Beatie Edney Remains The One True Queen Of Nampara

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Prudie Paynter might be the world’s most ineffective housemaid, but she’s a loyal friend and a true source of humor, both on screen and off. Actor Beatie Edney has made a name for herself on the Poldark set as one to drive her fellow castmates into laughter mid-scene. Edney might pretend to be serious, but her interview proves she can make anybody laugh.

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Transcript

Jace Lacob I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.

Demelza Poldark might be the lady of Nampara, but everyone knows who the real ruler of the house is.

CLIP

Tess Think ‘ee’ve seen th’ last o’ me?

Prudie Let’s ‘ope so!

Jace Prudie Paynter, the cranky, randy and near-useless housemaid, has been at Nampara since before anyone can remember, and she’ll probably still be there long after the Poldark clan has gone.

CLIP

Prudie Ted’n fair, ted’n right. Should be I in that carriage, gwan t’ London. ‘Stead o’ which, ’tis left me t’ make th’ house fitty again.

Demelza Have I not said? With all these goin’s on – fires an’ the like – how could I rest easy without you here? Indeed, who’d be a common ladies maid?

Sam When they could be Queen o’ Nampara?

Prudie Queen o’ Nampara?

Jace Prudie’s not the moral backbone of the series, to be sure. But she’s definitely the heart of the Nampara Poldarks, and the source of more than a few actors’ laugh lines these past five seasons.

CLIP

Tess: Could someone have left a candle burnin?

Prudie Don’ ‘ee give me squinny-eye, maid! ‘Twas done delib’rate, an’ no mistake!

Tess But who’d do such a thing?

Sam That we’d all like t’ know.

Jace Beatie Edney has a storied career in film, television, and stage, but the dirty, lazy Prudie is one role that nobody on the street has ever recognized her for. Edney joins us to discuss the freedom of playing Prudie, what the Queen of Nampara really knows, and why the Poldarks continue to employ the world’s worst housemaid all these years later.

Jace And this week we are joined by Poldark star Beatie Edney. Welcome.

Beatie Hello Jace.

Jace When Poldark first began Prudie Paynter was a drunk, often violently irate, lazy servant at Nampara. What did you make of her character initially and how has she changed and grown in the many years since you started playing her?

Beatie I always have a sort of epiphany when I play a character, and I decided that Prudie was a cross between a rat and a toddler. So yes, she was often drunk. They did drink a lot more in the 18th century however, because the water wasn’t very good. But she was often drunk, and she really, really didn’t like. Demelza when Demelza first arrived she thought she was an upstart. And also I think Judd and Prudie like things to be as they should be. So a parlor maid marrying the boss was not something they approved of but I think Demelza won her over and also Demelza did all the work. So Prudie was really happy with that. And she did become a really loyal friend of Demelza’s, more than of anybody else I think.

Jace I mean she is in many ways sort of the Greek chorus of Poldark, saying things that no one else can say. And sort of keeping everyone on their toes. Is it true you spend longer in the makeup chair getting ready as Prudie than any of the other actors?

Beatie Well that was true at the beginning certainly because the wig that I had in the beginning used the front of my hair so my hair had to be dyed a sort of horrible, muddy color. And yes, I had scars put on and horrible teeth but some of the girls had their own hair put into very ornate hair designs. But yes it was a long time but it got shorter and shorter and shorter.

Jace I mean how did they achieve that sort of positively filthy look that Prudie had?

Beatie It was really brilliant. The makeup designer, all of the makeup designers that we had. But they didn’t actually have to do that much. It’s the one time that I don’t mind not getting recognized on the street actually because I don’t we don’t have the same hair color or teeth or anything but basically I had a wig. They used to put stipple on my face to make me look bloodshot. I had scars to add texture. In the first series, I had false teeth which we gradually got rid of because my teeth are, even for an English person really quite good. And Prudie probably wouldn’t have had wonderful teeth. She smoked a pipe. So really it was just sort of texturing. I had my eyebrows filled in so I had a sort of monobrow. Things like that.

Jace I mean you mentioned that you are thankful to not be recognized on the street as Prudie. Is there something freeing about that?

