UPDATE: Since writing this post, PBS Masterpiece has posted the video of the Q&A. Scroll down the page to the bottom to watch.
After watching episode one to season two, I was still in a state of shock, frankly. I was writing off to the side everything happening in the episode, but when I got to the Q&A, I will say I became somewhat useless. Nevertheless, I did enjoy it immensely. Here are a few snippets of what was discussed, in no particular order. Questions were all over the place, but there was little discussion about Theo James or the plot. Actors were careful not to give out season spoilers.
My initial impression was focused on Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Tom Weston-Jones. Both were extremely pleasant. It’s one thing to imagine them as a character; it’s altogether different to see them as actors and individuals. Between the two, Ben was definitely the most fun. Rose and Crystal were their usual wonderful great personalities. The webinar was led by Meghan O’Keefe, the deputy editor at Decider.com. In attendance also were Justin Young, the lead writer and executive producer, Belinda Campbell, executive producer, Susanne Simpson, Masterpiece executive producer.
It appeared to me that Meghan has pre-arranged questions already and was not taking them necessarily from the chat, which was open and flowing rapidly with questions during the webinar. People from all over the United States attended, as this was for the PBS audience only and not meant to be a global affair. It was recorded, however, so perhaps it will be posted on their website in the coming weeks.
Here are snippets of questions and responses. I definitely missed a few, still dealing the deer-in-the-headlights syndrome after seeing the first episode.
Q. How do you feel that it’s out in the world now?
A. Answers came as: Very good; excited; it’s been a whirlwind.
Q. Question about Charlotte in Season 2.
A. Rose stated that Charlotte moves on, always has an open heart for adventure and new experiences. She follows a path of independence.
Q. Question about Georgina in Season 2.
A. Crystal stated that Miss Lambe is starting to come into her own, fighting off suitors, and attempting to forge her identity in search of what defines her.
Q. What about Alexander Colbourne?
A. Ben mentions the first meeting between Charlotte being frustrating but that he’s intrigued.
Q. Poses question to Tom.
A. Tom really enjoyed the hearty welcome by everyone on set.
Q. Talked about the fan base.
A. Belinda acknowledged the hardcore fandom sending letters, gifts, and how they influenced bringing back the show.
A. Suzanne said she just finished watching Season 3 and it gets better and better.
Q. Questions asked about writing.
A. It was a natural transition for Justin to be the lead writer on Season 2 since he was involved with Season 1. They had to switch directions about Charlotte/Sidney, which opened up new angles to explore. They wanted strong female characters and new complex characters as well. The idea of the army, Charles Lockhart, and Colbourne were three different men of mystery and intrigue, plus romance. There is more romance and more love stories.
Q. Questions about reunited on the set after being part for so long.
A. Rose said the first time she saw Crystal again was in costume, and they filmed the scene when they reunited in Sanditon.
Q. Question about whether the new stars had to go through a hazing from the old cast.
A. Ben said he was late for the initial read-through, which felt terrible. He had to have a Covid test before joining them. Overall everyone was very welcoming. He hadn’t watched season one at all, because he didn’t want to be influenced by prior scenes or characters (probably meaning Theo). Just a note here, that’s not unusual for some actors to do. He joked that everyone called him “Theo” for five weeks.
Q. Conversation about Charlotte’s journey.
A. They wanted to focus on a successful female protagonist rather than Sidney. People will miss him not coming back, and they went the route of his death so people knew he wouldn’t be coming back. They had the confidence that the audience with find clarity and grieve along with Charlotte during her journey. Suzanne stated she believed it’s exciting to watch Charlotte’s journey as she decides what defines her. It’s interesting storytelling with surprises.
Q. Asked the new men how they prepared.
A. Tom mentioned he read old diaries and journals about the militia. Read Jane Austen. Ben joked he went to live in a house and didn’t brush his teeth. Barely read the scripts. Made a lot of funny jokes about it and laughed. Ben mentioned he loved the movie Clueless.
Q. Question about costumes.
A. Costumes help them get into character. Crystal made a joke that Kate Ashfield could get out of her corset the quickest.
