‘Sanditon’ Season 2: Why Is Theo James Leaving the Show?

Sanditon will be back for season 2 — minus one of its major characters. Leading man Theo James has said he won’t be returning as Sidney Parker. The news came shortly after PBS announced the period drama’s surprising two-season renewal and will disappoint fans who were counting on a resolution to Sidney and Charlotte’s (Rose Williams) romance in the show’s sophomore season. 

Theo James says he felt his ‘Sanditon’ character’s journey had ‘concluded’ 

James’ exit was confirmed via a post on the official Masterpiece PBS Twitter account. In a statement, the actor said that it was the right time for him to leave the show. He felt his character’s story had come to a natural end in Sanditon Season 1. 

“Although I relished playing Sidney, for me, I’ve always maintained that his journey concluded as I wanted it to,” James explained. 

“The broken fairy-tale like ending between Charlotte and Sidney is different, unique, and so interesting to me and I wish the cast and crew of Sanditon every success with future series,” he added.  

While James won’t be back for future season of Sanditon, Williams is confirmed to return as Charlotte. 

“Couldn’t be more thrilled,” Williams tweeted after season 2 was announced. “The continued support for our show has been so appreciated and…..effective! Can’t wait to step into Charlotte’s shoes again.”

Charlotte and Sidney won’t get a happily-ever-after ending in ‘Sanditon’ Season 2 

Sidney and Charlotte in looking at something in Sanditon
Theo James as Sidney and Rose Williams as Charlotte in Sanditon | Courtesy of © Red Planet Pictures / ITV 2019

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James’ departure means that viewers will not get to see a happily-ever-after ending to Charlotte and Sidney’s romance. 

The show, which is based on an unfinished Jane Austen book, focused on a young woman named Charlotte’s visit to an up-and-coming seaside resort called Sanditon. Away from home for the first time, she falls for the wealthy and aloof Sidney, while also catching the eye of architect James Stringer (Leo Suter). Charlotte and Sidney seemed on track to end up together, but season 1 ended with Sidney deciding to marry a wealthy heiress so he could bail out his bankrupt brother. 

The ending upset many viewers, especially when U.K. broadcaster ITV declined to renew the show for a second season. When PBS saved the series, fans assumed they’d get to see Charlotte and Sidney work things out. But apparently, the couple isn’t meant to be. 

‘Sanditon’ producer wanted a different ending for Charlotte and Sidney 

While James believes Sidney’s arc had come to an end with the season 1 finale, the show’s producers weren’t originally planning on having him leave the show. 

In a 2020 interview with Vulture, Sanditon producer Belinda Campbell talked about the end of the first season, which at that point seemed like it was also the series finale. She pointed out that the goal had been to stretch the story out over multiple seasons. She added that if a renewal did happen, Charlotte and Sidney would end up together. 

“Absolutely! We’re not that perverse!” she said. 

However, she did defend Sidney’s decision to marry for money, not love. 

“[I]t is historically the case that people have to marry for money. That is something that happened. Whilst it might not be a Jane Austen ending, it is the reality of how many love stories would’ve ended. So there is a complete story arc there,” she said. 

“And likewise for Charlotte, who comes to Sanditon to get married, she has a coming-of-age story about growing up and seeing the world for what it is,” Campbell added. “Including that it involves pain, loss and sacrifice. So there is that ending.”

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