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Jace Lacob: I’m Jace Lacob, and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
When entitled heiress Caroline Penvenen first appeared at the beginning of the second season of Poldark, she was anything but common.
Caroline: My darling little Horace has had two fits and now he’s barely breathing. Will you attend on him please?
Dwight: Your dog? Your footman made a mistake. It would be a farrier you’d send for.
Caroline: It’s not my custom to imply a horse doctor for Horace. I want the best advice and I’m willing to pay for it.
Jace: Caroline was breathtakingly beautiful, staggeringly wealthy — and unbelievably bored.
Ray: How long are you intending to stay?
Caroline: That depends. If my little Horace and I get bored, we may be forced to return to London.
Jace: But as her time in Cornwall continued, Caroline changed. She transformed from a spoiled, selfish girl calling in a doctor to attend to her sick pug into a generous and anonymous local benefactor. She paid for oranges for the scurvy-ridden poor and loaned the nearly destitute Nampara Poldarks the money to hold on to their home and land.
You could blame the Cornish way of life for Caroline’s change, but you could also blame her forbidden love for Doctor Dwight Enys. She eloped with the good doctor in this week’s Season 3 premiere.
GABRIELLA WILDE There’s a lot of ups and downs for Caroline and Dwight in this season and it is not a simple journey at all. But there is hope.
Jace: Gabriella Wilde plays Caroline on Poldark, and she spoke with MASTERPIECE producer Barrett Brountas about her character’s surprise elopement and other dramatic prospects awaiting us in the upcoming third season of Poldark.
Barret Brountas: And we’re joined this week by Gabriella Wilde who plays Caroline Penvenen, also Caroline Enys, in Series 3 of Poldark. Welcome Gabriella.
Gabriella Wilde: Hi.
Barrett: So the Season 3 premiere was a roller coaster of emotions for Caroline as she married her beloved Dwight Enys and lost her beloved uncle, Ray Penvenen. Can you describe what Dwight and Caroline have overcome in order to arrive at this point in their relationship, and what in their characters makes it work?
Gabriella: I think Dwight and Caroline have overcome a lot kind of the social stereotypes. The expectations on them of who they should marry and where their lives should go. For Caroline, I think particularly she has totally gone against the grain and done exactly what she wanted which is very her nature, being so single-minded and strong-willed. And I think that is what Dwight loves in her, you know he loves her for all that she is and nothing to do with where she comes from. And I think that goes the same for him. She loves him for he is even though where he comes from is something totally alien to her too. And I think probably that’s also her fascination with him. He’s unlike anyone she’s ever met or come across.
Barrett: Were you surprised by how their romance evolved and and even more so with the audience reaction to it?
Gabriella: I mean their romance is surprising. I think, you know, you can see from when you first meet Caroline she’s sort of pretty prickly with most men, seems to be bored by most of them as well. And so I think when she meets Dwight you sort of see this sort of curiosity perhaps in his what appears to be kind of disdain for her. And I think at first it appears almost a challenge for her just to kind of toy with him. And then it turns into something a lot softer and for some reason he manages to sort of crack her and sort of make her vulnerable. And a lot softer and it’s it’s a really kind of beautiful relationship to watch in that way. And then it is unexpected.
Barrett: The death of Caroline’s uncle Ray Penvenen marked the final appearance of actor John Nettles. And what was that like for you to film those final scenes with him?
Gabriella: It was really sad. John is the most charming wonderful man and I had a lot of fun filming of him through the second series. And I think his relationship with Caroline is really wonderful…it’s incredibly tender. You know it has that formality of those times yet you can see the kind of love between them and he is all she’s ever really had. And so to watch him go and have to do that scene with him dying is it’s incredibly sad especially with the timing of her and just being married. But I guess that’s sort of quite true to life the sort of bittersweet sort of peaks and troughs that we all go through.
Ray: Can you ever forgive me?
Caroline: Uncle Ray, what if I told you there was nothing to forgive?
Ray: Oh, my dear girl. My dear, dear girl.
Barrett: So Caroline loses her uncle and then almost immediately loses Dwight after his ship the Travail disappears in a skirmish with the French. So how does that loss shape her going forward?
