Sanditon Cast Interview: Rose Williams

Actress Rose Williams reveals her own choice in the Sidney/Stringer love triangle, her favorite moments making Sanditon, and the secret to a perfect Sidney Parker imitation! Hear from the actress behind the spirited, beloved heroine!

MASTERPIECE: One of the magical things about Charlotte is how she’s going through those moments in life that we all do, making mistakes. And maybe it’s for this reason that she’s so relatable. My face was burning when she got scolded by Sidney at the ball, and then when she gets caught imitating him, which was just such a great moment. What were some of her most relatable moments for you?

WILLIAMS: I would definitely say those kinds of moments when she’s at the dinner table, as well, with Lady Denham and the whole table goes quiet because she starts to speak her mind. Just getting things wrong and then having to backtrack, I think, is very relatable. But particularly the moment at the end of Episode 1 when she over-speaks. I know that feeling all too well from moments in my past, at school or whatever. Because for me, I never went to drama school. I didn’t take classes or anything, I just tried to make it myself. And there were initial auditions where I just didn’t really know what an audition process was supposed to look like. So looking back now, I had lots of Charlotte moments of quite boldly, naively walking into situations and not really knowing the etiquette of auditions. I know that feeling all too well.

There’s a kind of love that’s unexplainable and goes beyond sense.–Rose Williams on Charlotte and Sidney

MASTERPIECE: With those moments in mind, can you reveal to us: what is the secret to a perfect Sidney Parker imitation?

WILLIAMS: That’s so funny! When I read that in the script, I thought, oh my goodness, how am I going to do this?” And I asked Lisa [Clarke], the director, “Is it okay if I pretend to smoke,” because Theo smoking that old-school cigarette with the holder—it was such a unique way that he sucked in the smoke, I thought, okay, I’ll go with the smoking thing. And I noticed that he said the word “Parker” like Paaaw-kuh. Those are my two things. But honestly, I had no idea how to do it, and then, because there was something on the mic or there was wind, I had to do it again, in ADR, which is really tricky. I was in the booth trying to recreate that with my voice, which is a task, but it was fun.

MASTERPIECE: Looking back, has the role of Charlotte changed you at all?

WILLIAMS: Absolutely. It was such a really career and life defining job. It was my first leading role. Also, for it to be a Jane Austen project was really special to me, because I hadn’t quite delved into her legacy and her message and her works really before. At school, maybe, we’d looked at Pride and Prejudice, and I’d seen the films, but in truth I hadn’t really ever gone down the rabbit hole of understanding what her message was. I’m grateful that I had the opportunity and space to explore her and what she stood for at my age, because I really could understand on a deeper level, I think. And it was nice because it was my birthday on the first day that we started filming, which felt quite special.

And I learnt about the technical, working side—it was a different experience being on set every day, from morning to night. And the kind of relationships that I had with the crew and the cast were of a different nature to jobs I’ve done before, just that bit deeper because you’re around everybody, all the time. I’ve never felt such a level of teamwork in such a way—because sometimes when you’re a character that’s in and out, you collaborate and work together—but there’s something different about being with everybody every day. It really felt like a wonderful team effort all together. So on many levels, I learnt so much and so enjoyed it, I’ll never forget it.

MASTERPIECE: What were some of the ways that the cast would bond and pass time during filming?

WILLIAMS: Oh, God! We were in crazy locations in mad weather. We had a week, the cricket week, we had to do reshoots because it was literally gale force winds. So picture big coats, corsets, all huddled together in cars. Or at one point, me and Mark Stanley [Babington] and Jack Fox [Edward] were behind a table under a tent, lying down to avoid the gale! There’s lots of time in the cast tent, in the studio, with silly games and lots of laughter. It was a really nice environment on set, too, a lot of laughter and this very strong family feeling, people doing silly things. Kris Marshall [Tom Parker] was a bit of a trickster. Jack Fox is very loud and Charlotte [Charlotte Spencer, Esther] has got a great sense of humor, and so does Crystal [Crystal Clarke, Miss Lambe]—everybody, really!

MASTERPIECE: Was there any way that the friendship between Charlotte and Georgiana mirrors the friendship that you and Crystal Clarke developed or vice versa, the friendship you developed then influenced on screen?