Beatie I don’t mind being recognized at all. It’s just it’s funny that people don’t think that I’m her. That’s just quite nice. Poldark’d really very supported here in the UK and and the fans are just amazing and they’ve made the show what it is really. So I love it when they come and watch us filming. They don’t get in the way they’re just having a good time. So I don’t mind being recognized at all but it is quite funny when my fellow actors have to introduce me as also someone who is in Poldark and people don’t believe them. That is quite funny.

Jace Your tenure on the show began as a bit of comic relief with Prudie paired with her irascible husband Judd Paynter, played by the great Phil Davis. What was your take on Prudie and Judd’s marriage?

Beatie Oh Phil and I had lots of conversations about this. This is quite funny because basically we did a lot of sleeping because we were always pissed drunk. That means and it doesn’t mean in America means angry doesn’t it. But in the UK peace means drunk and because of the cutting style of Poldark Poldark cut very. You don’t have any preamble into a scene. You go right straight into the scene and Phil and I would often be lying around sort of asleep and the scene would start and we’d be you know Poldark would come in and we’d be asleep and then rush to get up and put our clothes on. And because of the way it was cast the critic thought that we were always having sex, but actually we were just incredibly lazy and sleeping whenever we could. And the laziness of Prudi,e she wasn’t as lazy as Judd I don’t think, but the laziness of Prudie was something that I really embraced. So she sat down at every opportunity, really.

Jace Do you miss your sparring partner in Phil Davis?

Beatie Oh I miss him terribly but um you know he’s so successful anyway so I was happy to. I was happy to still continue in the series although Prudie isn’t in the book so much so it was a real honor that Debbie Horsfield, the writer decided to keep Prudie on in the series. Sort of I think it was to ground Demelza in her in her past to have a reminder of where Demelza had come from. I like to think it’s because I did a good job, but who knows?

Jace Prudie really comes into her own in season three when she and Demelza have to run Nampara on their own with Ross away. What was your reaction at the time to the fact that Prudie stepped into that new role and transformed herself becoming a partner alost to Demelza?

 

Beatie I think that Prudie really admires Demelza and they actually become incredibly good friends. They also have a laugh together. And that sort of was reflected in the relationship I have with Eleanor. I just found her so lovely to work with and so easy to work with and I really look forward to being with her on set that day. I think Prudie really admired Demelza and wanted to be her mate. And also you know Judd wasn’t there anymore to put a spanner in the works. And so I think she felt really gratified by Demelza’s appreciation of her.

Jace I love when Prudie and the Carnes sing together in season three at Henshawe’s memorial service.

CLIP

Choir Greater love hath no man than he // who for his friend lay down his life. //And his name shall be forever beloved, // And his sacrifice forever praised. //Though we may no longer behold him, // In our hearts he liveth on. //And the light may grow dark, //Yet time will hold a flame forever more.

Jace Were you surprised by the reaction to the scene and did you contemplate launching a Prudie and the Carnes band?

Beatie Well we we total ourselves Prudie and the Carnes. I think we did a bit of sort of social media photographs of our album cover and stuff. Elena has got a beautiful voice. Harry Richardson who plays Drake has a wonderful voice so does Tom Yorke actually more. I hate singing so I was dreading it. But what was really interesting about season three was the influx of the new cast had a really amazing effect on the series and on certainly on Eleanor and I. We just absolutely adored Elise and Tom and Harry who joined in season three. And so we well I think we were given the music for that. The night before practically I mean I arrived down in Cornwall after the others and we had to sort of do singing practice but fortunately we were in really good hands because they were all so musical.

Jace Turning our attention to the current season.

Beatie Yes.

Jace I thought for sure that Prudie was a goner when the firebomb was thrown into an Nampara. Did you gasp when you got to that part in the script when Prudie was passed out drunk and the Poldarks have to escape the burning house?

Beatie Well as you might have gathered when we shoot it it’s different to what you see on the television and I don’t see the episodes before that broadcast. Normally when I’ve done TV I’ll often see what I’m what goes out before the public see it. But in the case of Poldark that hasn’t happened ever. And so we filmed the sequence we filmed other things happening. And so what’s really interesting is I’m really pleased that you gasped because I’m in because that’s an interesting because lots of bits that I did were cast and obviously they were cut for good reasons so that you would think oh my goodness she’s she’s going to die because actually I helped Demelza put out the fire and all sorts and that’s what went so. So that’s great that you gasped. No I didn’t gasp because I knew that I was helping put out the fire.

