Meet the Cast of Sanditon
Get to know the stars bringing Sanditon to life on screen! From Divergent star Theo James, to Reign’s Rose Williams, to Love, Actually actor Kris Marshall, and more, learn all about the cast, what you’ve seen them in before, and what it was like creating the world of Sanditon.
Theo James (Sidney Parker)
Sanditon’s leading man Theo James is no stranger to MASTERPIECE. Downton Abbey fans may remember him as Kemal Pamuk, the Turkish diplomat who visited the Crawley family at Downton back in Season 1, and had a scandalous midnight tryst with Lady Mary, which ended with his untimely death. James, however, may be most well known for his role as Four in the post-apocalyptic dystopian Divergent trilogy (co-starring Shailene Woodley).
For James, part of the appeal of Sanditon was the complicated character of Sidney Parker. “From the first episode, I understood what Andrew was going for, with this very mean, dangerous person, but at the end of the day…he’s grounded by the fact that he clearly loves his family,” James said in an interview with Collider.
As to what it is that makes Jane Austen’s works so beloved: “The concept of what love is and how love comes to grow—that’s timeless,” he said. “Austen writes beautifully about the condition of how someone falls in love. That will always be interesting to us—why humans do that and how powerful it can be.”
Rose Williams (Charlotte Heywood)
Prior to Rose Williams playing Charlotte Heywood in Sanditon, fans may have remembered her from her role as French princess Claude de Valois on the TV series Reign, based on the life of Mary, Queen of Scots. More recently, she’s also appeared in Medici and Curfew, both of which also star World on Fire star Sean Bean (Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Game of Thrones).
Landing the lead role on Sanditon meant a great deal to Williams. “What I loved about [Charlotte], immediately, was that she was not focused on marriage,” Williams said in an interview with Collider. “I think she has a real edge to go out into the world, away from her village of Wellington. She sees the times changing and she wants to be a part of the new world, so to speak. She wants to have a voice and find her voice, travel and go beyond the limit of her world.”
Crystal Clarke (Georgiana Lambe)
Before starring as Miss Georgiana Lambe, wealthy heiress and ward to Sidney Parker, American actress Crystal Clarke appeared in Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens and Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi as a Resistance fighter. Clarke was also in a Agatha Christie’s Ordeal by Innoncence (co-starring Poldark star Eleanor Tomlinson, Grantchester alumna Morven Christie, and Downton Abbey star Matthew Goode).
Clarke knew that taking on the role of Georgiana Lambe was something important and meaningful. “You don’t see people of color in Jane Austen’s novels,” she said. “Miss Lambe is in the book, but it was never finished. But the way Andrew [Davies] has fleshed it out is amazing. He had free rein to do anything he liked. In the book, Miss Lambe is quiet, but here she very much has a voice.”
The impact that Georgiana has on Charlotte and the other residents of Sanditon is part of what Clarke loves best about her. “Miss Lambe is able to enlighten people around her and humanize them. People are seeing women of color, money and power, and that shakes up their understanding of what it means to be white, black, rich and poor.”
Kris Marshall (Tom Parker)
Kris Marshall, who plays passionate Sanditon patriarch Tom Parker, is recognized from his roles in films such as Love, Actually, Death at a Funeral, The Merchant of Venice and in television roles on series including Death in Paradise and Doctor Zhivago.
For Marshall, there was a lot to love—and a lot that was challenging—about working on a period drama again after fifteen years (Doctor Zhivago being the last one he worked on). “They are a lot more structured than modern dramas, as you don’t have any leeway with what you say,” he said. “You can’t improvise lines off the cuff as modernism might slip in. The social parameters you have to operate in are much tighter as well…I love the fact that everything is going on beneath the surface. We operate a lot more on the surface now. People were a lot more guarded with their emotions back then.”
Another plus side to his time on Sanditon, he confessed: “I have also been doing a lot of lunges to get my calves into shape for these trousers!”
Anne Reid (Lady Denham)
Anne Reid stars as the haughty, upper-class Lady Denham. In addition to her role as the opinionated investor of Sanditon, Reid has starred in Last Tango in Halifax and in Years and Years, alongside Emma Thompson. Longtime MASTERPIECE fans may recognize her from Bleak House, Jane Eyre, and the recent remake of Upstairs Downstairs.
Working on Sanditon was a joy to Reid—and it gave her the chance to play a new kind of character. “Usually I’m in the kitchen in these dramas,” she said. “This is the first time I’ve ever got upstairs! People are bowing and scraping to me all the time—I can’t get used to it!”
Though, there is one major difference that made her miss her downstairs roles: “One thing I would say is that the costumes of the kitchen staff are a great deal easier to wear than those of this woman, who is part of the landed gentry!”
Jack Fox (Sir Edward Denham)
Jack Fox plays the cunning Sir Edward Denham, who is desperate to inherit Lady Denham’s fortune when she dies. “Don’t let emotion cloud your judgement—that’s [Edward’s] motto,” Fox explained. “He believes that if other people follow him over the top, it’ll work out in the end. But in the process, he’s asking them to compromise their core values, and that’s a tough thing to do. He’s a man on the make. He appears confident, but that’s masking insecurity.”
MASTERPIECE fans may recognize Fox from the second season of Mr. Selfridge, and roles in Riviera, starring Julia Stiles, and Dracula, starring Jonathan Rhys Meyers.
For Fox, acting is a family affair. His brother, Laurence, most recently starred on Victoria, Season 3, as the pompous, mischievous Lord Palmerston. Sister Lydia has worked on films such as Submarine and The Double. Cousins Emilia and Freddie Fox have appeared The Pianist (Emilia) and Watership Down (Freddie, alongside Academy Award winner and Les Misérables star Olivia Colman). Fox’s father, James, appeared in Thoroughly Modern Millie (1967) with Julie Andrews, Mary Tyler Moore, and Carol Channing.
Charlotte Spencer (Esther Denham)
Charlotte Spencer started her career in the TV series Five Days alongside Sanditon co-star Anne Reid, and Les Misérables star David Oyelowo. Her voice may be best recognized as Angelina in the children’s series Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps, or as the voice of Nettle in Watership Down (2018). Spencer will next appear in Misbehaviour, starring Keira Knightley and a number of former and current MASTERPIECE stars, including Lesley Manville (World on Fire), Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey), Lily Travers (Victoria), Keeley Hawes (The Durrells in Corfu), and Ruby Bentall (Poldark).
When the opportunity presented itself to work on a Jane Austen inspired series, however, Spencer was all in. “I love Jane Austen dramas,” she said. “I grew up watching Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. I always wanted to do a period drama. I did The Living and the Dead, but this is a Jane Austen! To do one that hasn’t been done before is very special. It’s a dream come true!”
Leo Suter (Young Stringer)
Leo Suter, who plays laborer Young Stringer, is best known for his MASTERPIECE role on Victoria (as the ill-fated Drummond), and for his upcoming role in Beecham House, co-starring Downton Abbey’s Lesley Nicol and Howards End star Bessie Carter.
When Suter got the chance to be part of another period drama, and a Jane Austen one at that, he jumped. “[Period dramas] bring history to life,” he said. “We love being transported to these other worlds. It’s an escape, a form of time travel. But they’re also lovely stories—and that element is often neglected. Yes, the costumes and the dances are nice, but at their heart, period dramas are great stories.”