Season 2 of Poldark is just around the corner! So what’s in store for Ross, Demelza, and the rest of the Cornwall crew? On this episode, Aidan Turner looks back on Season 1—including Ross’s shirtless scything scene—and shares a few Season 2 secrets with us to get us ready to watch the premiere.
Jace Lacob (Jace): MASTERPIECE Studio is brought to you by Audible. For a free trial, go to Audible.com/Masterpiece.
Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
It’s been 13 months and 23 days since Poldark last aired in the US — not that we’re counting.
And even though so much time has past, we’re still reeling over the way the first season finale ended.
As Aidan Turner, who plays Ross Poldark, puts it:
Aidan Turner: His Carnmore Copper Company that he had so much hope in is bankrupt, liquidation gone. His relationship with Francis, his best friend, is in pieces, and they just lost their child.
Jace: Not to mention that the last time we saw Ross, he was being carted off to jail.
Soldier: Captain Poldark? I have orders to take you to Truro jail.
Ross: On what charge?
Soldier: Wrecking, inciting a riot, murder.
Jace: So what can we expect from the highly anticipated second season premiere and Season 2 as a whole?
Aidan Turner: It’s a busy series. I mean, we have ten episodes and they’re all pretty packed, you know?
Jace: In this episode, Aidan Turner gets us all caught up on the Season 1 drama, and teases what lies ahead in Season 2.
We are joined this week by Aidan Turner. Welcome.
Aidan: Thank you. Hi.
Jace: Do you see Poldark as a romantic saga, social commentary, or both?
Aidan: God, I don’t know what I see it as, you know. I mean, the genre is… I tried to sort of define it for somebody yesterday. If somebody says, you know, “Where does Poldark fit in?” And I kind of went, “Well, I don’t really sort of know… what show it is.”
And maybe that’s kind of key to its success in a certain way, too. I mean, it is hard to define it. I mean, I don’t know. I’ve never really thought about it. For me it feels, it feels real.
You know, I don’t play a style. I don’t walk into a scene and go, you know, “This is like– Let’s throw some romance into this.” I mean it… always feels… That’s down to the cinematographer, and the director, and the writers, and other people, and our editors and– to do what they do. For me it’s a real world. You know? I’m wearing these, you know– The high boots and the tri-corner hat becomes– it feels as comfortable as a pair of jeans.
Jace: What did you make of the character of Ross Poldark when you first read the script?
Aidan: I kind of had an idea about what it might be about. You know, even the first couple of pages into reading Winston’s book, I thought it might go down a certain route, and very quickly I was happily surprised that it wasn’t.
He felt well rounded to me. I mean, he’s not this, you know, heroic, kind of Robin Hood guy, who rides in on a horse and… You know, the working class hero. He’s flawed, and he’s real, and he’s 3D, so he’s layered. There’s a lot of this guy I relate to.
And it is kind of a rare thing. You know, you read a lot of scripts, and you want to respond to things. You know, you open every– You turn every first page with the thought of, “I really want to get into this. I really want to like it.” You know? So yeah. I just thought, “Great. Everything about this just feels right.” You know?
Jace: Now, Ross ended the season in chains after the shipwreck on Hendrawna Beach. Where do we find him when we pick back up in Season 2?
Aidan: Well, right there. I mean, it’s… Yeah, it’s literally– It’s the cliffhanger, isn’t it? That’s what’s kind of refreshing too, as an actor, just to pick it up right where you left off.
And it’s great too, because he’s– it’s rock bottom, you know. It’s lovely to start off a series in complete torment and despair.
You know, it’s… Everything has gone wrong for these guys, and sometimes it’s nice to kind of start from rock bottom and try to work up. You know, you need to go down to come up sometimes, and it’s… Yeah. I mean, time jumps are all well and good, but for starting off a series, it’s nice to just pick up where you left off sometimes.
Jace: How has he been changed by the events of Season 1? Is he the same man we saw at the outset of the series?
Aidan: No. I mean, what are we talking? How many years have passed? I mean, from the first series… We are saying about three years from the beginning of Series 1 to the end of it.
No, I think he has changed an awful lot. I mean, we see quite an immature Ross when he comes back. I mean, when he walks in, and he finds out that Elizabeth is going to be marrying Francis, he’s livid.
He says, you know, “Why didn’t you … ” Elizabeth says to him, you know, “You didn’t write. No one knew where you were, what you were doing. I mean, how can you… You expected me to wait for you?”
