Interview SheCan

OnBOX Interview: ITV’s Jane Austen’s Sanditon Talking to Crystal Clarke

Miss Georgina Lambe, played by Crystal Clarke, is the talk of Sanditon. A woman, whose wealth is traced back to her family in Antigua, Miss Lambe makes an impression on the money-hungry suitors in the town. Written months before Austen’s death in 1817, ‘Sanditon’ tells the story of the spirited and unconventional Charlotte Heywood and her relationship with the humorous, charming Sidney Parker.

ALT: Tell us about the character Georgina Lambe we know she is an heiress but who is she?
Georgiana has lost both her parents and she’s been brought to this foreign land where she knows only one person and none of the culture. She feels isolated and alienated because of her money – and her race. Her story is very much a coming of age under extraordinary circumstances.

2. What do you like about playing Miss Lambe?

She’s fiery, vulnerable, romantic, naive in some ways, and very knowing in others. Georgiana is also a black heiress in a Jane Austen – and that is definitely a character I didn’t know was possible to even dream of playing.

3. Prior to doing this role were you a fan of Jane Austen and do you have a favourite novel?

I’d never read Jane Austen, but I always enjoyed Austen film adaptations. Emma, Clueless, and especially Sense & Sensibility. I used a speech from Sense & Sensibility to practice my accent while at drama school. And I was always so inspired by Emma Thompson – she didn’t just portray Elinor; she adapted that wonderful screenplay!

ALT. The Radio Times wrote: “some viewers may be surprised to see a black heiress at the centre of ITV period drama Sanditon” why do you think that is?

Simply put ignorance. When people have only a very narrow understanding of what history looked like, they will be surprised to see some of its truths. Especially with period dramas. Period dramas have been whitewashed for so many years, and there is this assumption that therefore the world must have been too. That Britain must have always looked THAT white pre-Windrush. However, any historian can paint a much different and more accurate picture. Britain’s history as a colonial empire, never allowed it to be as whitewashed as many period dramas have made it appear.

ALT. A bit about your background, did you go down the conventional drama school route?

Well, I am from Newark, NJ. I grew up in the States. In my last year of high school, I decided to travel to Glasgow and study at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. I’d never been to Scotland, never visited the school, had little evidence of what to expect – and it ended up being one the best decisions I’ve ever made. I was like the The Fool at the beginning of a tarot deck: stepping off a cliff and blindly optimistic about where I might land.

ALT. What was your first acting role?

My first professional role was a in a film called The King’s Daughter. I was in my last year of drama school at the time and was really lucky to go on this adventure to film in Australia with Pierce Brosnan and Kaya Scodelario. The industry was such a culture shock to me. It can be so exciting and so draining, but when you love it – there’s really nothing else you’d rather be doing.

ALT. Where was Sanditon shot and over what time period?

We shot Sanditon in a few different locations: Bottle Yard Studios in Bristol, Brean Beach, and The Georgian House Museum in Bristol over 5 lovely months.

ALT. What do you like about period dramas?

I’m always a fan of period dramas when they bring light to parts of history we haven’t seen yet. There is so much untold history – and Georgiana Lambe is very much a part of that. Narratives that have made up our world but get little to no screen time.

ALT. Where they any challenges to playing the character of Lambe?

I’d say the hardest part about playing Miss Lambe was filming the ball scenes. Lots of dancing, with lots of people, in a very small, very hot space.

ALT. Do you think that Austen was quite forward thinking when it came to writing about women given the conversations we are having now?

Oh absolutely, I think Austen was much more forward thinking on plenty of subjects than she is given credit for. I’d like to believe she read the works of Mary Wollstonecraft. The ingredients of the works are very similar. There are also so many papers written on her inclusion of the slave trade in Mansfield Park, because that nugget of social awareness is not something she needed to include in her work – but she did.

Watch Crystal in ‘Sanditon’ from Sunday 25th August, 9pm, ITV1

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