Jace I’m glad actually that it does play out the way it does because it does increase the tension and suspense and I thought that we were gonna lose Prudie and I’m very happy we did not.

Beatie Aw that’s nice.

 

Jace: Despite her tendency to overindulge in drink we’ll say Prudie cares very deeply about the Poldarks which is quite a change from her more scheming rough ways in season one. Has she come to cherish this family in ways that go way beyond that of loyal retainer or employee?

Beatie Oh I think that’s really obvious. In season five we we meet Tess who becomes a new maid in the Poldark household and I know in episode four. I think she she chastises Tess for you know eating some cake. She’s the worst maid in the world and Prudie just is really. She’s not threatened by Tess. She thinks that Tess is gonna do harm to Demelza. So yeah I think that she would lay down her life for certainly for the children.

Jace You mentioned you mentioned the cake. Yeah I have to ask because I loved the moment in this week’s episode where she catches Tess stealing a bite of cake. It’s meant to be serving the guests.

Beatie Yeah.

Jace And Prudie shoves Tess so hard.

CLIP

Prudie AH!

Tess Did’n want it anyway!

Jace Yeah that she basically goes out of the shot. Yeah. Was this great thwack planned or was this an entirely ad libbed push.

Beatie It totally Sofia Oxenham who plays Tess I’m so sad that you weren’t able to see some of the other things that we were doing in the background. But we we had a whole life going on in that compound of when we had to serve because we often have to serve dinner to to the guests and you know she’ll do something wrong. And she was just such a wonderful actress to play with. And yes it was ad libbed. I didn’t know that she had that massive piece of cake that was totally her that was totally her idea. It wasn’t it wasn’t planned by the director or anything or written in the script I don’t think. And I mean my shocked gasps was also a bit of an ad lib. But we did other things where I smacked her hand when she was drinking in the background and stuff. She was often stealing things from the table. And you know I’d be telling her off in the background but at least you saw the cake moment. And I don’t think I think the people who were filming at the table who had their backs to it didn’t know what was going on but they were really intrigued because they had their backs to us so they couldn’t see what we were doing but they were very, very intrigued when they when they saw it.

Jace: Before this next question, a quick word from our sponsors…

Jace What would you say is Prudie’s most defining characteristic. Is it loyalty, outspokenness or laziness?

Beatie Oh that’s really hard. That’s hard. I think she turns from laziness to loyalty. There you go. So she was she was lazy but her loyalty to Demelza makes her you know she can and you know she learned to cook for goodness sake. You know it really changed her.

Jace And she was quite a terrible cook at the beginning.

Beatie Oh she’s terrible terrible.

Jace The the outspokenness that she has is surprising particularly given the era in which Prudie lives. And the fact that she’s even willing to tell Ross what’s what. What do you make of her ability to speak the truth no matter how uncomfortable to Ross?

Beatie Yeah. Again I think that that is to do with her loyalty to Demelza. And also I mean you know he has treated Demelza pretty badly. And she’s an old wise woman in some ways. But also I see Prudie, as I said earlier, Prudie is a toddler and you know a mixture between a rat and a toddler and Ross and Demelza are her parents. And so she reacts very honestly to you know any disruption in their relationship. Absolutely horrifies her. And so I think that you know she’s willing to tell Ross the truth because she has that innocence of a child. And yet the wisdom of an older woman. You know Judd treated Prudie pretty badly. So you know she’s not a proto feminist or anything but um I think that she it’s more her her innocence her child childish quality that she’s willing to. Put her you know life on the line as it were. Yeah.

Jace You said earlier that Prudie is sort of a connection to Demelza’s past as well. I do love their dynamic which developed in very unexpected ways over these five seasons. I mean are these two women more similar than it might seem on the surface?

