‘Sanditon’ Finale: Colbourne and Charlotte’s Cliff Kiss Was Almost Reshot in a Carpark

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The series finale of Sanditon on Masterpiece on PBS finally gives Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) the happy ending fans have been waiting patiently for these past three years. After finally breaking her engagement with Ralph (Cai Bridgen) last week, Charlotte’s dreams of being with Alexander Colbourne (Ben Lloyd-Hughes) were dashed when she learned Lydia Montrose (Alice Orr-Ewing) was engaged. The implication was that once again, she missed the chance to marry the man she loved because he was engaged to someone else. However, Miss Montrose had carried on a secret courtship, meaning that Colbourne had to rush to a departing Charlotte to declare his love and intention to marry!

Colbourne intercepts Charlotte’s carriage on the exact same cliff where Sidney Parker (Theo James) broke her heart in the Sanditon Season 1 finale. Decider asked Sanditon star Rose Williams if she — or Charlotte — was aware of the symmetry between the scene where Sidney revealed he loved Charlotte even though he was engaged to another and this triumphant moment where Colbourne explains they are free to be together forever.

“Yes, I think it was absolutely a nod to the moment [Sidney broke her heart],” Williams said, before thoughtfully expounding on how that specific location meant so much more to her and Charlotte than just Sidney’s farewell. “Well, that cliff and what’s so lovely is that we shot in the same location for all of those scenes. So it’s a very meaningful transitional place. It’s like it’s still in Sanditon, but it feels private, it feels expansive, it feels free flowing, it feels like this kind of almost dream space. Like visually, it looks like a dream space. It’s very open.”

“There’s something very symbolic about a cliff top with that lush green and with the sounds of the ocean. Like it’s very, very visceral and it evokes a lot of emotion. So for me, yes, it’s a physical place, but that specific point on the cliff is so this kind of transitory, subconscious emotional space for Charlotte.”

Charlotte on a cliff in Sanditon Season 2
Photo: PBS

“And in that transitory emotional space, that’s where we see her contemplating adventure. In Season 1, Episode 1, she transitions through childhood and Willingden and her family and she goes through that space into adventure and then she returns home in deep sadness with the goodbyes to Sidney and then she returns again [to Sanditon] with family.”

“So it’s like every time she crosses over on that pathway, it’s a very important story point in her arc. So when it comes to the final moment, I don’t think that she has enough time for her mind to conceive what’s going on. I think it’s pure emotion and totally being called by like a string. She’s looking out. There’s no, ‘What’s going on?’ It’s more just this really heart to heart, kind of magnetic, physical pull —  in my imagination, anyway — to this place that represents her heart space.”

“So I would say that it was all, it’s all so quick. She’s not thinking anything. All she knows is that her feet are hitting the ground and she’s being pulled physically towards the man and it’s all very totally in the moment,” Williams said.

“It’s more just this really heart to heart, kind of magnetic, physical pull —  in my imagination, anyway — to this place that represents her heart space.”

Rose Williams

Meeting her in that heart space is Alexander Colbourne. After declaring his love for her, he doesn’t so much ask Charlotte to marry him as much as he tells her that, obviously, they’re going to spend their lives together. It’s not a proposal but an understanding. Sanditon star Ben Lloyd-Hughes told Decider he thought there was “something both domestic and epic about that.”

“I like the idea of it being almost kind of like a hug of relief, of exhaustion, this epic back and forth and drama and tears,” Lloyd-Hughes said. “I don’t know if you’ve ever been in those situations where you’re almost just…you can’t even kiss because you’re so exhausted of the cat and mouse and you almost just want to lie down in silence. That would be, yeah, that would be bliss.”

“That’s that feeling of ‘We’re gonna kiss now, but actually we’ve got all the time in the world to kiss for the rest of our lives. So we don’t, you know, there doesn’t need to be too much pressure on this kiss.'”

Colbourne and Charlotte in the 'Sanditon' finale placeholder
Photo: PBS

As for the kiss, Lloyd-Hughes remembers there being a “lot of talk” about how it needed to be “kind of realistic, but also dramatic and poignant.”

“This is such a big moment, but it’s gotta be different to all the kisses we’ve seen before, and who leads it and how we get to that point.”

As for the kiss itself, Lloyd-Hughes said that intimacy director Lizzy Talbot was on set that day to help choreograph it. The biggest problem he and Williams ran into? The weather.

“It was particularly, insanely windy. I don’t know if that comes across, it probably does. It was insanely windy on the cliff,” Lloyd-Hughes said. “I remember there being a lot of talk about them wanting to re-shoot those scenes. But me and Rose — I think out of probably Rose’s exhaustion, but also because we thought the scene was really good the way we did it — we really pushed to not reshoot it.”

“We would have had to do it in a car park,” Williams said. “We’re actors and we can do whatever you like. You’re acting with like a tennis ball and it’s supposed to be the head of a dragon. Like that’s the job. You’ve got to do it.”

“But with that scene, it’s like the elements added so much to it. It was a bit of a nightmare. It was a howling gale, but I think that it evoked something special. We really were like, ‘Guys, listen, our hair is flying around. But isn’t that romantic?'”

Lloyd-Hughes agreed. “The wind really added to the drama and I think we were worried that we’d have to ADR the whole thing. So, I’m really glad that that scene ended up the way it did.”

And Sanditon fans must be happy with how that scene ended up, too…with Charlotte finally getting her happily ever after.