And he did. I mean, it’s completely irrational.
I don’t think that’s the kind of Ross we see at end of Series 1. I mean, he has matured. I think Demelza’s helped him do that. You know, she’s got a head on her shoulders.She’s– Her feet are firmly placed on the ground. I think she straightens him up a lot, a lot.
Demelza: And you’ll not right any wrongs by drinking, and gaming, and leaving me to fend for myself at my very first ball!
Ross: If you behave like this you’ll not come to another.
Demelza: If you behave like this I’ll not want to.
Aidan: He’s almost petulance, you know. He’s incredibly immature I think when we meet him first.
But, it’s nice to have a character that you can feel. You, you know, you’re growing with and you can feel that transition as the first series goes on, you know. He becomes more courageous and… Yeah.
Jace: I mean, one of the more interesting developments in Season 1 is his meeting of this sexless urchin, Demelza, who then becomes, by the end, sort of Mistress of Nampara and his wife.
Jace: What was it like developing their very unlikely and fiery romance, and what was it like working with Eleanor Tomlinson?
Aidan: What was it like working with Eleanor? I mean, Eleanor is amazing.
I mean they’re fantastic actors, and you’re helped out, you’re guided through it, you know, with actors like that, and Eleanor in particular, because a lot of my scenes are with Eleanor. And Eleanor is one of those actors that she doesn’t have a bad take, you know. I can do four takes or something and one of them is usable, you know? But with Eleanor it’s like, “Have your pick,” you know. She’s giving so much all the time. She’s just… She’s so talented, and she has lovely demeanor and disposition on set.
Jace: Familial relationships between the Poldarks have never been more tense, particularly with the feud between Ross and Francis at this point.
Francis: I knew this was Ross’s doing.
Elizabeth: Why would you think that?
Francis: Because he has helped them before. I can see it all. He has encourage Verity.
Elizabeth: We do not know this.
Francis: He’s been acting as agent to Blamey, keeping the skunk’s interest warm, and using Demelza as a go-between.
Jace: How does that shake out this season?
Aidan: With Ross and Francis? It’s a difficult one for Ross, you know. It, it’s … I don’t think he… He doesn’t ever care to see him again, I think. I think he has let it go. I mean, Ross is very good at doing that. He’s very good at just annexing: cutting off, cauterizing, “See you later,” “Bye.”
You know, he’s great at that. He can hold a grudge like nobody else, you know. But, it’s something he’s always treasured, you know. He’s– He was his best friend, you know. He was almost the younger brother kind of thing.
I can imagine them… You know, when you’re reading the books and you’re kind of going through, in your head, the backstory, and I just, I could always see them, you know, hanging out, and Francis looking up to Ross, and there’s advice and there’s, you know, there’s inspiration.
And when he returns, I think, Francis has changed an awful lot in Ross’s eyes; he’s become a different person, the person that he never wanted him to be. You know, he’s hanging out with the likes of George Warleggan.
And then he feels betrayed with what happens with the Carnmore Copper Company and the names, and he feels like Francis, again, has sold him down the river, and he has just… He has enough of it.
And it’s so sad, you know. I mean, Francis is such a — pitiful probably isn’t the right word — but… You know, he feels so sorry for him. He’s such a good guy, you know.
There’s a scene that I cry every time I see it; it just kills me. There’s a scene in Series 2, when Francis and Elizabeth, um… It’s that thing, um… Oh, I don’t know. I’m rambling now. Let’s go to the next question.
I’m just thinking about that scene. (Laughs)
Jace: What is at the root of Ross and George’s rivalry in Season 1?
Aidan: Well I mean, George is– He’s the profit over people sort of guy, you know. I mean Ross will never respect somebody like that.
George’s whole mentality, I guess, his business, sort of, acumen would be, “We need to shut down these mines, and these smelting companies. We need to move them to cheaper areas where we can make more profit. Screw the, you know, the local community, and the people around us that we’ve known for years.”
But Ross sees it like, “If we just invest here; if we give it a decade. Okay, there might not be– We’re not gonna make money back straight away, but the floor will raise. We’ll lift. I mean, people will have jobs, and it’ll flourish around here, but we’re not gonna see results very quickly.” And he just doesn’t understand how George can’t see this, you know?
And that’s somebody Ross wouldn’t like to associate with. I mean, it just doesn’t make any sense to Ross.
And, I mean George is one of those people. He’s always wanted to be in the gang, you know?
