Even though actor Aidan Turner understands Ross Poldark’s motivations more than most, he can admit that Ross was “a mess” this season. In this episode, Aidan Turner joins us to reflect on Ross’s missteps, the fiery finale, and why he still believes that Ross and Demelza are “soulmates.”
Jace Lacob (Jace): Back when we talked to Aidan Turner about the Poldark second season finale, all nine episodes had already been filmed, but Aidan had only seen some of the completed season…
Aidan Turner: I’ve only seen one episode. What is this about?
Jace: I’ve seen all of Season 2.
Aidan Turner: What is this?
Jace: I’ve seen it two or three times now.
Aidan Turner: Are you an exec on this show?
Jace: Sadly, no.
Jace: If you’re like Aidan and you haven’t seen all of Poldark Season 2, hold off on listening to this episode until you have.
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Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
Another season of Poldark has come to a close, and, lucky for us, all of our favorite Cornwall couples feel a little more settled.
Well, almost all of them.
Elizabeth: March is not so far away.
Aunt Agatha: Unless it comes sooner.
Aunt Agatha: The child.
Jace: Aside from the fact that Elizabeth might be pregnant with Ross’s child, by the end of the second season, Dwight and Caroline had rekindled their romance, and Ross finally realized how much Demelza meant to him.
Aidan Turner: He realizes, you know, what’s important, why he needs to stick around, what he’s here for, and what really matters to him. And it’s her.
Jace: Today, Aidan Turner returns to the podcast to recap the Poldark finale, and to take a look back at the all of the big moments from Season 2.
Aidan: Thank you.
Jace: How does the unexpected death of Francis shape Ross in the back half of this season?
Aidan: I don’t think he’ll ever get over it, you know? I think he feels hugely responsible for it.
I think he has reflected on it to go, “God, why did I give him such a hard time? You know, why did I lose those years? What have I gained from all that?” If he knew he was gonna die this day… He would give anything to get those years back, I think and…
Yeah. It’s huge for him. And again, like the death of Julia, I don’t think he’ll ever really get over it. I can see him being tormented for a long time, you know.
Jace: How does Ross change over the course of the second season?
Aidan: There’s a lovely… I love the story with Dwight and Caroline. I mean, the penny kind of drops at Ross that, you know… (Laughs) I think, you know, Ross is sort of emotionally quite inarticulate, and I don’t think he quite understands what it is, and how he feels, and why he feels it, and when he sees what Dwight is going through with Caroline, and how she has helped him out and… And, I think, he sees a lot of his early relationship with Demelza here. You know, he’s slow to come around to it, but it’s starting to make sense now, and he’s seeing the person he has been, the choices he has made, the way he’s treated her; it’s all, kind of, slowly kind of clicking into gear.
It’s the… What is the character called in Unusual Suspects? What’s his name?
Jace: Keyser Söza?
Aidan: Yeah. He’s having like the final beats where it’s just like the…
Jace: He sees the Kobayashi cup falling.
Aidan: The Kobayashi. That’s the word, yeah!
Aidan: It’s falling into place. You know, the jigsaw puzzle is– the pieces are starting to slide in together, and he’s realizing how much he relies, trusts, and loves Demelza.
Ross: I came to see that if you take an idealized love and bring it down to the level of an imperfect one, it isn’t the imperfect one which suffers.
Aidan: And that’s a huge jump for him. That’s massive. I mean, that’s something that, up to that point, I don’t think he has had a grip of. That’s what’ll be interesting, I think, to play in Series 3. I mean, knowing that, understanding that, being there. It’ll be nice to start from that moment. And that’s a very maturing attribute to add into his skill set (laughs).
Jace: He tells Demelza at one point in this episode that Elizabeth has a hold on him because she was his “first, perfect untouchable love.”
Aidan: That’s right.
Jace: Is that why he’s so torn between these two women? The sort of realness of Demelza versus the fantasy of Elizabeth?
