rule herself out of the marriage market. And season two is about how that goes. And we’ve already met, you know, various interesting men in that first episode who may or may not provide a challenge to her decision to remain unattached and independent. And that’s really the narrative of season two. Season three, I won’t give any spoilers because your viewers won’t see it for a while, but season three is really the resolution of that story, it’s the sort of final part of that story. But season two, certainly, as I say, is about the adjustment, it’s about the adjustment in the aftermath of season one and how Charlotte is going to navigate that and try to move on from it initially.

Jace Initially, Charlotte Hayward was our way into this narrative. She she was in some ways a stand in for the viewer to the world of Sanditon. This season. That focus seems shared between Charlotte, who obviously, as you say, has now changed in the wake of Sidney’s death, with Alison and Georgiana.

CLIP

Georgiana Charlotte? You made no mention in your letters…

Charlotte Ralph Starling. He keeps a farm in Willingden. Our father is…keen.

Alison More than keen. A proposal is a foregone conclusion. But I have no desire to see Charlotte marry sensible Ralph —

Georgiana Neither do I.

Alison So, I have a plan, for us both to find husbands here in Sanditon. Perhaps you could help us, Miss Lambe?

Georgiana I would like nothing more than to see your sister find love, Miss Heywood.

Jace How do these three women’s perspectives represent the narrative at large?

Justin I think that’s a very good question, and I think I think you’re absolutely right. I think in season one, we had a very clear sense that we sort of most of the plots, if not all of the plots, to some degree, were refracted through the lens of Charlotte’s point of view, most especially Georgiana’s story. And one of the things we were very keen to do when we came back was to broaden the focus, was to allow Georgiana to be a protagonist just as much as Charlotte is and to some degree, Alison. And I think it’s a study in contrasts, to some degree because they’re all in such different positions. You know, Charlotte is a smart woman who wants to be emancipated, but in a world where that wasn’t really she doesn’t really have the ability to do that. So Charlotte is in a position where being a governess is the only thing she can think of, and she’s sworn off love. Alison wants nothing more than to find love and marriage in some respects. Allison represents who Charlotte was a year ago, but even more so because she’s wide eyed, she’s idealistic and she represents, in some ways, your classic young, romantic heroine. You know, she’s the young woman looking for love. Georgiana is an altogether more complicated case because, of course, she has this fortune, which as she says gives her this power and the power that she has derives from not being married, because as long as she isn’t married, she can wrap all these men around her little finger and the moment that she is married, the fortune and the power goes to them. So in a way, she’s trying to avoid marriage for very different reasons to Charlotte. And I think Georgiana’s, as we’ve seen a much more mature young woman than she was a year ago. I think she’s much smarter, and I think she’s kind of enjoying her freedom, and I think she wants to enjoy yourself. So I think Georgiana’s story you’ll see across the series is, to some degree, about how she handles peoples and society’s expectations of how she should behave while staying true to who she is and how she might want to move through the world. And that’s and that’s her story, so that there are kind of an interesting trifecta because they’re all kind of different angles of what it means to be a young woman in that period.

Jace The catalyst for season two and for Charlotte returning to the seaside is, of course, the death of Sidney Parker, who ended the first season by marrying Eliza to secure her fortune to pay off the debts accumulated by his brother, Tom. How does Sidney’s death drive the financial and romantic plots in season two?