WILLIAMS: Oh, absolutely. 100%. I remember—when I saw who was cast, because I was cast quite late, I got the list of who everybody was and I found Crystal on Instagram. I saw her pictures and her vibe and I thought, “I know we are going to get on,” and I sent her a message. Then we met at the table read (we were placed next to each other) and she had a really cool sweater on. We really enjoyed doing the dance rehearsal together. I definitely felt that fun, feminine connection with Crystal for sure, and we had a laugh when we did our scenes together. [In one scene] Miss Lambe and Charlotte are having a conversation in Miss Lambe’s quarters, or wherever, and we both plonked down on the couch at the same time. We were like 1,2,3! and then I said, “Oh, can we have a cup of tea?” And the directors are rolling their eyes like, “Oh my God.” Really girly together. Crystal is so creative, too, she’s a really, really brilliant actress, and has a very broad range. It’s incredible that her English accent is so flawless because she’s American—there literally is no fault in her accent at all, it’s bang on.

[Hear Rose Williams and Crystal Clarke answer fan questions and discuss their friendship and Sanditon, together on the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast.]

MASTERPIECE: Do you have a favorite offscreen moment with Theo James?

WILLIAMS: Oh God, we really battled the elements together…when we were boiling, boiling hot, both of us, on the balcony in Episode 1. Normally, I was the one that was super-freezing or super-hot or had a costume thing, but in this case, at least part of my arm was exposed—even though I had gloves on, part of my arm was exposed. But Theo was in a three-piece suit, socks, a heavy jacket, and it was tropical heat, and both of us had sweat pouring off of our faces, because we were so boiling. So we got through that together. Also, in Episode 7, when we were doing the regatta, the boat scene, I had the absolute worst hay fever. Awful! I was sneezing every five seconds and my nose was blocked and running, and I was quite close to his face…so poor Theo. He was very patient with my hay fever.

MASTERPIECE: If you—not Charlotte, but you—had to choose between a Sidney Parker and a Young Stringer, which would you choose and why?

WILLIAMS: Oh, my goodness. I feel like I shouldn’t answer this! But I think that there’s a real deep connection between Charlotte and Sidney. And there’s a kind of love that’s unexplainable and goes beyond sense. But if I was Charlotte’s big sister, I would say I would go with Stringer…

MASTERPIECE: Is there any particular music that you would listen to, or even a playlist, to get into the mindset of Charlotte?

WILLIAMS: I have a Charlotte playlist that I used all the time. It’s a bit unconventional…because I have some modern tracks on there, love songs and soul songs and stuff which aren’t necessarily, I guess, what people would expect…There’s one song, and it’s literally, for me, the Sidney and Charlotte scenes. There’s something about [it] that always got me back in the mood of the Sidney and Charlotte thing, our own love story theme song, an emotional reminder for the Sidney-Charlotte relationship.

[To connect with Charlotte] I had a folder with some pictures and things that I’d look back on, and there are three main things. One of them was that song. One of them is a painting by John Constable that I always looked at, a Regency painting of farm, with the water and the trees, and it really made me think of Willingdon. And the other one was my first ever sitting with the costume designer, Sam Perry. It was Charlotte’s farmyard look, and it doesn’t look like Charlotte looks in the show, but to me, when I first put that costume on, I knew who the character was. So I always kept that picture of me and from that fitting, to remember the feeling.

The Hay Wain by John Constable

MASTERPIECE: As you think about Sanditon‘s ending, what would you, personally, wish for Charlotte in her future?

WILLIAMS: I liken it to the end of Titanic when Rose looks back on her life and there’s all the pictures of her in the frames—there’s a picture of her on a horse, and there’s a picture of her riding a plane, and then a picture of her with kids, and it’s really a picture of her life—she went on with that love. Jack told her to go on, and be her, basically. And I hope that Charlotte would fulfill her true dreams and desires, outside of pursuing a marriage, to save her heartbreak. I hope that she continues to pursue her interest in architecture and the world of development, and doesn’t just think, “Oh, I better go and find a suitable match.” I hope that she takes her heartbreak and learns from it and decides to continue to go out in the world, and isn’t tainted or doesn’t hold back.

Hear more from Sanditon‘s cast in their MASTERPIECE Studio podcast interviews!

Rose Williams (Charlotte Heywood)

Theo James (Sidney Parker)

Crystal Clarke (Georgiana Lambe)

Charlotte Spencer (Esther Denham)



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