Aidan: I think it’s a lot of that, yeah: the fantasy. I mean, he has put her on this pedestal for years. I mean, he has idealized her. When he was away at war, we only imagine the situations that he would have been in, and, I think, that was his escape: closing his eyes at night and just thinking about, “When he gets back home, that’s the first face I want to see.”
He created this entire world, for years, and to not have that when he came back, I think it just rattled him, you know? He didn’t know what to do with his life. I think a lot of things didn’t make sense, and were meaningless at that stage, you know. He needed to start from scratch. And, you know, Elizabeth offers, I think, something very different than Demelza does.
Aidan: Long before I set eyes on you she was my first, perfect, untouchable love.
Demelza: Whereas I am dull, imperfect, and ordinary.
Ross: No, not ordinary. But yes, imperfect, human.
Jace: Demelza, consequently, what does she represent to him with her “imperfect realness” as Ross claims, and his “true, real and abiding love?”
Aidan: That’s right, that’s right. You’re good. You’re good (laughs). I need to watch this show.
I think he sees… If there’s such a thing — and I kind of hate the term — but it’s like there’s a soulmate quality to them, you know? It’s the “two peas in the pod” kind of thing. There’s… I think he sees the love of even himself in her. He sees somebody that… She’s real, and she cares about the important things. It’s not about status, or money, or what you do for a living. It’s about how you treat other people, and where your respect lies, and how big your heart is.
You know, she doesn’t… She’s no walk over. Yeah. I mean, she’s just…
Jace: She has got a mean left hook.
Aidan: She does; she has got a mean left hook.
Jace: Why do you feel that Demelza tells Ross about her near tryst with Malcolm McNeil?
Demelza: After the ball, Captain McNeil came to my room.
Ross: How could he dare?
Demelza: Because I invited him. After your antics with Elizabeth, I decided I might have a turn myself.
Jace: Is she trying to drive Ross away to get even with him or to truly end their marriage at this point?
Aidan: I don’t know. It’s probably a bit of both, you know? It’s just honesty. I mean, why would she… If she doesn’t tell him, she’s lying. I mean, it doesn’t seem like it’s in Demelza’s nature to be untruthful, you know?
So it’s probably all of the above, you know. It’s… I love that story too, you know, when she’s– that scene on the beach.
I don’t know if you know.
Jace: I do.
Aidan: Clearly you’ve seen it (laughs). But it’s lovely, and her makeup is running down her face…
Jace: She’s wearing the red dress. Yes.
Aidan: …she’s wearing the red dress, and they have their moment. And she asks him, you know, “Do you love her?” And Ross says, “I don’t know. I don’t know.”
But, you know, there’s real love here. You know? It’s… There’s a bond that’s, I think, unbreakable with these guys, you know. But they’ve certainly tested it.
Jace: I mean, Demelza goes along with his many schemes this season, even at the risk of his imprisonment with the smuggling operation.
Jim Vercoe: Has he come in here?
Soldier: No one’s been in but you, Sir.
Jim Vercoe: He was headed in this direction. He’ll be somewhere about.
Demelza: How dare you come breaking in here. My husband will hear of it.
Jim Vercoe: Oh and shortly, I trust.
Jace: He does manage to avoid capture thanks to some clever concealment in the secret hold.
Aidan: The cache.
Jace: Yeah, the cache underneath the floor.
Aidan: Man cave.
Jace: Does he take Demelza for granted or is she just secondary to his own desires and drive? And I ask this thinking of that scene in episode six with the stockings, which, I think, might be the sexiest scene on TV this year.
Aidan: Oh, you reckon?
Aidan: Oh. I think he does. Yeah, yeah. I think a lot of the time he does. And he needs to check himself and then (laughs) he pulls out moves like buying those sexy stockings.
But again, it’s a part of Ross where — I mean, I love it about him, but he feels like, “I know how to make this right. I know how to solve this situation (laughs). Just drop by the haberdasher’s and pick up some sexy, silk stockings. This’ll make everything right.” And he can… He knows when he has mucked up as well, I think. You know, it takes him a while, but he can figure it out, and that’s where we see Ross grow all the time, too.
