Rose Williams and Theo James to Lead Cast of Jane Austen Adaptation ‘Sanditon’

A portrait of the authoress herself, Jane Austen
A portrait of the authoress herself, Jane Austen

Reign’s Rose Williams and the Divergent series’ Theo James have been tapped to star in the upcoming Masterpiece adaptation of Sanditon, based on an unfinished Jane Austen novel that the author was working on just before her death.

Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker. When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success.

Only eleven chapters of the original manuscript exist, so it’s not entirely clear how precisely the story will be expanded beyond that point. (But one has to assume it must be, yeah? Get on it Austen scholars!)

The eight part series will be written by Andrew Davies, whom most of you will recognize from his work on Mr. Selfridge, War and Peace, Vanity Fair and the upcoming Masterpiece adaptation of Les Miserables.

The cast also includes several other faces familiar to fans of British television, including Last Tango in Halifax’s Anne Reid, Death in Paradise’s Kris Marshall and Victoria’s Leo Suter.

Williams will star as Charlotte Heywood, a “joyous and spirted” young woman who sounds very much in the vein of the traditional Austen heroine.

Per the official press release:

Sanditon tells the story of the joyously impulsive, spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) and her spiky relationship with the humorous, charming (and slightly wild!) Sidney Parker (Theo James). When a chance accident transports her from her rural hometown of Willingden to the would-be coastal resort of the eponymous title, it exposes Charlotte to the intrigues and dalliances of a seaside town on the make, and the characters whose fortunes depend on its commercial success. The twists and turns of the plot, which takes viewers from the West Indies to the rotting alleys of London, exposes the hidden agendas of each character and sees Charlotte discover herself and ultimately find love.

“I am absolutely thrilled to be playing Charlotte Heywood. This role is such a blessing. She’s a brilliant character — modern, headstrong, with heart and a voice,” Williams said in a statement. "Andrew’s scripts are so beautifully written and wonderfully full of powerful female characters. I can’t wait to start filming soon with the wonderful cast and creative team on Sanditon.” 

Production on the series begins this month, but no current airdate on either side of the pond is known at this time. We’ll keep you posted.

What do you think of this adaptation of an unfinished Austen story? Are you planning to give it a go when it airs?