He’s innocent! He’s innocent! (Which we all already knew of course, but it’s nice to see the 18th Century Cornish justice system agreeing with the facts for a change). But the trial itself is worth a closer look — and our co-hosts do just that.
Barrett Brountas: We held our breath and longed for justice, and the fine noblemen of Cornwall came through. Ross Poldark has been found not guilty of all charges.
Clerk of the Court: Gentlemen of the jury, have you reached a verdict?
Forman We have.
Clerk of the Court Do you find the prisoner guilty or not guilty?
Foreman We find him…Not guilty – on all three charges.
Barrett But while the jury of his peers may have come through for Ross, we’re still scratching our heads about the way he behaved on trial. Was he trying to be found guilty? Did he care at all about what it would mean for him to hang?
Ross: You ask if I was in my right mind? Well you’ve heard evidence that I was not. But is it insanity to think that rich pickings strewn across a beach are better used to sustain those in need than returned to those whose only goal is profit? I cannot believe it. I will not believe it. And make no apology for my actions. In truth, I would do the same again.
Barrett I’m Barrett Brountas, and this is Mining Poldark, a podcast from MASTERPIECE.
We’re well into the second season of the show now, and we’ve got some big problems on the horizon, even if execution isn’t one of them.
I’m thrilled to be joined, as always, by my co-host, Robin Ellis, the original Ross Poldark from our 1970s adaptation of the series. Hey there, Robin!
Robin Ellis Hi Barrett! It’s very good to speak with you!
Barrett Let’s go through the main bits of this episode first, and then we get down to the big moments that really rang true for us.
Robin Things don’t look good for Ross as he reflects in his cell on what he stands to lose. The list of witnesses against him is long and his defense counsel is in despair. His client will not see sense. Demelza is bending the ears of justice Lister who is not best pleased when George informs him who she is.
Barrett: She was explicitly warned that trying to prejudice the judge would doom Ross. Yet she fol lowed her heart directly to him. Ross was urged to throw himself on the mercy of the court. And yet he told them and I quote I make no apology for my actions.
Robin Francis fails again, only this time we could not be more delighted he didn’t keep his powder dry.
Barrett Through Judd’s surprising recanting of his testimony, Ross’s stirring speech about hunger poverty and dignity and a bit of luck, Ross is found innocent.
Robin ‘Not guilty!’ unleashes waves of relief and tears of joy bringing reconciliation and a more peaceful party on that beach, but causes George to store a loaded pistol in his bedside drawer as a precaution.
Barrett So Robin I understand that you and I chose the same moment for our first favorite moment. You want to reveal that make the big reveal.
Robin Oh yes! Dwight and Caroline?
Robin Well who could resist frankly?
Barrett Not I.
Robin No, they’re a wonderful couple. Well they’re developing into a very interesting couple.
Barrett They certainly are.
Robin The scene that we both chose starts in the reception for the election, there’s a big election going on in Bodmin and there’s a big reception while the voting is going on, and Dwight meets Caroline and it’s a pretty sparky meeting, isn’t it? She is, she is quite provocative but he is very steadfast and of course that’s what she loves about him, or at least that’s what she will love about him, that he has absolutely the measure of her and she’s never quite met anybody quite like her who is quite prepared to to answer back and put her in a place which he does extremely effectively.
Barrett Yeah, because she’s just accustomed to sort of using these people around her as playthings. Right? She’s she’s a little bit like a cat and she can just swat around at them and so she begins this first encounter.
Caroline Are you stalking me, Dr Enys?
Dwight Not all ma’am. But now I’m here, may I be of service?
Caroline Can you prescribe something to keep me awake?
Dwight You find the election boring?
Caroline Exceedingly dull. And the rabble out there insufferable.
Dwight Oh, I grant you it seems unpleasant. But take each man for himself and he’s likeable enough.
Caroline Are you a Jacobin, like Ross Poldark?
Dwight It’s clear you don’t know Ross Poldark.