I mean, these scenes are important. I mean, that’s part of human nature sometimes. The people that are the closest to you you sometimes take for granted and it takes something sometimes quite big and quite dramatic to happen, you know, before you think, “Oh, God. I could lose this person. This might be… I can’t take advantage anymore. I can’t believe I’ve treated this person this way for so long,” or whatever it is.
That’s why it’s gonna be so much fun to keep, you know, to play him in Season 3, and see how much he has grown, and to see what we’ve learned, and see how he has changed. You know?
Jace: George and Ross have gone from being slightly weary of each other, rivals, to loathing each other. He tries to blind Ross at one point.
Aidan: I know. It’s vicious, isn’t it?
Jace: It turns very, very vicious. Which do you think seems to anger Ross more: that George is in possession of Trenwith or that he’s in possession of Elizabeth?
Aidan: Oh, yeah. I mean, I think it has got to be both, doesn’t it? I mean, it’s great. I mean, George does it very well, doesn’t he? I mean, to nail both of those things: to move into Trenwith House, this house that Ross has been in since he was a child. I mean, the portraits are on the wall of his family, and he has been… He would have courted Elizabeth at one time there before he went away. I mean, he would have had so many moments here.
It really gets to him. I mean, the question is, you know, where’s George’s agenda, you know? Does he really love Elizabeth or is he trying to get at… You know, how much of that is real? Yeah. I don’t know. It’s a bit both, isn’t it? It’s a lot of both.
Jace: They do have those two fantastic fight scenes with George. And in the first, as we said, he almost gouges out Ross’s eyes.
Aidan: That’s right.
Jace: In the second, Ross gets back at him by pushing his face into the fire.
Aidan: Into the fire.
Jace: Which is pretty amazing. What was it like shooting those very physical scenes with Jack Farthing?
Aidan: It’s great. I mean, I was talking about this earlier, but you have that moment before… You know, you rehearse a lot of it. You only shoot a couple of takes because you end up wrecking the place, and the reset probably takes a long time, and there’s breakables, and there’s all these kind of things going on. If you get a bit complacent or lazy and you miss by an inch or two with a punch, you’re breaking somebody’s nose. I mean, that’s not a fun place to be at on the receiving end or if you’re delivering that it can be an awful. I’ve been there before.
It’s great, but you have those moments right before the, you know, the clapper board comes on, and you have this like, you know, these five seconds before your director or your AD calls “Action!” And you just both look at each other, and you take a breath, and it’s like, “Here we go,” sort of thing, you know?
You know, “Good luck.” (Laughs) It’s always a lot of fun. I mean, I’ve always had fun shooting the physical stuff. I mean, even since, you know, even for The Hobbit stuff or whatever it might be. It’s something I’ve enjoyed. I don’t know. I like a scrap. I like a good fight (laughs).
Jace: You’re an action guy.
Ross: Do not give this man reason to see you hang. You have families– wives, children. They are worth 10 of this sorry excuse for a man.
Jace: I want to talk about my favorite scene from this season, which is the riot scene at Trenwith in which Ross shows up at the very last second to diffuse the mob that have gathered and offer…
Aidan: It’s the two pistols on the horse scene. Yeah, yeah.
Jace: The two pistols on the horse, and the fire.
What was, what was it like filming that scene, which ends up being such a pivotal moment for both Ross and Demelza?
Aidan: A lot of the time when you– most of the time… I mean, the vast majority of the time when you play these scenes and it’s like– you don’t feel like you’re in a show. You don’t feel like you’re in this world. You’re not playing the style. You don’t think, you know, “I’m in a period drama for BBC.”
