Interview: Kyle Soller on Francis Poldark
Warning: Contains significant Episode 4 plot spoilers.
Poor, poor, Francis Poldark. He had a new lease on life, only to tragically lose it at the bottom of his cousin's mine, Wheal Grace. In an exclusive interview with MASTERPIECE, actor Kyle Soller weighs in on saying goodbye to Poldark and the joys of taking Francis on his journey to become "a real boy." #PoldarkPBS
MASTERPIECE: I presume that you always knew that Francis would die in this way, going into the show?
SOLLER: I had no idea until probably about a month before it happened. I'm joking, of course. It's not like Game of Thrones. It's not like we were all acting away, wondering, "Hmm, which Cornishman is going to get picked off next?" No. Yeah, I guess in all of the scripts of the first season and got the character arc of what was going to happen in Season 2.
Then I started reading the books and precisely because of Francis's specific journey, I was immediately attracted to doing it. Because he starts out great and can't believe his luck to be marrying Elizabeth, and then he goes through a horrible downward spiral, and then eventually has a rebirth after trying to commit suicide, and then is untimely taken away, I thought it was really tragic and a really, really conflicted character. I thought it would be a real challenge to play.
MASTERPIECE: An important part of his journey was the scene in which he makes amends with Demelza.
SOLLER: To me, it was the biggest indication that Francis had had a spiritual and emotional rebirth because Demelza represents so many things that he was brought up to disagree with: her standing, her accent, her class. Francis is brought up in a very restricted manner and with specific ideals, I think, that were instilled in him that he didn't necessarily believe 100%, but was just trying to copy. and had a scene with him getting in with George and that friendship blossomed when Ross left and then him being poisoned by George. I think that scene with Demelza was huge.
The four people that Francis needs to make amends with are Elizabeth, Ross, Verity, and Demelza, but there was something really special about Demelza because she's an outsider within the family, I think. And so Francis's acceptance of her finally was really a massive thing to play, it was really great. I was even surprised while reading the books that he even went as far as to reach out to Demelza. If only he could really do that for Verity and Blamey, he would be a complete ... Maybe he'd be a real boy.
It showed a massive amount of emotional maturity and a lot of courage as well, considering how he banished her out of Trenwith in Season 1. He could be really vile to her. That was a special relationship to redeem because they never really formed a friendship at all. The last time that you see Francis with her is him saying like, "You're an incredible person. You sell yourself short. You're part of this family and I love you," basically. Like, "I'm sorry." It was a really nice way to leave it.
The Francis/Elizabeth/Ross Triangle
MASTERPIECE: It's especially tragic that Francis had to die just as everything is going well: he was a great dad, a great husband, a rising magistrate—basically the husband she'd always wanted.
SOLLER: Yeah, I don't know that she always ... I don't know what she always wanted out of Francis because their union was quite quick, and then Ross arrived and it became quite obvious that she was still in love with Ross. Watching Ross come on to Elizabeth after Ross and Francis are reconciled, and she turns him down, was an amazing thing. In a way, you could say it was only a matter of time before Elizabeth gave in to her heart and her feelings for Ross, but I think it's quite human, her reaction in Episode 4, seeking out Ross. I think that's just a normal thing.
It's what makes the characters so enjoyable to play. They're all so well-rounded and they're human and make mistakes and make them like we would in real life. Like all of a sudden, you're in a relationship where maybe you're looking for a way out and that person starts doing all of the right things that you wish that they could do, but it might just be a little bit too late or your heart might be so removed that it doesn't make a difference, or it could coincide with you finally plucking up the courage to ... I don't know. Make a mistake or make the right choice.
That's me speaking. Me speaking as Francis, that's another... I have a different opinion of how Elizabeth acted, but Francis's and Elizabeth's marriage is so complex and he was horrible to her for a very long time and you know ... Cheating on her. Visiting prostitutes. Selling the house down the river and the mine and everything. You wonder, "Why has she stayed with him that long?" Well, because of the time period and the time that they lived in. She couldn't leave. She had nothing.
I don't know. I can fully understand why these characters are making the kind of choices or mistakes, however you view them.
MASTERPIECE: When we talked to the cast, everyone said that when Francis died and you left, it was as if you had, too, in a way. They said even though they see you all the time, etc., just not having you there as part of that family that you guys created together, was just really, really sad.
SOLLER: I paid them all really well to say that. [laughs] It was sad for me. I thought I'd be okay with it, but it's just… They're so sweet to say something like that, it's really touching. They started filming the third season now and it feels awkward that I didn't get the invite. It feels like I got left off the RSVP list.
We were filming on location in Cornwall and in Bristol, two extremely beautiful places. The filming day would be really fun. The cast already bonded together immediately during the first season and we became really quick friends. Coming back for Season 2 ... I've never done that before where you go back to working with friends. It just feels like you're a little tight family. A lot of the crew came back as well. That was a really, really nice feeling.
Yeah, we all just got really close and I think the storyline is very emotional and I think that it all wound up really affecting us. Basically, it's a long, long winded way of saying I miss them, for sure.
Get the insider insights into Poldark and Francis' fate: Listen to the MASTERPIECE Studio Podcast's in-depth interview with Kyle Soller!