Justin It’s an interesting question. I don’t have an answer, necessarily, but an interesting question to imagine that if Sidney hadn’t died, if Charlotte hadn’t got that jolt at the beginning of season two, might she have, you know, acquiesced to her father’s desire to marry this Ralph fellow? You know, in order to move on. Was it the news of his death that kind of shocked her out of that and made her go, ‘No. You know what? I can’t compromise. I can’t do that.’ So I certainly think that sharp shock was part of what made Charlotte accept Mary’s invitation to come back to Sanditon. In some ways, she’s confronting her demons. In some ways, she’s being a good friend to Georgiana. In some way, she’s simply trying to run away from the prospect of accepting her father’s marriage. So I think that for Charlotte, that’s what that does. I think for Georgiana, Sidney’s death removes an obstacle. I think it’s very complicated for Georgiana because they weren’t particularly good friends. She resented Sidney’s guardianship, and Tom and Mary are an altogether more benign pair of guardians than Sidney ever was, so I think I think for Georgiana that shifted the calculus a bit and it’s maybe given her more freedom. And I think in terms of the element of your question about the finances of the town, I think that’s really impacted Tom. Tom’s had this terrible experience where the town is burnt down and he’s had no insurance. And Sidney, via marrying Eliza, has saved the town. And in Tom’s eyes, that is Sidney’s legacy. What Tom hasn’t yet realized, whether he’s dimly aware of it or whether he just hasn’t admitted it to himself, is that Sidney wasn’t in love with Eliza, wasn’t happy with Eliza, was in fact in love with Charlotte. Tom hasn’t yet faced up to that reality. That’s something possibly that he will come to realize. But I think at the beginning of the series, we see a much more cautious Tom Parker, a Tom Parker who has learned from his mistakes, who is not willing to take great big risks. He thinks the army are a pretty safe bet. Here they are. But he’s not speculating wildly. He’s being a little bit more cautious. Arthur’s now the man with the grand visions and the wonderful ideas, and Tom’s far more inclined to go, ‘No, no, no, no. I’m going to be careful,’ because as he says to Lady D, he wants to repay this debt of Eliza’s, which may be an impossible task. But I think he’s well aware of what he owes Sidney and Eliza and he hopes someday to pay it back, even if, as Lady D says, ‘That’s a tall order.’

Jace Sidney’s death doesn’t just take place off camera, but off island as well as he dies in Antigua. By the end of the first episode, we learn that he wasn’t there for himself, but rather to handle Georgiana’s affairs, which is itself a season long mystery. Were you tempted rather than killing off Sidney to simply keep him in Antigua, far away?

Justin No, I wasn’t. I think for several reasons. I think narratively I think the audience needed closure, and I think if there’d been any ambiguity at all, they would have been waiting for Sidney to come back. I think that’s part one. And actually, it’s been interesting that I still until very recently got tweets on a regular basis from people going, ‘Yes, but you know, he’s going to come back. The end of season three is going to be Sidney, ah, you know, Sidney arrives.’ And I thought, well, that that sort of vindicates the decision we made because unless we were very, very clear, right up front, he’s not just somewhere out there, he’s dead. The audience weren’t going to be able to invest in any potential new love interest. They were always going to have that expectation. I also think emotionally and psychologically for the audience as well as for us as storytellers, the idea of Sidney out there somewhere, married to Eliza is actually far, far worse than the idea of, ‘Okay, he’s dead.’ And I think his death means Charlotte and Sidney’s love is now, it’s there forever, you know, it’s there. And I think that somehow, and I’m sure not everyone will agree with me, but I think that’s more palatable. And I think again, it meant that we are able to go on that journey with Charlotte, and I’ve said this before, I know, but we’re able to go on that journey with Charlotte. ‘Oh, this is an impossible love,’ and grieve it with her, which I think is a far more satisfying way to continue the narrative than, ‘Oh, I suppose I’m just going to have to deal with the fact that he’s now in Antigua, and I’ll probably never see him again.’ So it was a very easy decision to make, I have to say.

Jace Many fans were, we’ll say, outspoken about the death of Sidney Parker. Is recasting a romantic lead a sort of ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ proposition?

Justin Yes, I think it absolutely is. I think and I listen, I completely understand it. I do understand it because they had an expectation and the fan response and the fans online petitioning to bring the show back. I completely understand that it was motivated in many respects by it, specifically by the desire to see the happy ending for Sidney and Charlotte. However, events didn’t work out that way. And you know, I think when we did a lot of work in coming up with stories. We talked to Theo. It was all very civil and professional, and I completely respect his decision not to come back. And of course, initially we looked at every angle and we looked at, is recasting an option? And I think as as you’ve kind of intimated in the question, I think, I honestly think, first of all, what actor would want to take to take that job, you know, to fill another actor’s shoes? It’s really a thankless task, and I think we would have struggled to find actors willing to do that. I think even the audience members who have been most vocal about, ‘Why didn’t you recast?’ I am pretty certain that any actor we found they would have hated on principle. And what would we have done? Found an actor who looks a bit like Theo or the opposite? Really and truly we couldn’t see a way to do that, that it wouldn’t feel jarring for everybody. I think the audience would have hated him on principle. And for us, it would have just felt bizarre. I think the dynamic and the chemistry that Theo and Rose had was fantastic, and was rare. And I think trying to replicate that would have been an error. And so it felt like a much cleaner decision to just break altogether. As I say, I have full empathy for the fans who are disappointed. You know, we had to regroup. I genuinely feel now a year plus on that actually, it was a blessing in disguise. I have no doubt we could have told an interesting story with Sidney, but it would have been very linear. It would have been very predictable. The audience would have known from the beginning of season two that at some point Sidney and Charlotte were going to get together. Now this way, it forces us into making much bolder decisions as storytellers. And you have no idea where the narrative is going to go. It could go in any direction. You know, until the very end of season three, the audience will not know.