Gabriella: Well I think there’s that’s a sort of huge moment and turning point for Caroline. I think you know she is very young especially in Series 2. She goes on quite a long journey and she grows up a bit was kind of falling in love with the way in that relationship you know really kind of stepping out for what she wants and everything. Your first love would teach you in that way and then to so suddenly lose so much with the death of her uncle and then that kind of fear of the unknown of where Dwight is. I think it’s massive for her. I think it takes away potentially a lot of the naïveté that was there in her. I think she’s definitely someone who’s known loss already. You know she was an orphan raised by her uncle. But to suddenly lose the two men in her life and her sort of grounding in that way I think is pretty catastrophic for her. But sort of true to her nature I think rather than fall apart it just hardens her up again and shuts her down which is really sad to see because I think the whole of her relationship with Dwight has been all about her opening up and becoming more vulnerable and softer and not so brittle with people. And such a closed book and I think it’s a it’s a sort of frightening moment for her because it can it sort of could be the end of her vulnerability in a way and her charm and I think you know you don’t want her to hard because it’s so wonderful to see her open and the way she does.
Barrett: One thing that helps to counteract that is her close friendship with Demelza which continues to develop despite their class differences. Can you talk about that friendship and how it’s developed?
Gabriella: Yeah I think that’s a huge thing for Caroline that one of the first things I noticed in the script when I first got them was that Caroline really in the first series I was in has no female friends — she didn’t have any women in her life at all. And it was something I was very interested in in her character that she doesn’t seem to have a relationship with women. Women don’t really like her. I don’t think they treat her very kindly. And I think that relationship she has with Demelza is a very interesting one and in a way maybe they are so different. And it is the only kind of woman who would accept Caroline and not sort of I think maybe shut down to her and see her as a threat because she’s an heiress and she has all this money and you know she’s Demelza’s so wonderful and open hearted that she doesn’t I think present any of that towards Caroline and sort of in all this loss that happens her and Demelza form this really wonderful bond that again transcends sort of where they come from and who they’re expected to be.
Barrett: So Caroline able to move seamlessly between classes and enemies and enjoys close relationships with Ross and Demelza while still maintaining social contact with Elizabeth and George. Can you talk about how she negotiates these two very different factions?
Gabriella: I think it’s funny one that because you think you know and she’s so close with Demelza, especially in this series. How did she maintain her friendship with Elizabeth and George? But I think Caroline has been brought up to be a sort of social butterfly and charming and know how to sort of keep people onside and she’s sort of master at it while also I think annoying and being rude whenever she likes. I think the relationship with Ross and Demelza is something very true, very personal and real. And I think the relationships with George and Elizabeth is a social thing and it’s something that is absolutely a part of Caroline and she will always make sure that she has those relationships and she can use them to her advantage where she needs to. But I think if push came to her kind of loyalty would always lie with Ross and Demelza.
Dwight: To Ross, who conceived and executed the plan. Spirited me from Falmouth, arranged the parson.
Caroline: And even brought the bride’s bouquet.
Ross: Demelza’s handiwork.
Caroline: And the feast.
Barrett: Good. And so what can you tease about where Caroline and Dwight’s relationship is headed this season if in fact he does survive?
Gabriella: Well there’s there’s a lot of ups and downs for Caroline and Dwight in this season and it is not a simple journey at all. But there is hope, but not without a rough ride.
Barrett: So now you joined Poldark at the start of the second season and what was that like for you join a cast that had already been working so closely together?
Gabriella: It was pretty terrifying. I was one of the only kind of new main characters that year so I definitely felt like the new girl at school. However I had heard before I signed on to the job that the cast of Poldark have a reputation for being really wonderful and genuinely all getting on and being kind of wonderful family to become part of um and it’s absolutely true. Everyone was so lovely and friendly and I think everyone has a really good time filming together. They’re all really wonderful actors and really lovely people and it’s a really wonderful job to work on so my fears were quite quickly put to rest.
Barrett: And when we first meet Caroline she’s the spoiled and bored — a young woman whose only outlets for amusement seem to be toying with Unwin and tending to Horace. Can you talk about her transformation into the woman that Dwight and viewers have come to love?
Gabriella: I think you know her transformation I always wanted Caroline to be seen as what I saw her for which was she’s you know she’s not a nasty person. She is not kind of jaded to the world or anything like that she is chippy at the beginning and rude and she seems spoiled.. She’s just incredibly naive and like you said she’s bored. You know I think she has a brilliant mind. She’s very quick. She’s frustrated by her position in life. And she’s had a hard life. She’s an orphan. She didn’t have her parents. And as I said before as well she doesn’t seem to have many women in her life. And I think potentially quite a lonely existence although a very social one. I think with Horrace as well for me that was always something that I thought was charming and funny. But at the same time quite sad I saw him as a sort of almost like a child carrying around a teddy all the time, it spoke to me of potentially her loneliness. And I think her transformation really comes from understanding that deeper layer to her. That she, when she comes to Cornwall she is presented with the opportunity to rise to the occasion to be the sort of good hearted person that she really is whilst maintaining you know her wit and her charm and you know she does enjoy to sort of stir the pot and push people and see if she can toy with them. But there’s never any malice in it. I think she just sort of likes to test people.