Caroline No, but I expect to tomorrow, and I’d hope for better entertainment than I’ve had here tonight.
Dwight I’m sure you’re the sort who takes a window at Tyburn for the pleasure of seeing someone choked to death?
Caroline And is it any business of yours if I am?
Dwight No, I’m thankful not.
Barrett So right away we get this sense of her as having the power and setting the terms of this interaction.
Robin Yes. Well she’s she’s looking forward to better entertainment tomorrow, which really is an extraordinary thing to say and really really describes her at this moment her priorities are as such that you know she thinks someone on trial for his life his entertainment basically.
Robin And he comes back and says Well are you one of those sort of people who take windows at Tyburn?. Tyburn is where they used to notoriously hang people, and clearly people used to higher boxes in order to watch the process. It’s very it’s very near Marble Arch in London, if your viewers know London at all, it’s a few yards from where Marble Arch is now which is just at the top of Park Lane.
Barrett Wait what’s Marble Arch?
Robin Marble Arch is is an iconic place in the absolute center of of London. And it it leads down to Buckingham Palace basically.
Barrett And Tyburn is where there were gallows back then?
Robin Absolutely. They used to do terrible things to people there. And clearly he, you know that’s a good comeback really. And then they have a second scene, don’t they?
Robin Were were she is very provocative about Ross Poldark who is indeed you know on trial for his life and Dwight’s best friend. And he doesn’t really take very kindly to that.
Barrett He’s a good friend to Ross and he stands up for him. He takes the moral high ground but in the manner of such a gentleman, don’t you think? And this is what’s remarkable about Dwight. And I think that that’s what she’s responding to.
Caroline Is it always like this in Bodmin?
Dwight I couldn’t say. I live near Truro. I’m only here for tomorrow’s trial.
Caroline You speak for Ross Poldark? I look forward to seeing you acquit yourself.
Dwight Happily it’s not I who is on trial.
Caroline Are you quite certain of that?
Dwight You flatter yourself, ma’am.
Caroline Are all men so odiously conceited?
Dwight I shouldn’t put conceit as the particular property of one sex.
Caroline How gracious of you to correct me, sir! I wonder you’re so solicitous for one you so clearly despise.
Dwight You’re mistaken, madam. I neither solicit, nor despise.
Barrett She’s terrible. I don’t know why I’m responding to her so positively. I mean she’s bloodthirsty, really.
Barrett Yeah. She’s this is she’s got this is entertainment. I don’t know why I really, really want more of her. And I think it’s because I want more of her with Dwight like this back and forth between them. It’s fantastic.
Robin Yes because there’s a future there you feel that somehow she sees in him a future and in a way it almost provokes her to be more like herself than she she really is. And she wants to be provocative with him and she’s willing to take you know she’s in for in for a fight. in a way, she is putting her gloves up and he comes up with the goods which is fantastic for her. She just cannot get enough of him. And it’s so lovely. And she has a great twinkle. I mean.
Barrett Oh she certainly does. You know they’re well-matched. She’s got it all she’s brains and beauty.
Robin She has.
Barrett You know there. She does. It’s not like the unfortunate Karen who we had last last season. I mean she is she. There’s a there’s a lot going on underneath underneath that pug that she carries around there and underneath that fabulous hat right.
Robin Yes! There it certainly is. Yes she’s not just a pretty face as they say.
Robin She is very bright and It’s very entertaining.
Barrett It is and just one last thing, I love the power dynamic, it just goes back and forth, and that’s exactly why she will keep trying to engage him. It’s exciting.
Robin It is. It truly is and he does it with such wonderful politeness. It’s it’s a killer. It really is.
Barrett Good ole Dwight.
Robin Good old Dwight.
Barrett So I guess we have to move on from these two potential Austen love match. But I’m interested in what your next moment is, or your next scene that you chose.