Jace There were other characters who were written out, some of which were based on actor availability. How much did the time delay between season one and two play a role there? And how did it shift your intentions? If you had been able to get recommissioned right after season one, would things have perhaps turned out differently in terms of actor availability?

Justin I’m sure they would. I’m sure they would, because in some instances, you know, actors get out of work or they have life circumstances, they go off to have babies, things like that. So yes, I think if we’d been in an equivalent situation that we’d sort of made them back to back, I think it’s far more likely that we would have held on to actors. But again, that’s not necessarily the way that television production works. You know, you don’t always have control over these things. So actually the mixed blessing of that, the opportunity of it was, here are new characters, here are new stories is a whole new beginning for the show, which again sort of continues some strands, resets others, and that feels in some ways like a really exciting opportunity. Not just, ‘Oh, okay, now we know we’re going to watch this play out in the way that we’ve anticipated.’

Jace Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors…

Jace So I want to pick up with Charlotte, as you mentioned, we see her at the start of season two. She’s sort of enjoying this raucous dance. There’s Ralph Starling sort of on the horizon as a potential sort of marital match for her, though she’s pushing against that. She finds out about Sidney. She is forced into a sort of limbo when it comes to her grief. She wasn’t Sidney’s wife, but there was an understanding between them, and she loved him. How does that lack of space further complicate this already complex series of emotions that Charlotte is experiencing?

Justin I think what makes it so difficult is that, well, all of our characters in Sidney’s orbit, are grieving in different ways. I was talking to someone about this the other day who had experienced grief of their own, and she was saying that it really touched her, in that respect and in some respects, Arthur is a model of what healthy grief looks like.

CLIP

Arthur I am no substitute for Sidney, but I make myself useful to Tom. Although, I worry for him. He can hardly bring himself to speak Sidney’s name.

Charlotte It is unwise to keep grief bottled up.

Arthur True! Since we don’t have a grave to mark him, I often light a candle in the church, and weep like a baby. I always feel much the better for it!

Jace But Charlotte’s in an even more difficult position because, as she says, the key line in that first episode, as she says to Mary, Mary says ‘You are allowed to grieve him.’ She says, ‘It’s not my place. He has a widow,’ which puts her in this terrible position because she can’t voice it. She has to find ways to deal with her grief that she can’t just say, I’m devastated because she’s in, as you say, I think limbo is a very good way of putting it. It’s not her place to mourn another woman’s husband. So I think that that pushes all of those emotions down. She has to contain them all. She can’t verbalize them. She has to try and contain them, she has to try and push them to the back of her mind. And I think that’s one of her obstacles in the season, actually is that she’s not able to just express these emotions. They’re not straightforward emotions like rage or love, they’re much more complicated than that. She’s got all this love for Sidney, but what does she do with it? She’s got all this grief for Sidney, but she can’t express it, and those are very, very difficult emotions to deal with. And she has a confidante in Georgiana, she has a confidante in Alison. But in both cases, those are complicated confidantes. Because Georgiana had this very, this very nuanced view of Sidney, where she was very alert to his flaws. She didn’t like him uncomplicatedly. And so she wants to be a loyal friend to Charlotte, while at the same time she’s not going to say, ‘Oh, Sidney was so wonderful.’ And again, Alison’s M.O. is just, ‘Well, forget about him and move on and find someone wonderful to marry.’ So I think it’s part of what motors Charlotte through. She’s a woman just unable to deny those feelings, unable to verbalize them and desperate to sort of push them out of her mind and focus on getting a job and moving on and never marrying and never loving anybody else. And that’s fine. And I don’t think she’s not really thought any of this through. I think she’s acting impulsively got away from Ralph. And that’s what you know, Mary and Alison, as you say, are horrified at the thought of her becoming a governess, for them, that’s social suicide. But Charlotte’s like this is a fix for now, sorted. And I think, you know, we can all guess that maybe it’s not going to go entirely smoothly.

Jace Probably not.

Justin Probably not.