Barrett: So what else do you think in her has spurred viewers to really take a shine to her?
Gabriella: I think I think first you know she’s real. You know no one is perfect just sweet or just horrible. I think we all have good and bad in us and it’s it’s kind of watching that in her and you know she’s also she’s funny you know and she’s bright and she’s quick and it’s fun to watch a woman in those days kind of talk circles around some of them. You know I love that sometimes she’s insulting people and they don’t really realize until after she’s left the conversation. You know it’s fun to play a character like that. You know she’s not kind of sitting there waiting to be rescued by a man you know. She’s very much happy to rescue herself and potentially him as well. So that’s just it’s refreshing to watch you know.
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Barrett: Caroline initially arrives on the scene like the Marie Antoinette of Cornwall with her dresses and her hair and her enormous hat. Now what do you think her appearance tells us about her character?
Gabriella: I think it probably tells you that she likes to cause a stir. She likes to be noticed. You know it’s it’s also where she’s come from. I think it’s nice you know that she arrives and sticks out and has people talking about her probably immediately. You know she’s she’s definitely not a shrinking violet. You know also she’s fun. I think she is feminine in that way and enjoys the clothes and enjoys you know she does enjoy her privilege and that way and her money. And I think it’s it’s sort of a fun thing you know she’s a young girl and she can so she wears wonderful things. And like I said because she’s not going to wear anything different just because she’s in Cornwall or she’s going to wear what she wants to wear.
Barrett: So and while we’re talking about costumes and you mentioned Horace a little bit earlier but we have to talk about Caroline’s most fabulous accessory of all, Horace.
Barrett: Even though he is the prototypical lap dog, he is like a character in his own right. So what does he mean to Caroline? What does it reveal about her character?
Gabriella: I think Horace is a really wonderful sort of note to Caroline’s character. You know beyond the comedy of him. And the sort of image that this woman with this kind of lapdog that I think nobody else really likes except for her. You know just adds to kind of the impression she likes to give and also the kind of you know she just loves to provoke people. Horace is another tool for that in one sense. Yeah. As I said before I think for me Horace kind of revealed something else to her which was this kind of childlike sort of loneliness and softness to her that she would carry this dog everywhere with her. It’s almost like a little comfort blanket she takes despite the way she appears to be. And I think and also you know her tenderness for him she really really adores him. You know that’s her attachment. That’s her sort of family. She doesn’t have much. And I think it’s a sort of wonderful thing you know to have to have this little kind of friend with her all the time. And like I said you know I think the fact that Ray and other people are not so keen is sort of kind of brilliant because I think she probably really loves that as well.
Barrett: So how about for you. What was it like working with the dog who plays Horace?
Gabriella: It was it was I mean they always say you never work with animals but it’s fine. It is interesting. It doesn’t always do what you want them to. But he was a very sweet dog. And the only thing is that working with a pug they’re incredibly noisy which I think all of the sound recordings had to be scrapped for the scene that I was in with him and we had to do all of the ADR after and re-record all my lines because there was a lot of snuffling over there.
Barrett: And I read that Horace was recast for Season 3. So which Horace is closer to your heart?
Gabriella: I think I’ve probably spent less time with Horace in Season 3 than I did in Season 2 mean he is definitely still around. But the first Horace was older, and he was also kind of almost the biggest star on the show. I think he’s done bigger movies than all of us. So, so he probably had a bit of a big ego. But the second Horace was a bit younger was very sweet but I’m sure that he’s way bigger than the first Horace. So I don’t know if anyone’s going to notice that that, but both of them were cute.
Gabriella: I know.
Barrett: And then we understand that Horace solved a very specific challenge during the filming of Season 2. Can you tell us about that?
Gabriella: Horace was very useful here because I was a little bit pregnant at the beginning of filming Poldark and very pregnant by the end. So Horace became more and more useful and I think again that’s why I have a lot more in Season 2. Becomes a larger and larger bump to cover. So Horace was the perfect tool for that to carry him. And I think it hopefully disguised that I was I think about eight months pregnant by the end.
Barrett: And so and you’re even six or seven months pregnant when you filmed a fan favorite scene, where Caroline and Dwight meet in the woods and they kiss on horseback. What was it like shooting that scene in and Poldark in general throughout your pregnancy?
