Rose Williams Interview: Returning to Sanditon

March 21, 2022   |   Written by Masterpiece

Before Sanditon’s long-awaited Season 2 premiere, star Rose Williams shared insights about how Charlotte Heywood has grown, talking sisters, governesses, love and more! Read her interview with MASTERPIECE and catch up with a character craving independence and expansiveness. You may even learn a little bit about those new suitors…

During her time away from Sanditon, has Charlotte changed or grown?

Yes. It was amazing that she came back, but I was grateful for the gap between the end of Season 1 and the start of Season 2, as it felt like I could step into Charlotte as a really strong second chapter, and I could relate to her more because she’d been through emotional experience. Of all the Austen heroines, I feel most connection to Anne from Persuasion, because she’s lived a bit and been through heartbreaking pain.

To meet Charlotte having had a life experience that forced her to grow emotionally was really beneficial for me because I can connect to her more. We meet her processing the grief of losing a man that she fell in love with, but grappling with how she can grieve, because it was, so to speak, a “secret” love. We meet her craving adventure again. She feels stifled, in a different way, going back to Willingdon because Willington and the way of life on the farm is incomparable to the energy of Sanditon and the people and characters she met there. So we meet her wanting very much to come back to Sanditon, and grappling within a world that feels confused.

What is it like for Charlotte to have her younger sister, Alison (played by Rosie Graham), with her at Sanditon?

It’s really one of my favorite elements, actually. It’s especially nice because the relationship echoes Jane Austen’s relationship with her younger sister, Cassandra, and drew inspiration from Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice. Me and Rosie get on really, really well. We felt very close and had that kind of sister relationship in real life, so I think that despite the fact that Charlotte is pushing Alison away this season, that bond and understanding is there in real life. It was nice for Charlotte to share Sanditon and its expansiveness and its adventure and its excitement with Alison, who has been busting to get out of Willingdon. That relationship on and off screen was a real joy for me.

Rosie is such a light and such a beautiful young actress. She literally just fills up the screen with her glow, and I’m really excited for the audience to get to witness her. I want her to just shine and shine, because I think that’s what she’s meant to do.

Charlotte finds work as a governess in Season 2. Did you learn anything interesting or surprising about governesses or the education girls were expected to have in preparing for this storyline?

There were two things that stood out. Someone I read about and really connected to was Mary Wollstonecraft, who I think inspired Jane Austen, and she hated being a governess. And Jane Austen herself—I’m going to get the quote wrong—but there’s a quote where she talks about it being like some kind of prison. Also, the thought of being a governess was disgusting to her because it was having to indoctrinate girls to become marriageble.

The main fact that I found interesting, though disheartening, maybe like Charlotte, was the fact that becoming a governess was the only option for young women. You couldn’t go and work in a shop unless you had a family connection—there weren’t options; that was all there was to offer. She definitely wouldn’t have wanted to do it if there were other options. But she also really likes children and grew up the eldest of 12 kids. And that’s why it felt okay.

Two very different men come into her orbit this season: Mr. Colbourne, whose niece and daughter she becomes a governess to, and Colonel Lennox. Is there romance in the cards?

Charlotte has resolved herself against love and romance. Her focus is on forging a path of independence, which wasn’t even possible in that time period. I think that she’s interested in experience and true character. So her interest in Lennox isn’t because he’s handsome and dashing—her interest in him is because he’s a leader of hundreds of men; because he’s had experience on the battlefield; and because she hasn’t been in proximity to anyone in that world before, and she wants to learn and she’s curious about what kind of mind that takes.

When it comes to Mr. Colbourne, she cares about his daughter and niece. She has met these young girls and sees that they’re in need of parental guidance. And this curious man obviously cares about them, because he has them in his house, and yet he seems so emotionally detached. She’s curious as to why he is so emotionally detached and if there is a flicker of a man in there that could show up as a better father.

Her interest in these two men isn’t out of a desire to get married—it’s out of who their true character is. She’s not looking for partnership, she’s just looking to grow and learn as a young woman.

If you were going to set a friend up with Lennox, how would you describe him?

Lennox is highly intelligent, very confident. He’s got charisma and charm and a strong air of authority. He’s slightly mysterious but communicates very directly, which is attractive, but could be unnerving.

How about Mr. Colbourne—how would you describe him to a friend?

I’d say Mr. Colbourne is distant and emotionally detached, but it’s evident that there is a swirling world of emotion behind his furrowed brow.

What was it like working with Ben Lloyd-Hughes, who plays Alexander Colbourne?

Oh, it was great. Ben’s a joker, very lighthearted, and he likes to have a giggle. A fun fact about Ben is that he likes show tunes and he likes bursting into song. He likes songs from Grease, and he also kept singing, “Matchmaker, matchmaker, make me a match” like every five minutes. I did secretly enjoy it. It was lot of fun working with Ben. He’s awesome. We all equally cared about making the scenes as best as they could be, and it was a particularly fun dynamic when we were shooting all of the stuff in Heyrick Park on the days where it was me, Ben, Eloise (who plays Augusta), Flora (who plays Leonora), and Flo (who plays Mrs. Wheatley). It was a very sweet team dynamic between those characters. And Ben really cared about Mr. Colbourne and was very dedicated.

Alison reveals to Georgiana that Charlotte, too, is trying to avoid getting married. What does that idea of marriage to farmer Ralph Starling and life in Willingdon mean to her?

I think her main concern is her family—she feels a responsibility to take care of her parents and her brothers and sisters, and knows that the obvious path to securing the family’s finances is marriage. Yet that goes against everything that her mind and spirit are telling her—she completely disagrees with how women have to conform in society and don’t have freedom to go and live a life of independence, which is what she craves after going away and experiencing so much. She’ll always have a deep love for the land, and I think that’s important—a big character trait of hers is her appreciation for nature and love of the land and working on the land, and she deeply cares about her family. But it does feel constricting, and she’s trying to figure out how to make it all work, and if that is a possibility.

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