Aidan: He’s the son of a…
Jace: The grandson of a blacksmith.
Aidan: …of a blacksmith, you know? (Laughs) And he’s nouveau riche, you know; it’s all new money. And Ross can just see through it. He’s fickle and he’s shallow, and friendship doesn’t mean anything, really, to George at all.
George: I wonder if he might not be useful to us. His father’s dead. He has no other obvious source of income. If we could rally him to our cause…
Cary: To what end?
George: He has an ancient family name. Doors which I closed to us might open for him.
Aidan: And he always wanted to be in the gang, you know. Ross is the leader of the gang. He’s the cool guy. Ross seamlessly sort of slips between the aristocracy and the gentrified figures at the balls, and at the parties, and then equally he can be down with Zacky Martin and the miner boys, and, you know, swinging back whiskey and dancing around. George can’t do any of that, and George would like to, you know.
If George could take a lot back, he would. He would swap a lot, you know. I don’t think he’s as nasty as sometimes people might think, you know. He’s just… He’s in it now, and he’s got to rally on. He’s got to live it out.
George: What is it that offends you, Ross? That we Warleggans have dared to drag ourselves out of poverty and aspire to gentility?
Ross: Poverty doesn’t offend me, nor does aspiration, but you are mistaken if you think greed and exploitation are the marks of a gentleman.
Aidan: I mean, there’s a rivalry– Why Ross entertains it so much, I don’t know, you know? That’s another side of Ross that you kind of go… I mean, cause (laughs) there’s something quite immature about that too. I mean, they’re having fistfights in bars and they’re…
Aidan: …smacking the heads off each other. I mean, who does this, you know. These guys are … (Laughs)
I mean, they’re in their thirties and they’re just having scraps all around town. It’s crazy. I love it. You know?
Jace: But it is like that relationship was forged in their early teen years, and they have not grown out of that.
Aidan: They have never gotten over it.
Aidan: But I love the way they don’t want to get over it, you know.
I mean, in the second series we see George, and he’s training, you know, he’s boxing, and he … It’s getting so vicious now. I mean, they’re dedicating their lives to torturing each other.
But it means a lot, you know. It’s about a bigger thing. It’s not just a personal feud; there’s bigger themes here, you know. And we see that really sort of peak in the second series.
Jace: In Season 1 it was quite easy to root for Ross as he often nobly put the needs of others before himself. Did you find it harder to root for him this season given his actions?
Aidan: No, not at all. I mean, I don’t know. It’s weird when you’re playing somebody; I don’t know if you’re rooting for them necessarily. You’re just… You’re living it, and you’re doing it, and it’s who you are. I mean, do you root for yourself a lot of the time? I don’t know.
It’ll be interesting to see what the audience think, but it just made it more real for me, you know. It’s just he’s a complex layered character, person. I mean– And maybe we need to see some more of that in the first series in a way. But, it was certainly very exciting and interesting to explore that side of Ross’s character in the second series.
Jace: I mean, he’s more human. He’s not …
Aidan: Well, I think so. Right?
Jace: He’s not that sort of godly, heroic figure.
Aidan: No, no.
Jace: He’s definitely flawed.
Aidan: I think so, but it seems real to me. I mean, people do make mistakes, you know. They’re… This is part of life, and we learn from them, you know. That’s how we grow. These are important, you know? It’s win or learn, you know? Win or learn.
Jace: You know, what is Ross… How does Ross cope with setback, and what does it say about his character, how he deals with defeat?
Aidan: Yeah. I mean, it– That’s something that I find quite inspiring in playing Ross.
It’s tough. He takes a lot of knocks, you know. But he just picks himself up, you know. He dusts himself off, picks himself up by his bootstraps, and carries on, you know. He’s back up on the saddle, and he’s making something work again. And that’s what I love about him. I think that’s the key to Ross, you know.
Okay, he makes some dodgy moves, and there’s some weird judgement calls now and again, questionable things that he does, but he’s a doer, you know. Not always a thinker, but certainly he’s a doer.
I think, his heart is in the right place, and the moral compass is pointing in the right direction. And that’s– Now we’re getting into, you know, some of the more positive, sort of, sides of Ross’s character that are fun to play…Yeah.
Jace: There’s been a lot of press about your discomfort about being a sex symbol, which you described as quote, “A little awkward,” in an interview with The Independent. Were you concerned that the scything scene last season might eclipse everything else that the show has to offer?
