Why Did Theo James Leave 'Sanditon'?

Sanditon is finally returning to PBS, two years after the original season became a surprise ratings hit. Rose Williams will be back as the plucky Charlotte Heywood, but she will be without her hunkiest suitor.

Theo James played the dashing Sidney Parker in the first season, which ended with the two characters declaring their love to each other. That love, however, will remain unconsummated, as James will not be returning for Season 2 of the Masterpiece show.

Just days after the show was renewed for two more seasons by PBS and BritBox (after previously being canceled by ITV), James announced in a statement exactly why he was not returning to the show.

Sanditon's showrunners also revealed in a recent panel their side of the story about James' departure from the Jane Austen costume drama.

theo james sanditon
Theo James as Sidney Parker in "Sanditon." The actor announced he was exiting the PBS show in May 2021. PBS

Why Is Theo James Not in Sanditon Season 2?

In a statement posted on the Masterpiece PBS Twitter page, James said: "Although I relished playing Sidney, for me, I've always maintained that his journey concluded as I wanted it to.

"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."

Though James may have thought that his character's story ended when Sidney announced that he loved Charlotte but was betrothed to another, the show's creators had other ideas.

After the first season finished in early 2020, producer Belinda Campbell was interviewed by Vulture—and made it very clear that the show intended to keep telling Sidney and Charlotte's story in Season 2.

Asked if the pair would get together in Season 2, she said: "Absolutely! We're not that perverse!" She then added: "But no, I take no satisfaction after the fact that 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!"

At a Television Critics Association panel, Campbell confirmed that at one point James was in talks to return, but he "had other opportunities" while the network was trying to get financing.

She did not confirm what opportunities these were. However, negotiations for the show were underway in early 2022—around the time that James was announced as the male lead of HBO's new version of The Time Traveller's Wife.

The actor is also set to star in Season 2 of The White Lotus, and last year provided voices for The Witcher: Nightmare of the Wolf.

Campbell added: "His statement about responding to the broken love story aspect of it, I think he genuinely felt that. He felt that it was an original and exciting end and he was happy to leave it there."

Asked whether the show crew ever considered recasting the character, she said: "Theo made it very clear he didn't want to come back, so we had to think how to engage with that. 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."

Sanditon Season 2 airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on PBS.