You know, “I’m in a tri-corner hat and the boots are on and stuff, and…” You’re just doing it. It feels contemporary. It feels real. It’s our world. But that was one of the scenes that I thought, like every time I rode in, and it was hard not to think, “This is… It doesn’t get more heroic than this.” You know? It just felt so… It felt epic. You know?
It was fun to shoot, and that was one of the last days.
I remember it being quite difficult to shoot, actually. For whatever reason Seamus, the horse, he wasn’t too happy, I think. I was a bit stressed out or something, but he just kept moving. He couldn’t hit the marks.
When I would turn around and speak to the crowd, he just wanted to kind of– he was getting busy. And I got frustrated, and Eleanor got frustrated at me cause I was like pulling on Seamus a bit much. And, I think, me and Eleanor had a little spat that was a little, kind of– it was a moment we had together. She was like, “Don’t pull on his reins!” I’m like, “I’m not pulling on his reins!” (Laughs) You know? Screaming at each other for a bit. But she was right. She was totally right. I was being a total a–hole.
But I do remember that scene being epic. And I think — I mean, I haven’t seen it. You know, you’re the one to tell me, but I think we achieved what we set out to achieve with it. It felt right.
And that gorgeous moment when he offers her his hand, and we think it’s gonna be Elizabeth, right, that he’s here to take away, and he helps Demelza on the horse, and they’re sort of ride into the sunset and it’s… Yeah. It was lovely to play all that.
Jace: One of the things I love about that scene is he doesn’t look back.
Aidan: No, he doesn’t.
Jace: He rides off. It seems very intentional that he doesn’t look back at Trenwith as he goes with Demelza. Is he speaking the truth when he says that Elizabeth won’t come between them again, as he promises to Demelza?
Aidan: I think, he believes that at the time. Yeah. I think, he absolutely believes it, but, you know, we… It’s life. Life offers all sorts of curve balls, doesn’t it?
I mean, who knows? (Laughs) Who knows what will happen? I mean, Ross is, kind of… He can be quite irrational in thought sometimes, and he can… He’s never really on steady ground, is he, when it comes to matters of the heart? (Laughs)
Jace: Elizabeth is pregnant. Aunt Agatha believes that it’s Ross, not George who is the father. Would that knowledge have changed Ross’ decision, do you think?
Aidan: Woo, I don’t know. I don’t know. I wouldn’t think so. It’s… Oh, God, man. I mean, that’s… It’s such a tough call. I don’t have an answer for that. I really don’t. I could speculate, but that’s all it would be.
Jace: Maybe he has just got kids all over the place.
Aidan: Maybe he does with little scars on their faces (laughs).
Jace: (Laughs) The second season ends with a gorgeous scene of Ross and Demelza kissing and then staring out into the ocean as the Navy ships leave for war without Ross.
Jace: How should we read that scene? Is it a moment of peace for the couple or perhaps are there rough waters still ahead?
Aidan: I think, again it’s sort of both. Isn’t it? I mean, I think they’re both unsure about what’s ahead, you know? I think their intentions are right and they’re with each other. There’s a lot of relief, I think, in a lot of ways that they’ve managed to reconcile, but yeah. There’s a lot of doubt. I mean, there’s still… Yeah. There’s rough times ahead, I think, and Ross realizes that. It’s not gonna be easy, but I think he knows that if Demelza’s around, if he has her and if he manages to not muck it up again or do something…
Because I think he knows in his heart of hearts that he does have a habit of ballsing this up a little bit, and he’s not gonna get another shot at it so it’s… I think it’s slightly, you know… He’s scared. I think he’s slightly terrified that he might lose her now. She might not always be around, and if she’s not around I think he’ll just– he’ll crumble. He’s a mess. You know?
He’s not gonna… I don’t think he’ll ever pick himself up again if she leaves.
Yeah. That was a fun scene shooting actually, because all that is going through your head, you know? At the same time, you’re thinking of all of that. There’s comfort, but there’s also a certain amount of, I suppose, trepidation or fear there.
Jace: What is it that truly prevents Ross from rejoining his regiment? Is it Demelza? Is it duty? What is it?