Aidan: No. No, I never did. And it was my idea. I mean, we were in the field shooting this scene, and we were rehearsing, and I had the shirt on. And I just said, “This is ridiculous. I mean, why would it– There’s so much work here that– It’s the middle of the summer. Why ruin a good shirt?”
But there’s so much more going on in that scene. I mean, in the background we have Elizabeth riding up to tell Ross that possibly she’s made a mistake, you know. That, “You are the one I love.”
There’s so much happening uh… I guess people just focused– I was just quite surprised. I just didn’t get it, and I still don’t get it really.
I mean, I suppose it was useful in some ways, too. I mean, it was what episode… Was it episode two or…?
Aidan: Right, so I mean, it was probably in a way quite useful ‘cause it shone the spotlight on us a bit more, and it was all over the tabloids. Maybe more people tuned in or something, but for me there’s no… It just, it completely makes sense. I think it still holds its integrity and its merit, and there’s nothing I’d really change about it, you know.
And it was one take as well, which I’m quite proud of. We had two cameras and one take, so that was kind of… We just had one crack of the whip on that one. But, yeah.
Jace: So you got your one take.
Aidan: Got me one take. One take Turner. Ha!
Jace: Season 1 had romance, feuds, shipwrecks and murder. How does Season 2 compare, and what lies ahead on Poldark?
Aidan: Wow. Yeah, it’s big. I mean, there’s huge arcs for all of our characters, as I said, I mean, starting off Series 2 at rock bottom.
It’s huge. You know, there… It’s the first time we see their relationship really on the rocks, you know. It’s, uh… Losing a child, I can’t imagine what that’s like and what they have to face. And it seems it’s hopeless, you know? And when you’re left with nothing, it’s pretty grim.
But when you, I guess, when you hit those sort of periods in your life you just fall back onto what is actually important, you know: it’s friendship, it’s love, and it’s compassion, and it’s solidarity, and these are the things that really count.
Jace: Poldark returns to MASTERPIECE in full force — with a two-hour premiere — this Sunday, September 25th at 8 pm ET.
As Aidan Turner promises, Season 2 will be “huge,” but don’t just take his word for it.
Eleanor Tomlinson: What’s great about Season 2, and I think it makes it equally as good as season 1, is that…
Kyle Soller: Everything just clicked into place.
Aidan Turner: It’s quite dark.
Eleanor Tomlinson: Jealousy is explored.
Heida Reed: I’m not there to, to get hugs and kisses. (laughs)
Eleanor Tomlinson: You know, marriage isn’t easy.
Kyle Soller: You wish you could just slap him across the face and say, “Buddy, it’s going to be all right. Just say you’re sorry.”
Aidan Turner: People are saying slapped. She hit me. That was a, that was a …
Jace Lacob: I was …
Aidan Turner: That was a left hook. That was, she …
Jace Lacob: Yeah.
Aidan Turner: That was a closed fist.
Luke Norris: I have the scar to prove it if you look closely on the next episode, you’ll see it.
Eleanor Tomlinson: But then, there’s also Ross who just can’t quite seem to live by the rules and avoid, you know, getting into trouble with the law, and…
Aidan Turner: There was one moment when I’m on Seamus the Irish Stallion, right.
Luke Norris: …very dangerous.
Aidan Turner: …and I’m riding the horse holding two pistols.
Kyle Soller: Real-life, flint-lock pistols.
Heida Reed: It was a breath of fresh air as a scene.
Aidan Turner: It’s pretty epic.
Kyle Soller: It was so cool.
Heida Reed: But it kind of like leaves obviously a lot of complications.
Kyle Soller: My god, I’m getting heart palpitation actually just thinking about it.
Heida Reed: It’s been great fun.
Eleanor Tomlinson: It gets really exciting. It’s a very you know, it’s a very exciting series, actually, because it’s so realistic.
Jace: As you watch all of the Season 2 drama unfold, be sure to tune into the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast to hear from your favorite Poldark actors and get an inside look at the series.
Following the premiere, we’re kicking off our season of tell-all episodes with the Mistress of Nampara herself, Demelza Poldark a.k.a. Eleanor Tomlinson.
Eleanor Tomlinson: I, basically, begged them to audition me and they did. I got the job, so, yeah, I was incredibly lucky.
Jace: As always, you can listen to the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast on iTunes, Stitcher and at pbs.org/masterpiece, BUT to get early access to Eleanor Tomlinson’s interview — and each of the episodes that follow — be sure to subscribe!
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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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