The New 'Sense and Sensibility' Adaptation Introduces a Black Dashwood Family

Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Beth Angus, Deborah Ayorinde, and Bethany Antonia in "Sense & Sensibility"

Susan Lawson-Reynolds, Beth Angus, Deborah Ayorinde, and Bethany Antonia in "Sense & Sensibility"

(Photo: Steffan Hill/2024 Hallmark Media)

it's a truth universally acknowledged that Jane Austen is the gold standard of romance. From Lizzie and Darcy to Emma and Knightley, her love stories have made us all swoon for two hundred years. Given all this, it's honestly surprising that we haven't seen a Hallmark adaptation of an Austen story before now. Yes, The Hallmark Channel is not usually a place to find a tremendous amount of content of interest to Anglophiles. (Though the cozy Christmas movies where harried big city girls are reminded of the simple joys of small-town living and attractive former high school boyfriends are likely comfort viewing for a lot of us during the holidays.) But given the network's obsession with romance, their new adaptation of Austen's classic Sense and Sensibility feels like a natural fit. 

Presented under the network's Mahogany umbrella, this particular adaptation is notable for another reason: The bulk of its main cast is Black. It seems surprising to say that, in the year of our Lord 2024, this hasn't actually happened before now, but here we are. The film itself is a remarkably faithful adaptation, complete with a Regency period setting and sumptuous costumes. But while it isn't a particularly race-conscious version of the story, the representation inherent in allowing Black Austen fans a chance to see themselves in a story they love really can't be overstated.

Sense and Sensibility stars Deborah Ayorinde (Them) as Elinor Dashwood and Bethany Antonia (House of the Dragon) as Marianne Dashwood, alongside Dan Jeannotte (Star Trek: Strange New Worlds) as Edward Ferrars, Akil Largie (The Sandman) as Colonel Brandon, and Victor Hugo (Riches) as John Willoughby. 

Here's the official synopsis. 

Following the loss of their family patriarch, the Dashwood women’s financial circumstances drastically change and they are forced to leave their home for a modest cottage in Devonshire. Soon, practical eldest daughter Elinor falls for the equally pragmatic gentleman Edward Ferrars. Her passionate sister Marianne meanwhile spurns the advances of their steadfast new neighbor Colonel Brandon for the much more exciting John Willoughby. When Elinor and Marianne’s romantic prospects do not turn out as hoped, each sister learns to embrace the other’s approach to matters of the heart.

Sense and Sensibility is part of Hallmark's "Loveuary" event this February, which features Austen-themed films airing each Saturday throughout the month. Paging Mr. Darcy stars Mallory Jansen (Agents of SHIELD) and Will Kemp (Spinning Out) in a story about how a love of Austen's stories helps two people overcome their pride and admit to their belief in love. A woman finds guidance from Austen, quite literally, in Love & Jane, starring Allison Sweeney (Hannah Swenson Mysteries) and Benjamin Ayres (Family Law). And An American in Austen stars Eliza Bennett (Sexy Beast), Nicholas Bishop (Industry), and Nell Barlow (Doctor Thorne) in a story about a librarian who thinks no man can live to Mr. Darcy who gets an unexpected chance to find out if that's true. Sense and Sensibility is the only straight-period adaptation of Austen's stories airing during the event. 

"Jane Austen's stories are timeless and continue to resonate with readers and viewers of all ages. Our movies will bring her beloved characters to life in fresh, new ways and honor the many women who continue to be inspired by them," said Lisa Hamilton Daly, Executive Vice President, Programming, for Hallmark Media, said in a statement.

Adapted from Austen's novel by Tim Huddleston (Fear Frequency), the film is directed by Roger Bobb (Christmas with a Kiss). Tia A. Smith is the executive producer, and Jeff Beach, Philip Roth, and Kristina Kambitova are the producers. It features original costumes by Kara Saun (Project Runway) and hair designs by Kim Kimble (Euphoria). Author and historian Vanessa Riley (Island Queen) served as a historical consultant.

Sense and Sensibility premieres Saturday, February 24, 2024, on The Hallmark Channel. 

Lacy Baugher

Lacy's love of British TV is embarrassingly extensive, but primarily centers around evangelizing all things Doctor Who, and watching as many period dramas as possible.

Digital media type by day, she also has a fairly useless degree in British medieval literature, and dearly loves to talk about dream poetry, liminality, and the medieval religious vision. (Sadly, that opportunity presents itself very infrequently.) York apologist, Ninth Doctor enthusiast, and unabashed Ravenclaw. Say hi on Threads or Blue Sky at @LacyMB. 

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