Beatie Oh I think that Demelza is much more intelligent but I mean why I said that about them, Prudie grounding Demelza in her past, that was said to me by our producer because I was sort of thinking, ‘Oh you know what will I be in the next series you know. Is that going to happen?’ And he said, ‘You have to be because she grounds Demelza in her past.’ And you know when Caroline comes along and they become friends I was less the confidante. But Caroline was an aristocrat. And it’s a very different kind of relationship. She wouldn’t roll up her sleeves and make pies with Caroline. So I mean I think they’re similar in terms of the very rough backgrounds that they’ve they’ve come from. I mean these people had didn’t have shoes. A lot of Cornwall was starving. You relied on the catch of pilchards as you know to come in. People were were you know really hungry. Quite a lot of the time. And so there’s that very you know rough beginnings that they’ve they’ve both experienced. Does that make sense.

Jace It does make sense. Prudie even go so far as to push Demelza into the arms of the doomed Hugh Armitage telling her about the kiss that she witnessed between Ross and Elizabeth.

CLIP

Prudie How oft do th’ men take a fancy t’ other women? An’ sometimes act on it!

Demelza I would never. ‘T’would break Ross’s heart.  No, I must give up all thoughts of him. As Ross gave up all thought of Elizabeth for me.

Prudie Did he? Are ‘ee sure?

Jace Why did she tell Demelza this?

Beatie I think Prudie is absolutely devastated that she has told Demelza, but she doesn’t realize that it is such a serious thing. She thinks it is just a dalliance is just a bit of fun. She doesn’t really I mean I don’t think her relationships have been that deep. They’ve been convenient, they’ve been fun, they’ve been you know  mutually beneficial but I don’t think they’ve been that deep. And so she doesn’t really realize what she’s doing but also she’s pretty annoyed, I would imagine, that Ross is kissing Elizabeth.

Jace I mean she doesn’t lie to Ross either when he comes home and finds Demelza gone and she tells him that she had a visitor.

CLIP

Ross Where’s Demelza?

Prudie Out.

Ross Where?

Prudie She didn’ say.

Ross Alone?

Prudie Had a visitor.

Ross Is she coming back?

Prudie ‘Spect so. She didn’ say.

Jace  Is it the fact that she just can’t lie to the master of the Nampara or is Prudie to borrow a sort of common parlance just a messy bitch who loves drama?

Beatie No I think she’s really sticking her chin out and really standing up for Demelza. Actually I don’t think that she enjoys it. I mean it really. As I said I see her like a toddler and it really if you’ve ever seen a child in the middle of a parent’s divorce you know how traumatic it is for them. And you know I think that she’s fiercely loyal to Demelza and stands up to stands up to Ross tells him like it is you know she’s lived in a cave for goodness sake what is she gonna lose, you know what I mean?

Jace She has lived in a cave. She can actually say that. It’s amazing. Yes. It is true, I mean she is so sort of hurt and offended by seeing Ross and Elizabeth kissing that this does sort of come back to her in that she is able as you say to sort of stick her chin out to Ross and that if forced to choose between Ross and Demelza it does become very very clear whom she would choose, which is Demelza every time.

Beatie Yeah. And also Demelza does all the work. You know I think she’s pretty pissed off that she has to cook for Ross. I think she gives him a terrible pie or something and he yeah he doesn’t even know what it is that she’s put in front of him.

Jace I loved Prudie’s reaction to Demelza leaving her in charge of Nampara earlier this season when she and the children joined Ross in London. Yes.

CLIP

Prudie Ted’n fair, ted’n right. Should be I in that carriage, gwan t’ London. ‘Stead o’ which, ’tis left me t’ make th’ house fitty again.

Demelza Have I not said? With all these goin’s on – fires an’ the like – how could I rest easy without you here? Indeed, who’d be a common ladies maid?

Sam When they could be Queen o’ Nampara?

Prudie Queen o’ Nampara?

Jace What did you make of this moment, and of Prudie’s innate sense of awe and pride over this distinction?

Beatie Okay so when I read it I thought Oh that’s quite tricky to do. And I had a little epiphany again on the Queen of Nampara line. And yeah that she really really likes it that she really thinks it’s true. And it’s wonderful. It’s a wonderful honor. And again. Tom Yorke who plays Sam Carne was really wonderful about that because I told him how I was gonna do it. And he he gave me the confidence to do it like that.