Robin I’m choosing the. The scenes with Demelza, I know she annoys you in this episode but they are fascinating scenes. She starts the whole thing in the open air outside the reception, and you can see her make the decision that I’m going to do something about this. I cannot hold back. I cannot just let this develop, this terrible scene, because I know what Ross is gonna be like. He’s going to be his usual stubborn self so I’m going to just try and…what have I got to lose?, She thinks so she puts her hood up and she she she infiltrates herself into the reception without really people really realizing as she gets into the reception and then she meets Ray Penvenen, Caroline’s uncle, with whom she’d had she’d had a meeting sort of sounding him out in I think the previous episode.
Robin Why I chose it is she she’s very guileful, she does it in a in a very roundabout way and she fools him in fact
Robin He doesn’t really realize until it’s too late that what she’s about what she is about. And she has this this scene where she meets Caroline for the first time. But her object is to find out who in this reception is Justice Lister because she doesn’t actually know him. She doesn’t know his face should know what he looks like and she’s decided that the only thing to do is go and confront him and say look look you know, do you really look at the evidence? You know all this stuff. She wants to do. She’s absolutely determined and poor Ray tries to put her off. I mean he’s quite right.
Barrett Oh no!
Ray Influence? I do not have that sort of influence ma’am and it would prejudice your husband’s case, not help it!
Demelza But if it was put the right way?
Ray If it were put any way ma’am, No. No. No. I, I wouldn’t dream of trying to persuade a judge. Believe me, I, I sympathize. I, I really do, I do dearly hope that the court look kindly on your husband. But the surest way of attaining the opposite, would be to try and influence the judge.
Demelza I see. Forgive me, sir. I’m a little despairing. Is he a kindly man? In appearance, I mean?
Ray Justice Lister? Somewhat severe.
Demelza Small and stout?
Ray Tall and lean.
Demelza Does he likes his port?
Ray Resolutely sober.
Barrett I loved that.
Robin It’s very entertaining all that. I like that very much. And it finishes with a little scene with George after George realizes what’s happening and realizes the danger that she might be influential with a judge. And he comes and interrupts and tells tells the judge who she is and course the judge is quite disgusted and gets up and walks away. So that’s why I chose it because it’s it’s just fun to see Demelza using her natural gifts actually which are intelligence and and guile. I mean one could call it that. She has a social poise which which you know is successful really in wheedling her way in.
Barrett I almost chose this scene. I love it.
Robin Oh interesting.
Barrett I agree completely with everything that you say because because I love Demelza and this is this is part of Demelza just as we must take all of Ross and we must we must accept that Demelza is going to do what she what her heart tells her to do and so she does, she pulls up her hood she careens into the judge she and that’s just Demelza being Demelza. And I do think that it allows us to see what you describe as as her guile and her artfulness of understanding human nature. And and you say her intelligence. Absolutely. She has these great qualities it may not be, they may not have been refined in society right? But they’re legit skills at reading people and and and we’re going to see it again and again and it may make us mad it may make a situation worse but Demelza, she will march forward if she feels that it’s the right thing to do, and she’s good at it. So she was this close to getting away with with Judge Lester.
Robin You said something there, which I completely agree with that she shares that with Ross. This this determination to act outside the box in a sense. And sometimes it’s very dangerous. I mean it’s in terms of society as it was. You’re treading a very tricky path there and it could blow up in your face, so they both do that in this in this in the series but in this in this particular episode.
Barrett In this episode, Yes. In fact both of them possess the ability to turn people, right? And we we see it in dross. But but she has it as well. I mean, Dr. Ennis and Caroline are equals and Ross and Demelza our equals as well in this way. They both have that quality of leadership.
Robin Yes. And that’s why we we stay interested in them and want to know the next chapter as it were.
Barrett And want to see them plow into the next disaster.
Robin Absolutely. Yes disasters are fun. Yeah. Yes quite.
Barrett But that was a bold choice sir. That was a bold choice and I love it.
Robin Because it ends with an interesting little tag with George after he’s spoilt it all.
Demelza Why do you hate him? What has he ever done to deserve it?
George I doubt you’d understand.
