Sanditon, the acclaimed drama (on Britbox) based on Jane Austen’s final, unfinished novel left fans in suspense and clamouring for more after the first series’ finale. Season 2 picks up the action nine months later, as the town is growing in popularity, featuring characters familiar and new. There are new romances, friendships, and challenges for the residents as the Army make Sanditon their new base, led by the charming Colonel Lennox (Tom Weston-Jones).
Colonel Lennox is a genuine war hero, who behaved gallantly at Waterloo. He’s also aristocratic, dashing, and charming. He commands absolute respect from his men, and status and honour mean everything to him. Aware of the public’s perception of military men as loutish drunks and womanisers, the Colonel is keen to establish himself as a respectable member of refined society. But for a man used to getting his own way, the Colonel’s time in Sanditon may prove more challenging than he can imagine.
What can audiences expect from series two?
Audiences can expect an expanded world. Sanditon is essentially broadening its horizons with various characters trying to make a life for themselves. Furthermore, the complicated relationships from the first series unravel and entangle with other people. Overall, it’s deeper and more complex.
What’s it been like joining the cast of Sanditon and what drew you to the role?
Joining the cast has been lovely. Everybody’s been very welcoming and open to discussing things, and it’s been very collaborative, which has been brilliant. In terms of what brought me to the table in terms of Lennox, I just loved how he’s a man who knows what he wants. I felt at ease that I was playing a real person who I could flesh out rather than someone who is supposedly stereotypical.
Can you describe Captain Lennox’s character?
Lennox is a colonel in the army. He’s a beast of the military and a wealthy man. He fought in Waterloo, where he made a name for himself, so some people might view him as a bit of a war hero. When he comes to Sanditon with his regiment, it’s peacetime, so they’re essentially just looking for the best places to establish a barracks, not necessarily a permanent one, because they move on from place to place. Lennox himself is yearning for something different. As you can imagine with someone who’s in the military, he has quite a transient lifestyle – he comes across multiple people, women, has some romances, dalliances and then moves on. There are new fields to conquer when he comes to Sanditon, and he meets Charlotte Heywood. It’s a curve ball – it wrongfoots him. He finds her instantly beguiling and can’t stop himself from pursuing her.
What is their relationship like?
Charlotte and Lennox’s relationship is quite unusual. She is a woman who speaks her mind and knows herself, and Lennox is attracted to strong personalities. As soon as he sees that strength and personality, he can’t stop himself asking for more of it. But they feel a real respect for each other and that ebbs and flows in various ways. It goes to an interesting and unusual place.
Are the army being truthful about their intentions for the town and its residents?
It’s an interesting question. If you were to ask the Army of their intentions, they’d probably pass it off and excuse it themselves because they’ve been to war. There’s a lot of excusing going on and they’re not necessarily lying to everybody else, they’re lying to themselves. That’s something that I think Lennox does all the time.
Can you talk a little bit about the Regency costumes that you’ve been wearing?
I hope that when people watch the show, they can see these incredible costumes – especially for anyone who is playing someone in the military. It just gives you a particular sharpness. The detail and vibrancy of the costumes immediately drop you in that period. They instantly help and change the way you move, which is everything to an actor.
There are some great new sets. What does the addition of the promenade bring to this series?
I remember walking through the backlot just days before we started filming and on the first day, there was almost nothing there, so I was looking around thinking “do they know we’re going to be shooting on this in a couple of weeks?”, but they built it quickly. The layers of detail that they built up over time beautifully put it all together. The promenade just adds that element of tactility. You feel like you’re there and you don’t have to pretend too much. It helps you project your character into a certain place.
What was the process of learning the dance routines with Rose and Ben?
The process was relatively simple, as you’d expect. Luckily, the dance choreographer Sammy Murray is brilliant. I felt instantly in safe hands, which is great when you’re doing something that is a bit unfamiliar. It was just drilling it in, making sure that we feel like we’re servicing the character and not over-performing the dance. With someone like Lennox, he wouldn’t try too hard at it, so we got to a place where it could feel natural.
And who would you say out of the three of you is the best dancer?
I’d say Rose and Ben. When I see them dancing together as Charlotte and Colbourne, I’m supposed to be seething, but it was a beautiful dance and I thought they did an amazing job. I was quite taken by it.
What makes the story compelling for an audience in 2022?
I think with period dramas, everybody tunes in for the escapism. But at the same time, there are certain shadows from the past that we like to touch upon, and some of them are quite ugly and painful. Jane Austen had a gentler perspective on things, but I think people like to acknowledge those ghosts, and to feel that we’re not so different. You always assume that we’ve moved forward as a society, but there’s still so much more work to be done. That’s a theme that comes up this series.
You have starred in period dramas before. What do you enjoy about them?
Period dramas are great because a lot of people wrote down what they did every single day and documented their thoughts. So in terms of being able to step into a time and a perspective that is vastly different to what we’re like now, is great. It’s all that much easier, because there’s some amazing first-hand accounts that have been slightly romanticised. I love the sheer volume of research that you can do beforehand to flesh someone out.
Do you have any particular memories from shooting that were funny or challenging?
I enjoyed weirdly long days where everyone kind of goes a little bit mad. You’re made to feel very comfortable. Crews work insanely hard. And it’s that bond that I love. It’s such a collaborative process. The stuff you do between setups and the bond that you build with everyone in those circumstances is what I thrive on. That will be my lasting memory.