Jace Beaming is the word I would use.

Beatie Yeah. And he really liked that phrase so proud.

Jace How seriously does she take this new role particularly given the arrival of schemer Tess Tregidden?

Beatie She’s I think she’s pretty scared of Tess. She knows Tess. You know she knows that she’s a troublemaker. And so you know she doesn’t mind. You know a bit of trouble Prudie doesn’t mind it too much but when Tess says that she’s going to be the mistress I think that slightly freaks Prudie out. But yes she takes her role quite seriously I think that she is now in charge. And what’s ironic about it is when we first meet Judd and Prudie in series one they’ve been in charge they’ve been left in charge of the farm and have destroyed it. So she’s come quite a long way.

Jace I mean she goes from overseeing a ruin to overseeing a castle.

Beatie Yes but I mean you know they I don’t think it was a ruin when when Ross’s father died and they had to look after it. But they certainly you know they had no idea what to do how to run it. There were goats in the living room and stuff. You know they had no clue about husbandry or cleaning.

Jace Prudie is anything but a fool. Does she see through Tess instantly?

Beatie Well I think she knows Tess. She’s a she’s a local person. And anyone who’s lived in a small village knows that there’s gossip and everyone knows everyone’s business. So Prudie certainly knows about Tess and she that she’s a troublemaker. And also Tess’s an intelligent person who is sort of stuck in in a backwater twiddling her arms and Prudie isn’t that person she’s instinctive and she’s got street smarts but she’s not you know a clever person. So she’s probably wary of her. But I think that she sees through people it’s quite interesting because she sort of falls in love with Ned the the new character who comes into the series. Series five. She thinks he’s wonderful and whereas Kitty she’s slightly wary of because she’s never met anyone like Kitty. Caroline she always courtesies to the only person in the series that Prudie consistently courtesies to is Caroline. So she has her own feelings about certain people it’s not necessarily that she reads people perfectly. But I think she knows a good sort from a bad sort.

Jace I mean the scene where Demelza sacks Tess and she goes to threaten Demelza for Prudie simply clears her throat is a great one. It’s just there’s a there’s a sort of implicit threat that sort of you know you don’t want to push me.

Beatie Yeah don’t mess with me I’m bigger than you.

Jace In that throat clearing. It’s amazing.

Beatie Well she’s you know she’s really strong Prudie. And Tess is sort of thin and wiry. So yeah, I basically think that she’d sit on her, and that would be the end of Tess.

Jace I mean Tess says rather malevolently, ‘Think you’ve seen the last of me?’ To which Prudie responds, ‘Let’s hope so.’  But this can’t be the last we see of the troublesome Tess Tregidden now can it?

Beatie No it’s not. She’ll get up to other things. Yeah, and probably much much more serious stuff is coming.

Jace You mentioned the Despards. Prudie isn’t one to hide her reactions or feelings. In fact I’d say she’s probably the one character on Poldark that always speaks her mind even when she shouldn’t. When Kitty Despards comes to an empire Prudie very awkwardly serves her and Demelza tea. Yeah. What does she make of Kitty initially?

Beatie Well I mean you’re so wonderful to notice all these moments because they’re literally moments and that is all I have. I think she’s absolutely gobsmacked at this. Who is this. She’s never met anyone like that let alone had to serve them tea So it’s it’s old for her that’s all. I don’t think I mean she soon enough accepts them. And serves them dinner and you know puts up Christmas decorations with Kitty and stuff. So I don’t think she’s prejudiced in any way. She’s just never met anyone like that. And you know I keep coming back to this thing. Prudie is a child. And so she’s honest. She doesn’t hide her reactions. Yeah. So yeah I think she it’s just a question of who is this.

Jace Yeah. There’s a look that passes between Prudie and Ned. That’s bordering on flirtatious. You said that she quite likes Ned and I know that there was a scene in the third episode script that alludes to Prudie possibly being attracted to the Irish firebrand who winks at her. Did you film that scene and what did you make of their dynamic?

Beatie Yes. I mean again I didn’t have very much time to play with because you’ve got so little time. But yes I think she just really admire. He’s a drinker. So is that really he’s a drinker. He’s he winks at her. He’s. So I think she sort of likes that about him. He’s got charisma and she’s responding to that. He’s a man of the people. He’s got charisma and he’s a drinker.

