Warning: Sanditon Season 2 spoilers below!
The character’s demise was hardly a surprise. After Masterpiece and Britbox ordered a second and third season of the Jane Austen adaptation in 2021 — reversing ITV’s 2019 cancellation of the show — Theo announced his departure in a statement on Masterpiece’s Twitter page.
Sidney’s romance with Charlotte (Rose Williams) love story hit a roadblock in the Season 1 finale, when he was forced to marry a rich heiress to save his family after a devastating fire.
The Sanditon producers always planned to get Sidney back with Charlotte, but when Theo opted out of Season 2, they opted to kill off the character offscreen instead of recasting the part.
How did Sidney die in ‘Sanditon’?
At the Winter 2022 TCA Press Tour in January, showrunner Justin Young revealed that Sidney’s absence would be addressed at the start of the second season, and sure enough, the Season 2 premiere reveals that the character died from yellow fever during a trip to Antigua, as Parade reports.
“Theo made it very clear he didn’t want to come back, so we had to think how to engage with that,” Justin said at the TCA panel, per Decider. “Obviously, we couldn’t recast because that would have destroyed the integrity of our world. It would be implausible. So we thought we need to make clear to the audience right from the beginning that he’s not coming back. And we need to let the audience grieve along with Charlotte.”
Why did Theo James leave ‘Sanditon’?
In his statement, Theo indicated that his decision to leave Sanditon was a creative one. “Although I relished playing Sidney, for me, I’ve always maintained that his journey concluded as I wanted it to,” he said. “The broken fairytale-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.”
At the TCA panel, however, producer Belinda Campbell said that Theo “had other opportunities and decided not to come back.”
“I think in fairness, his statement about responding to the broken love story aspect of it, I think he genuinely felt that,” Belinda added. “He felt that it was an original and exciting end, and he was happy to leave it there.”
So what are those “other opportunities”? Theo is starring in the upcoming HBO series The Time Traveler’s Wife, and he’s been cast in the second season of HBO’s The White Lotus.
Belinda told Vulture in February 2020 that the producers intended to reunite Sidney and Charlotte. “Absolutely! We’re not that perverse!” she said. “A lot of people want that happily ever after. And we would love the opportunity to give it to them. Of course Sidney is going to find a way around it! He’s our hero!”
Seems like Charlotte will have to hold out for another hero! See how it all plays out as Sanditon Season 2 continues airing stateside on Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on PBS.