Jace I mean, the governess occupies a very strange role in that they are sort of with the family, but not of the family. They occupy. It’s sort of a weird, liminal state between the family and the servants downstairs. It’s it’s odd and complicated, but it fits in with this sort of notion of Charlotte struggling to find her future and her place. It is, in many ways, sort of the perfect role for her because it further complicates that struggle.

Justin You’re absolutely right, and I think liminal is a very good way of putting it. And in episode two, you’ll see her go to work for the first time. And what that means is that she’s not –. And actually, to be completely honest with you, it’s a little bit of a cheat because in and in reality, she probably would have moved into the house and been resident there. And we didn’t want to do that for all kinds of reasons. But we wanted her to be able to come back and share a room with Alison, and we wanted to sustain that across the season. And we thought actually having a permanently at Howard Park with the Colbournes narratively wasn’t helpful. So it’s a little bit of a cheat that she goes there by day and comes home in the evening. It’s a little bit of poetic license, but yeah, you’re right. Her place in that house is very interesting and you know her –. And yes, she’s not quite a servant and she’s not quite a member of the family. So curiously then liminal is a perfect word for her.

Jace I want to talk about Colbourne. He is really quite horrible to Charlotte when they meet, but she seems determined to give this widower a proper chance. Does Charlotte feel that they’re linked in some way by grief that she could perhaps understand him? Or is she just looking for a challenge, one that he and the girls would provide in abundance?

Justin I think initially, I think she needs a job, this job comes along. I think she’s I think she’s tolerating this rather bad-tempered man because she wants to help the girls that she’s met. And I think she realizes in that brief carriage ride they share back from the parade that these are pretty troubled young women. Both of them have lost their mothers. Both of them are a bit rude and abrupt, and I think Charlotte’s instinct is to help those girls because she can see their loss. And I think you’re right. Her first meeting with Colbourne. I don’t think he’s as rude as Sidney was to Charlotte in episode one of season one. But he doesn’t. He doesn’t do a great deal to ingratiate himself. And I think I think Charlotte’s point of view is that she will tolerate him. She will hope to spend as little time with him as possible because she wants to help these two young women. And I don’t think she’s necessarily registered him yet as somebody who’s got his own loss, his own grief. I don’t think that’s that’s uppermost in her thoughts. I think she’s literally just thinking here is a job at the right moment. She knows she’s got all these younger brothers and sisters. She knows she can do this.

Jace I mean, granted, she did sort of polish up her CV a bit, our Charlotte, but he quickly writes her off as being little more than a farmer’s daughter who is not a real governess at all. A little sort of snobbery that that fits with the time period. What spurs Colbourne to to change his mind about Charlotte and to to give her a chance?

CLIP

Colbourne I assume you have a letter of recommendation from your previous employer?

Charlotte No, but I’ve brought some work to show you. I have eleven younger brothers and sisters. I’ve been helping our father with their education the past year.

Colbourne Then you are not a governess at all. You are here under false pretenses?

Charlotte I have some classical learning: Homer, Heraclitus. The English poets of course. A deal of Shakespeare. Mathematics.

Colbourne What use are poetry and mathematics to Augusta? Society asks that a woman be accomplished, not learned. Trust me, Miss Heywood, I know what happens when a woman falls short of society’s expectations.

Charlotte Then, society is wrong, Sir! Why should your girls be deprived of an education on account of their sex? I would seek to open their minds to the world around them, not encourage them to be meekly submissive. So, if that is what you are looking for, I apologize for wasting your time.

Justin I think he likes that she answers back. I think he’s got this particular view of the world, as he says to Charlotte. Women should be accomplished, not learned. And I think in some ways, that’s pragmatic. I think he knows how society works. Experience has taught him that it’s more important for a young woman to be able to play the piano well than quote Shakespeare or Heraclitus. And so I think initially, you know that he’s absolutely sincere in that opinion. He’s not hiring her to teach them great academic subjects, he’s hiring her to try and make them sociable young ladies. And I think in the way she talks back to him, I think something chimes. And I think he recognizes on some level that maybe actually that’s what the house needs. And I think as much as anything else also, I don’t suppose that’s been a long line of applicants we toyed in the the development process of the script with having her be the only applicant or everybody else had been scared off. You know, I certainly think that being like Mary Poppins or The Sound of Music, you know, there have been a number of nannies have come and gone and been scared off. But so I don’t think there’s a number of candidates. I think he’s glad that somebody who seems vaguely sensible has come along at the right moment. And I think however much he might protest, I think something in the way she spoke about independence of spirit resonated with him, and he might not think that he agrees. But on some level, he probably does. But Colbourne keeps his cards close to his chest. It’s not always easy to figure out what he’s thinking, and his dog likes Charlotte, which I think is a key indicator that she’s worth having around.