Aidan: No. I think it’s Demelza, isn’t it? I mean, love wins the day. You know? It’s… He realizes, you know, what’s important, why he needs to stick around, what he’s here for, and what really matters to him. And it’s her. It’s Demelza, you know? They’re stronger than ever. Well, his love, I think, is stronger than ever.
Jace: Ross ends the season in a much better place than he began it: with his freedom, with fortune, thanks to the discovery of tin at Grace. Is he finally happy, and can he ever be happy? Can Ross Poldark ever be truly happy?
Aidan: Yeah. I know. Can anyone truly be happy when you have those things? I mean, I think, he sets the bar quite high for himself. I don’t think he can… He’ll never be complacent. I mean, Ross… Yeah, I don’t think he’ll ever sit back and rest on his laurels, and go, “Right. I’ve achieved that now. Let’s just keep that steady. Here’s the keys to the mine. Let me know what’s going on with the stocks.” He’ll always keep working.
I mean, Ross is an entrepreneur, and he’s a gambler. You know, at heart he’s a gambler. You know, that’s what it is. You’re chasing copper; you’re spending so much money on a punt. It’s on a chance all the time that there’s something behind the granite.
George: I’m surprised to hear you’re pinning your hopes on Wheal Grace. What do you hope to find there? Gold?
Ross: No, freedom to call our souls our own.
Aidan: So I don’t think… I mean, that’s what excites him. I mean, I think he likes living on the edge and when… I know a lot of people like that. They almost want to, you know, “Don’t press the red button,” and you can see their hand wavering over it slightly. I mean, you’re like, “What are you doing? I thought we were gonna be happy now.” They’re like, “No, no. I need to press this. I’m pretty sure that there’s a bigger prize behind it now.”
No. Can he ever be happy? I think Demelza makes him happy. I think he is happy, you know? I don’t think he sits down and thinks about that. A lot of people don’t, but I think he’s happy. I think he’s a happy person. I don’t know (laughs). Is he? What do you think?
Jace: (Laughs) I don’t know how happy Ross is.
Aidan: Yeah. Right. Oh, yeah.
Jace: He’s a dark brooding figure.
Aidan: He is. There’s a lot going on behind the eye, isn’t there?
Jace: So Season 3 is coming up. You’re back Season 3. What’s next for you?
Aidan: What’s next for me?
Jace: For you.
Aidan: Well, shooting this Series 3 anyway. We start shooting… I think we start shooting the day or the day after the series goes out in the UK. I think it’s out on the 5th, and we start shooting on the 6th. Yeah, we kick off, I believe, in Cornwall. I’m not too sure.
It’s… Yeah. I mean, it’s a lot of fun. I love it. I mean, I’ve never had more fun doing a job or playing a character. But it’s…
Yeah, it’s long. It’s a tough one. I mean, I’ve taken the summer off. I mean, last year I did a few jobs in between the break, and this year I decided not to. I took three or four months just chilling, just hanging, and it has been a lot of fun, so I feel refreshed going into the series now. So I felt slightly, slightly (laughs) burnt out last year; maybe I took on a bit too much.
So we start shooting next month, so I’m gonna enjoy the rest of the summer and see more of my family and my friends, and then just, yeah, kick it off in early September, and hit the ground running.
Jace: Fantastic. Aidan Turner, thank you so much.
Aidan: Thank you so much. Cheers.
While Aidan Turner and the rest of the Poldark crew are hard at work filming Season 3, MASTERPIECE has some great shows lined up that are sure to keep your Sunday nights entertaining.
Mark your calendars for Sherlock Season 4, premiering January 1st, and MASTERPIECE’s new program, Victoria, premiering January 15th.
And you can keep track of the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast by following us on iTunes, Stitcher, or our website, pbs.org/masterpiecepodcast.
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MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Rachel Aronoff. Kathy Tu is our editor. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas and Nathan Tobey. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
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