*Sanditon season 3 spoilers – episode 4 and beyond – below*
Sanditon star Turlough Convery believes that if ‘rulebreaker’ Jane Austen had been alive today, she would have included his character’s lesbian romance into the plot, as he revealed how seriously the programme treated this revolutionary first.
The series, which is now in its third season, was based on a fragment of a work Austen left behind after her death and has proven to be something of a victory in the face of hardship.
Originally shelved after its first season, it was salvaged owing to enormous fan support, only to lose its original starring man Theo James to pastures new, and then film the second and third seasons back-to-back under tight Covid regulations in 2021… It’s been a long time.
Sanditon, on the other hand, returns with great flair and a lot of romance for its closing curtain, with producer Justin Young and his crew attempting to tie up everyone’s tales with tidy, romantic bows – exactly as many traditional period drama viewers like.
Alongside finally getting to see if Charlotte Heywood (Rose Williams) will get her happily ever after with brooding former employer Alexander Colbourne (Ben Loyd-Hughes), there’s also a dangerous flirtation for debutante Augusta (Eloise Webb) and local bad boy Sir Edward Denham (Jack Fox), a second chance romance for Anne Reid’s crotchety Lady Denham and even the prospect for Lady Susan (Sophie Winkleman) to get her own shot at true love as the King’s affections waver.
Convery’s character Arthur Parker, who strikes up a connection with newcomer to the seaside town, Lord Harry Montrose (Edward Davis), is perhaps the most striking and charming of them.
It later blossoms into a gay love story – although not before a rather serious complication with Arthur’s pal, heiress Georgiana (Crystal Clarke), who is considering an all-too-real marriage of convenience with Montrose. The course of true love, eh?
When asked about his character’s trajectory, the actor stated it was “inevitable” and “always going to end this way” for Arthur, even if it came from Austen’s quill pen.
‘I think Jane Austen, if she was writing now would have written Arthur like that – I really, deeply believe that,’ Convery said. ‘Because the reality is that a person like Arthur, a person who is othered in society, who is beginning to understand himself and his sexuality and who he is within this world, and understanding what potential romantic connection is – those people existed, at all times they existed!
‘Jane Austen would have known and seen people like this.’
‘She was a rulebreaker. She was someone who just went no, I’m not going to accept that it has to be a certain way – and I appreciate that,’ he added.
‘She gave women a voice at a time when women weren’t allowed to have a voice. And I think if that doesn’t speak to who she would be now and who she would be writing about – characters like Arthur – then I think we’re misconstruing history.’
As the youngest Parker sibling, Arthur has been on quite a trip during Sanditon’s tenure, always friendly – if a little fumbling – and eager to make his elder brother Tom’s (Kris Marshall) great dreams for the town come to reality.
Convery describes him as “playing up to his clowning nature because he didn’t know what else there was” before beginning on a “wonderful journey” in which he truly starts to “know himself.”
Before filming the final two seasons, there was talk of Arthur’s sexuality taking front stage, which both the Northern Irish actor and the show’s creative team agreed on.
‘When I was first approached by Justin and [executive producer] Belinda Campbell and the team, one of the big things I said to them was, “We have to approach Arthur’s sexuality, and we have to approach it with an open mind.” And they were super receptive to that, they were like, “That’s exactly what we want to do, we want to explore that side of him.”’
Convery was also mindful that as the sole gay character in a Jane Austen-inspired series, he had to occupy ‘a really big space’.
‘I don’t think that’s ever been explored in any Jane Austen related shows, and I think that’s a really cool thing and we took that very seriously.
‘[Edward and I] really worked together with Justin to hone and craft and make sure that it was a truthful retelling of the experience of people at that time, and what they went through. Along the way, playing Arthur, I learned a lot about myself – and I think that’s the greatest pleasure of being an actor is to get the chance to play these roles where you discover something about you as well.’
The Killing Eve actor gushed about Davis, whose character comes in Sanditon as a poor member of the aristocracy, replete with sister Lydia (Alice Orr-Ewing) and matchmaking mother Lady Montrose (Emma Fielding).
Convery revealed that everyone was feeling’really low’ on energy since the previous filming block ‘sapped a lot of our energies’ when Davis came aboard, but his co-star had a reinvigorating influence.
‘I remember the first scene he filmed was where I introduce him to Georgiana, so his very first day on set, he’s dressed up in this ridiculous outfit – he had this massive cape because he had his dukedom or whatever it is, and his big hat…
‘Honestly it was so wonderful as Arthur to see that because in the other seasons, Arthur has always been the one wearing the silly capes, the purple jackets and green embroidery and amazing multicoloured waistcoats.
‘So to see this amazing guy come strutting down the street, absolutely peacocking, it brought so much joy to me that day that I was like, “Oh, we’re in for a good time here!”’
The couple were also well-matched in their attention and devotion to particular moments, as well as each other’s and their own roles.
‘It was nice meeting that energy and really trying to work to make this relationship happen to make sure Edward and Arthur’s story is fulfilled to the best extent,’ Convery shared.
It seems their hard work certainly paid off, with fans in America lucky enough to have already seen season three earlier this year sharing their gratitude with the actor personally; Convery has received messages ‘from around the world’.
‘One of the most striking ones I got was some shortbread and some teas sent all the way from Hawaii to me because it was someone who had seen the show and really connected with Arthur and just wanted to say that it was a really beautiful rendition. She’d never seen a queer character in a Jane Austen and [wanted to share] how much that meant to her, and it really touched me.
‘That’s the reach of not only this story but Sanditon in general. If we could go for 15 more seasons, I’d be there.’
The 32-year-old better be careful with those sorts of admissions around such a passionate fan base, as this season has been confirmed to be the last (truly), whatever’s happened before.
But could he see himself ever tempted into a spin-off in his imaginings? Perhaps Montrose and Arthur finally get to go to that cottage together?
‘Montrose and Arthur up the River Wye, why not?’ he laughs.
The other important person in Arthur’s life is, of course, Georgiana, who has even more on her plate this season as she tries to deal with the pressures of inheriting a vast fortune while still being unable to locate her mother.
Charlotte is her closest female confidante, but Georgiana and Arthur are kindred souls with a particular intimacy of their own.
Convery clearly enjoyed every minute of working with the ‘wonderful’ Clarke on Sanditon, reflecting on their characters’ special connection.
‘One of our big things was that – even in the first season – he is someone who brings out a light in her, he is the one who gets her to dance at certain parties. I think they both recognise their otherness from society, they recognise it in each other, and they find solace and connection in that,’ he pointed out.
‘When everyone else is asking them to be certain things and to conform to certain ideas, they find someone that they can sit down and have a cake with.’
While everybody is flocking around her, asking her to behave or do things in a certain why, Arthur ‘asks very little of her’ says the actor – and she also ‘holds Arthur in line when it comes to eating cakes’, he jokes.
‘He just wants to be along for the ride, and in comparison with other people who are trying to give her guidance, he’s someone who goes, I just want to be your friend – and I think we could all do with a bit of Arthur in our life.’
Sanditon season 3 is available to stream now in full on ITVX.
Source My Celebrity Life.