Jace The canines always know. They know.

Justin They always know — they can smell it.

Jace I want to turn our attention now to Georgiana.

Justin Yes.

Jace Georgiana has found herself a target for fortune hunters and unsuitable suitors. How is she chafing against what’s expected of her with what she wants as a wealthy and independent woman who is on the verge of reaching the age of maturity?

Justin I think it’s interesting to look at Georgiana and Charlotte in parallel because they’re both facing pressure to marry. I think, you know, Tom, as mentioned earlier, he’s a much more benign guardian than Sidney ever was. And actually, I think having Mary helps with that. But I think she’s aware of this expectation that she will marry, that that’s that’s what’s expected of her. And yet she’s dealing with her own heartbreak. She’s don’t forget, it’s only nine months since her heart was broken by Otis, and I think that’s still in some ways we nod to that in episode one that she hasn’t forgotten him. That’s still that pain endures. And so I think I think it’s society’s expectation. It’s Tom and Mary’s expectation is that in a way, the only way if you’re I think that’s what’s interesting, if you’re Tom and Mary, you want her to find a husband because you want to know that she’s going to be secure and looked after and safe. And if Tom and Mary were to send Georgiana off to London on her own, as you know, a 20 year old heiress, she’d be open to all kinds of exploitation. So I think Georgiana is a bit of a free spirit. I think Georgiana would like to enjoy herself and run free and throw off the shackles of polite society and all of the slightly stifling upper-class English politeness. But I think in some ways she finds that that pressure to play the game to make nice with these awful courters suitors  that come courting. And that’s what I try to encapsulate in that in that opening exchange she has with that man in his carriage is that, you know, she’d rather be boiled alive. She’s not. She can’t even bring herself to be polite anymore because these men are just so persistent. And again, this was– We had such an interesting time developing Georgina’s story in season two and three because we really did draw. I think I mentioned before from research, and we really delve deeply into what the reality of that would have been. And as I say, the thing that really struck me, I spoke a lot to our advisers and to our black history advisers and to Paula Byrne, who was our Austen adviser. I think what I found so interesting was, as I say, that power of while I’ve got this money, you know, it gives me the status, it gives me the power. But once I’m married, that disappears. So I think that in itself is quite interesting for Georgiana, and I think that’s an ongoing negotiation. And I think the question of what Sidney was doing in Antigua, I think, is a question that is going to start quite a long journey for Georgiana. She will have her own questions about what that means and what is the nature of Sidney’s guardianship of Georgiana? And how does that relate to her life back in Antigua? So these are all the threads the Georgiana will will weave through seasons two and three.

Jace One of the new additions to the social scene of Sanditon is, of course, artist Charles Lockhart as swans through town in a silk dressing gown and who likes to flout convention. How much fun is Lockhart to write, and how do you see his provocative character helping to shake up the narrative?

Justin Well, he was a joy to write, but interestingly, in some respects, one of the trickiest characters to write in terms of getting his voice exactly right in terms of how he would talk to the other characters, how he would talk to Georgiana, how to make him appealing. And how to subvert our expectations of him, because the initial sort of initial thumbnail sketch was he’s a Byronic character. You know, he’s he’s kind of mad, bad and dangerous to know. But we wanted him to be more than that. We didn’t want him to just be cliched or overfamiliar. We wanted to give him all of these layers. So we really spent a lot of time digging into, you know, his his worldview. And he’s he’s not just this kind of bad boy artist. There’s also he’s he’s quite a deep thinker. He’s got sort of principles and he’s got I think that’s one of the things that makes him interesting to Georgiana is that he has got views that maybe feel a little countercultural, maybe feel that he zigs when everybody else zags. So I think once we found his voice, which was trial and effort, it took a few tries to get it. It was enormously fun to write. And as I say, the challenge was making him feel real and layered and nuanced, and not just a kind of larger than life, you know, stereotype. And we weren’t we were massively helped, obviously, by Alexander Vlahos, his performance because it was one of those screen tests where the moment you see it, you go, ‘Well, I mean, you know, there’s no question. There’s absolutely no question’. He was just brilliant, right? From the first moment he read the, you know, I’d written a scene for him to perform and and he sort of did the lines. And right away you go ah, that’s who this character as I understand it. So I think again, it’s it’s a wonderful, different energy. It’s an energy unlike any of the other characters. It allows us to do various things. It allows us to show the kind of range of things that were going on in England at that time. And more specifically, it gives us something really fun to challenge Georgiana. It gives us something really fun for Arthur because we love Arthur and we’re thrilled to have Arthur back and with Arthur is the kind of man who would be in awe. You know, he says in kind of awestruck tones, he’s a portraitist and and but you know, for Arthur, that’s like, that’s like seeing Jay-Z appearing, you know, he can’t imagine anything more incredible than a real life portraitist just arriving in Sanditon. And so actually, the challenge with with Lockhart as a writer was not just writing epic long speeches for him because I wanted to let him talk all and on and on. But obviously, there’s a lot of different characters to serve in this in this series, so. So, yeah. Left to my own devices, he would have probably had five page monologues.