A. They talked about the great choreographer they had. Ben mentioned that he loved each dance as it told its own story. There was a reason behind the choreography they were dancing. He stated he learned to tell the story with his eyes and physicality rather than dialogue and relied more on hand gestures. There was an excitement around filming – a unique element to it that made it feel like a novelty factor that brought energy.
Q. Favorite costume for Rose and Crystal?
A. See below! I think I got this right. The dress and the teal coat. Tom said he felt cheated because he only had one outfit.
Q. Stunts and horses.
A. They talked about the horses. Tom said he was beautiful and had done a fair amount of riding before. Ben had two different horses – one of which was “bat-shit crazy” in character but wasn’t in real life. He wasn’t always on the horse either; they used a stunt double.
Q. Talked about advisors.
A. They used a lot of advisors to make sure it retained the Austenisque feel. Justin said some of the new characters share the same “DNA” character types and have a familiar feel but not necessarily the same.
Q. Asked about what they loved about their characters.
A. Ben said, “I love his integrity.” Crystal – the clothes and laughed. Tom said Lennox is driven to achieve what he wants. Rose reiterated that Charlotte is open, grows, and explores new paths.
Q. On writing.
A. Just said he found it very weird to put down his pen when it was over. He missed the characters very much, not necessarily the actors. Everyone laughed.
Q. Talked about what it was like to go back to the characters after being gone so long.
A. Found it easy to go back, which spoke a lot about the chemistry of the cast.
Somewhere in here, Justin makes a joke that all the characters die at the end of Season 3.
Q. Questions about the new characters, Augusta and Leo.
A. Ben chimed in that Flora Mitchell, who played Leonora Colbourne, acted her first-ever job. He said working with her enthusiasm reminded him every day how just unique and exciting it was to be part of the production. It made him cherish every day and eradicate all sense of apathy or taking it for granted. Then he joked that Eloise Webb, who played Augusta, had more credits than her, so it wasn’t quite the same.
A. Tom said that Frank and Maxim got on very well. It was great fun. They filmed the military camp in Wales. The days were long but everyone got along.
Q. Talked about history.
A. Crystal said she usually doesn’t watch period dramas (shocker). She said acting in them though gives us a mirror to the past. We learn a lot about ourselves and history and the things we repeat. She mentioned the many consultants on the show for black history and that she learned a lot from them.
Q. Talked about new skills they learned in their roles.
A. New sets were built. Archery was a lot of fun. Apparently, Rose had a hurt shoulder but was a real trooper during filming the archery scene. Ben said he was left-handed and writing with a quill pen was a huge disaster. He smudged everything. Rose laughed and said when she saw him write BLH standing before his desk for the interview. They laughed.
Q. If they had to tease the series in one word, what would it be.
A. Unexpected joy, saucy, very saucy, windswept melting pot, a lot of fun, very witty were the answers.
That’s it! It was hard to take down the questions and answers verbatim, so the above is the general gist or at least close enough. I certainly didn’t get everything but gave it my best shot.
~ I’m a former New Yorker and started watching period dramas on the weekend. It started with Upstairs, Downstairs; I LOVE Sanditon and Poldark as well. After studying my ancestry, it is English, British and Native American on my father’s side (which is WHY it resonated with me). Sanditon was a joy to watch. I was sure that she and Young Suter would become a couple; that Georgiana was smart to dump Otis and Lockhart. So glad Ester saw through Edward and Clara’s nefarious acts and that Lady Denham got off her high horse and recognised each one. I love that Allison and Capt. Fraser were married, that Capt. Carter lost out and for Season 2 that Colbourne gets his sh*t together and stops shutting himself away. Seasons 1 & 2 are downloaded on my computer; LOOKING FORWARD TO SEASON 3!!! ~
~ I absolutely L=O=V=E=D all the dances in Season 1/Episode 6 and in Season 2. I appreciate the formalities they extended to each other and how they addressed one other as Mr., Mrs., Miss, and Lord/Lady. It’s these courtesies that were part of the culture at that time…and a lost art in the world today. PBS Masterpiece (Channel 13, New York) was the only TV station that I enjoyed watching to relax from a stressful work week. Now that I’m happily married and live in the mountains, PBS [Masterpiece Theatre] is still my go-to for great period dramas. ~