Gabriella: It was it was a challenge. Some of it you know obviously shooting period drama pregnant is an interesting one, and especially poor Luke, who plays Dwight, having to act opposite me and they kind of look like a moving truck I think most of the time and shooting these romantic scenes was kind of bizarre while I was sort of, so pregnant, but it was it was actually a really, really positive experience. You know working and being kind of trusted to work through a pregnancy when I found out I was pregnant I had a conversation with the producers and with Debbie, the writer, and I told them, you know, I was pregnant, I was obviously going to be heavily pregnant towards the end of the shoot. And they were incredibly supportive and said, you know, if you feel like you can do it then we feel like you can, which is very refreshing in this industry. And I did. And not thought of not being able to work just because I was now a mother is, as I said, refreshing and should very much be the norm. And sadly is not.
Barrett: What was it like to have your newborn son on the set with you while you were filming such an emotional season. Season 3. Was it a challenge or a relief or a little bit of both?
Gabriella: I think it was probably in a bit of yean all of it. I think it is sort of strange to have to go and film the scene like Ray’s death scene, and actually that scene they scheduled it amazingly And so I would rush away from the set to go and feed my son and then rush back again and we usually managed to have finished that scene before I had to go. But with Ray’s death scene because of timing I had to go and feed my son in the middle of shooting it so that was slightly bizarre to have to kind of be that headspace and run back see my son feed him for half an hour and then run back and sort of continue crying next to Ray’s bedside.
Barrett: But I have to ask I can’t imagine how in these elaborate costumes you could possibly dash in and nurse a baby? How do you get out of that?
Gabriella: Yeah, it’s not easy. But again you know the wonderful people that make Poldark you know really made it work for me. And in that respect too you know I was I was very adamant I wanted to breastfeed and that they needed to make that work for me. And they did. They had a specially designed corset. I think the amazing woman who makes all the corsets for Poldark says she’s never missed anything like it. And you know, all of my dresses, they were made so that it could happen really, so that it could all sort of happen in a half an hour and I could be back on set.
Barrett: That that’s magical. I think that’s yeah incredible.
Gabriella: Yeah I know it was, it was.
Barrett: So Luke Norris who plays Dwight Enys has said of you, “She’s about as blueblooded as they come so we naturally have that class divide, a social disconnect. And she, like Caroline, is wonderful and lovely and there’s much, much more to her than a cutglass accent. So in fact you are a descendant of Charles the Second, and Joanna of Castille, sister of Catherine of Aragon — does that lineage help you better understand aristocratic characters like Caroline?
Gabriella: I mean I don’t know. Do you know what. I don’t even know if I am? I mean someone said that before now it’s like okay cool. But I have no idea if I actually am.
Gabriella: But I think, yeah there is an understanding of, in a way where Caroline comes from? You know it is different it’s the 18th century. I don’t think my life has been anything like hers. But I think maybe I do understand the sort of perception that is put on and the expectation and yeah the assumptions that she faces. And I’ve definitely come across that I don’t think it’s just because of where and how I’ve grown up. I think it’s for many different reasons. You know it’s from what I do to being a woman, to being my age, to having children, it’s you know, it’s everything. We all come up against you know people’s perceived image of us and you know I think all of our desire to probably break through that and show who we actually are and playing someone like Caroline is a joy because she does that and she will not have anyone tell her who she is, which is nice.
Barrett: Yes. Now, you studied fine art before pursuing a career in acting. If you had stuck with art, what might you be doing today?
Gabriella: I well until I started acting, I didn’t start acting until I was 20, although through school and through my degree I wanted to be a painter. So I guess I may have attempted to do that.? I’m not sure if I would have been very successful but that was definitely my first love and what I thought I was going to do with my life. But acting sort of found me and I am very happy in it since.
Barrett: Well we’re happy it found you. So you’re presently shooting Season 4 of Poldark?
Barrett: And what is next for you once you wrap?
Gabriella: Well we just started shooting Season 4 so about two weeks om. And with Poldark it’s quite a long shoot so I won’t be done until sort of spring next year and then we’ll see. I think you know Poldark takes up a lot of time and so I think for most of the actors on it it’s quite hard to do things in between it. But yeah I see. We’ll see if if there is going to be a Season 5. We don’t know yet. And yeah, my children are getting a little bit older now so I think I’ll be looking to maybe start doing some other things too.
Barrett: Well thank you so much. Gabrielle Wilde for speaking to us, we really appreciate it.
Gabriella: My pleasure. It was lovely talking to you.
Jace: Coming up next on the podcast, we talk to Keeley Hawes, lead actor in The Durrells In Corfu, about what yet another sunny season on the island of Corfu has in store for Louisa Durrell and her brood:
Keeley Hawes: We we have births, christenings. Attempted murders… we have an entire cricket based episode which is a very, very British sort of moment in Corfu, which is great fun.
Jace: Don’t miss our conversation with Keeley Hawes, popping up in your podcast feed on October 15.
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MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Special thanks to Barrett Brountas and Susanne Simpson. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
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