CLIP

Charles Miss Lambe. I must confess I noticed you in the Assembly Rooms yesterday.

Georgiana How observant. I wonder what it was that caught your attention?

Charles  It was your expression. Haughty yet inscrutable.

Georgiana Interesting. Because I thought you looked arrogant and affected.

Charles  Oh, I am both of those things. I fear I am an open book. Yet with you, I find your true character harder to ascertain. But perhaps that’s by design.

Georgiana Perhaps it is simply that I do not wish to be known by you.

Jace This is a show that engenders a lot of passion from its viewers and from its incredibly vocal fans. How did that level of engagement and passion strike you? Can it be a double edged sword?

Justin Yeah, it’s I mean, first and foremost, it’s not a double-Edged sword for me, I’m enormously grateful for it, and it’s fantastically gratifying to see the level of passion, that level of engagement as a writer, to see people, you know, quoting specific lines back to you. And and really, you know, people have written things online where they they they pore over individual episodes and storylines and characters as if they’re writing an undergraduate thesis. And it’s really, really just incredibly rewarding for us to see that level of engagement. I mean, to be honest with you, I try not to engage too much with Twitter because I think that can be a very slippery slope. And I think it’s wonderful that there is this community of fans out there, the Sanditon Sisterhood. But my job is to really focus on the story and the characters and tell that story as well as I can with as much integrity as I can. And my hope is that the things that the fans liked about season one that we’ve doubled down on, they will now like about seasons two and three. What I can’t do is start saying, ‘Oh, this fan here, like Miss Nussbaum here didn’t like this’ because I think that way. Ultimately, as a storyteller, you have to trust your own judgment and the judgment of my, my colleagues. You know, I work closely with Belinda Campbell and Rebecca Hedley and obviously with Susanne and Rebecca at MASTERPIECE. But I think I think it is, you know, I still get angry tweets hourly more or less has been a lot of kind of I’ve had to mute a lot of people who are very angry about the Sidney departure, and I will probably get more when episode one airs from people who are angry that we killed him. But that’s, you know, I’m privileged to do the job I do, and you’re never going to get everybody liking everything you do. And fortunately, at the moment, the nice tweets that come my way seem to outnumber very heavily outnumbered, the negative tweets. But it was nice knowing there was an expectation when we were writing and creating these two seasons. It was nice knowing that, you know, when when I was really when there were dark days and I was tired and it was one o’clock in the morning and I was rewriting a scene, I’d go, Well, you know, there are people out there who love this show and who will really, hopefully really enjoy these scenes and these stories. And that was that sort of spurred us on. I think it was lovely to know because with season one, we had no idea. We had no idea if anyone would watch it, if anyone would like it. But knowing that there is no audience out there who, as I say, hopefully will enjoy what we’ve done for me, I see it as a positive. I see it as really gratifying and lovely, and I genuinely appreciate it.

Jace Justin Young, thank you so very much.

Justin Thanks, Jace.

Jace With the death of his brother, Sidney, Tom Parker is forced to turn to his amiable other brother for help developing his seaside resort. Fortunately for him, Arthur Parker is more than ready for the job.

CLIP

Arthur This is just a crude rendering, of course, but it gives you a sense of it. And it would sit, right here. The Theatre Royal, Sanditon!

 

Jace Turlough Convery is no stranger to MASTERPIECE fans of recent vintage, but he is a stranger to our podcast — until March 27, when he’ll join us right here. 

MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. The executive producer of MASTEPRIECE is Susanne Simpson.

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