August 17, 2022

Period piece “Sanditon” has gone through an unusual journey – in Dec. 2019, the show was canceled, but two years later, May 2021, Seasons 2 and 3 were announced, and Season 2 will finally premiere on Sunday, March 20 (9 p.m. on Masterpiece PBS). 

“ITV in the U.K. was the primary commissioner of broadcast on Season 1, and it aired in August 2019. It didn’t go out in the U.S. until around Feb 2020, so there was quite a gap,” executive producer Belinda Campbell told The Post. 

“Already in the U.K., there was a big fan base going, ‘There has to be a Season 2!’ So, when ITV announced that there wasn’t going to be one, [Masterpiece PBS] was determined to help us….As soon as it became clear that it had done well in the U.S., that galvanized us. It took a fair amount of time after that to get the money together. Throughout this process, I was talking to the cast. There were moments where we thought it was going to happen, and then the money fell through, or Theo said he wasn’t coming back. It was a bit of a roller coaster.”

Rose Williams as Charlotte Heywood goes to a quaint seaside resort to expand her horizons in “Sanditon.”
Red Planet Pictures / ITV

Based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel of the same name, “Sanditon,” is set in the early 1800s England. Season 1 follows Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams), who travels to the seaside resort of Sanditon. There, she meets a slew of colorful characters including her surly love interest Sidney Parker (Theo James), his entrepreneur brother Tom (Kris Marshall), West Indian heiress and Jane Austen’s first black heroine, Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) and sassy Lady Denham (Anne Reid). She also learns about threats to the resort’s funding. 

See also  Kim Kardashian, Pete Davidson denied tickets to attend Platinum Jubilee parties

Season 1 ended on a cliffhanger separating Charlotte and Sidney  – and after it was announced that the show’s cancellation was reversed, Theo James announced in May 2021 that he wouldn’t return.

Theo James as Sidney Parker in "Sanditon."
Theo James as Sidney Parker isn’t returning for Season 2 of “Sanditon.”
©PBS/Courtesy Everett Collectio

“He never signed an option, so he was never obliged to come back, but we had talked about it. But I think he genuinely believed that it was an interesting ending – he’s a creative. So that’s the fundamental reason why [he didn’t return] and he was busy with other work,” said Campbell, who’s also the head of Drama at Red Planet (the production company behind the show).

“All of Austen’s stories have a love interest, but they are primarily about the female protagonist. This is Charlotte Heywood’s story. If Rose [Williams] hadn’t come back, that would have been really problematic. So, I’m not diminishing the loss of Theo, but it’s her story. She’s the girl who comes to this glamorous resort with plans to live a life less ordinary, and has this huge love affair with this person that makes a difference in her life. But that ends in heartbreak, as many first loves do.

“Series 2 and 3 are about that continuation of her journey as a young woman. The producers all thought Theo was brilliant, so that was a setback. But when obstacles arise, opportunities arise, because you find new ways around them.”

Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) stands in a ballroom opposite a man, dancing with his back to the camera.
Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) dances with a mystery man in “Sanditon” Season 2.
Red Planet (Sanditon 2) Ltd/Joss

Due to the long wait between seasons, the show also lost Leo Suter, who played Young Stringer, to a starring role on the “Vikings” spinoff. But as Campbell said, they’re soldiering on.

See also  Britney Spears rips Kevin Federline for revealing sons don’t talk to her

After the initial cancellation announcement, there were also several fan campaigns to save the show, including a #SaveSanditon hashtag on social media. Campbell said that made a difference.

Alison Heywood (Rosie Graham), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams)  and Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) stand by a staircase in gowns in "Sanditon" Season 2.
Alison Heywood (Rosie Graham), Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) and Georgiana Lambe (Crystal Clarke) are determined to find love in “Sanditon” Season 2.
Red Planet (Sanditon 2) Ltd/Joss

“What the fans did – it wasn’t just this social media campaign,” said Campbell. “They sent gifts, they sent letters to me, to ITV, to Masterpiece. They did stunts, they drew Sidney and Charlotte in the sand on a beach in England. The amount of effort and ingenuity that went into it was incredibly heartening, and it spurred us on. It made Masterpiece think, ‘There really is an audience here, a dedicated fan base.’ It gave us something to hold onto while on that journey.”