Jace What can you tell us about what’s coming up for Prudie on the rest of this final season.

Beatie We like to think that Zacky and Prudie get together. But I don’t know if that happens. And she does help some children. Also another thing that she learns to read. She goes to school and learns to read. because Prudie has never been able to read. And so she goes to Morwenna’s  school with the children. And yeah I think there may be a bit of romance.

Jace This is the final season of Poldark. What will you miss most about playing Prudie Paynter?

Beatie I will miss being able to look absolutely hideous on screen. And for it to be fine with everybody. And I will miss making people laugh. Personally I will miss the cast so terribly it makes me weep. It has been such an honor to work with them. And they are all wonderful and my friends. So I can’t. I’ve just been at the National Theater here in London since we finished filming and all of them have come to see me in the play so I know that we’ll see each other again and hopefully work together again. But yeah I will miss making people laugh and being able to look dreadful.

Jace You say making people laugh. I have heard that one of your favorite endeavors on the set is to try and make the other actors laugh. Who did you find to be the easiest actor to crack?

Beatie And who told you about that?

Jace I know everything, I know everything.

Beatie I don’t make any. I take it incredibly seriously. I really take it very very very seriously. It’s not my fault if Aidan Turner laughs at me. That is not my fault. I do not do that deliberately at all. But he will see me at the corner of his eye and laugh. But I know I don’t think I’ve ever tried to make anyone laugh. That’s terrible. I can’t help it.

Jace I mean who was the most difficult to make corpse?

Beatie Actually I very rarely am in scenes with Jack Farthing who plays Warleggan or Luke who plays Dwight Ennis. And one I wasn’t in this series I don’t think I think it was in series four. He came to Nampara and I did really try to make him laugh and I got closer and closer and closer to him stood under his chin looking up at him adoringly and he he didn’t crack. And I don’t think Jack Jack takes it quite seriously as well because he’s so not like his character. So I don’t think I would die with Jack but I have got a tiny tiny little bit of a scene with him in this series five and I would have been tempted to do something but I didn’t.

Jace Looking back at the past five seasons is there a particular moment either on or off the set that you think of most fondly now.

Jace I suppose it’s Eleanor. I suppose it’s got to be to do with Eleanor Tomlinson. And actually she’s posted a photo of her dress as the boy because Ross allegedly finds her in a dogfight and she’s dressed as a boy. And I remember doing a scene with her in the Nampara kitchen when she is dressed as a boy or so and she’s sort of faces off with me. And I just thought Oh OK. You’re really good. I think I’d sort of maybe dismissed her victory for and then I just remember our eyes locking in this scene. And I thought oh my goodness you’re really good. And I thought you know unusually for me I am actually a fan of the series. I mean I watch as Beatie watching. I don’t watch it as Prudie watching it. So I have no involvement with my character. To me she’s pretty and all the other people Eleanor is Demelza or I don’t watch her as Eleanor. I watch her as Demelza so I’m a real fan of the series as well. So yeah possibly seeing it for the first time and getting hooked. So I think the first the first time I saw episode one of series one I dismissed it a bit and then I watched it again and I was hooked and is actually Eleanor that she’s that the heart of the whole thing I think not to dismiss Aidan at all because he’s gorgeous and wonderful but literally all the emotion washes over her face and she’s just incredible to watch.

Jace Thank you Beatie Edney. Thank you so very much.

Beatie Oh thank you so much. It’s been really good fun you’re lovely thank you.

Jace With two near-death court battles behind him, it would seem that Drake Carne can finally settle down in wedded bliss. But remember — this is Poldark, so that’s not so likely.

CLIP

Demelza Is that – ?

Drake John Conan. Aye. I’m takin’ ‘im home t’ his mother.

Demelza You stole him away? Drake, dear God! – what are you thinkin’?

Drake I’m thinkin’ Morwenna an’ I may never ‘ave a child of our own. An’ this one already belong t’ her.

Jace We’ll speak to actor Harry Richardson about Drake’s mistakes, next Sunday, October 27.

MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob, and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.

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