Demelza Because I am not so well-bred as you? I am a miner’s daughter. But you are a blacksmith’s grandson. What is the difference?
George The difference is, that you will always be a miner’s daughter. Whereas I am a gentleman.
Demelza I am a gentleman’s wife.
George Soon to be a gentleman’s widow?
Robin And she’s devastated.
Barrett And she never gets her answer really to that question you touch. All she gets is just sort of a knife in her gut and a twist. It’s the early you know I’m gonna remember, I won’t forget this If I ever feel sorry for George again. I won’t forget this moment.
Let’s take a quick break before our next scene to hear a word from our sponsors…
Robin What’s your next what’s your scene, is it the last scene?
Barrett Oh no I have two favorite scenes. Okay, I choose this scene because it requires talking about, but I really need to get your point of view on it. The scene is of course. As Ross is giving his statement in court he starts out repentant and he’s reading the script that has been prepared where he’s humbling himself. And then he looks up and he sees George’s smirk and he he just can’t do it. So he goes on. Then he shifts and everybody who loves him is kind of like, oh no no.
Ross My Lord, gentlemen of the jury. I can only apologise that this case has taken so much of your time. I will try to take as little more as may be necessary to beg your clemency. It is true that I saw a wreck come in – that I rode and told several villagers – that a number of people came upon the beach and that items were carried away. Though not by me. My house was searched and none were found. Why? Because I took none. The Counsel has suggested that I’m a revolutionary – that these people are revolutionaries – branded with a desire to overthrow authority. Well nothing could be further from the truth. The people of Sawle, Mellin and Grambler who came upon the beach that day were ordinary people – no more or no less law-abiding loyal subjects than any here. As to what happened when they came up on the beach. . I ask you to think of the traditions of our county. That people scour the beaches for flotsam. But in times of dire need. When fathers have seen their children without a crust for their bellies or a rag for their backs, these pickings – have being the means of keeping ordinary people alive! What else would you have them do? After they have rescued the crew and brought goods ashore – are they then to await the arrival of the excise men? And watch them carry off the goods that they have salvaged? You ask if I was in my right mind? Well you’ve heard evidence that I was not. But is it insanity to think that rich pickings strewn across a beach are better used to sustain those in need than returned to those whose only goal is profit? I cannot believe it. I will not believe it. And make no apology for my actions. In truth, I would do the same again.
Barrett Here we are watching this we think this is it. You know you’ve just condemned yourself. Ross! Did you really have to say that everybody already knows how you feel and you know. Why are you doing this. You have a wife. You have a community to protect. Why do you have to go and do this it seems almost it seems almost not. It seems almost like it’s an issue of pride rather than principle. Like that stubbornness. So what I would like to know from you. I would like to get your insights. You’ve inhabited Ross you maybe even said these lines as Ross. How does Ross do this? It’s inexplicable to me.
Robin Yeah I mean it said as just as an objective watcher of the episode, I’ve sort of changed my mind about Ross in the scene because initially you think Oh come on you know just just play the game for God’s sake. You know, you’ve got as you say you’ve got a family you’ve got. He doesn’t know he’s got a baby coming but he’s got a child coming and he’s got a loving wife who is well set up you know he he he needs to hang around and and he’s right in the sense that his actions were not as as such to be on trial for his life basically. So the killer really is his insistence at end where his anger comes out and says If I had to do it again I’d do it again. My God if I had a choice I’d do it again. He needn’t have said that right. That that that’s a kind of bloody mindedness that is really indefensible. You know it’s stupid, it’s just pig-headed and wrong you know. But I suppose it is part of Ross and you have to accept that as you as you say well you know these two do what they they set out to do and it may be wrong sometimes and unproductive. I’ve sort of thought about it I thought the the problem is that his defense counsel is completely useless frankly. Yeah you know I’m sort of talking like right as Ross now you know here he doesn’t cross-examine the false witnesses who get up and say yes of course you know he bashed this person and he kicked this person and he he was absolutely you know breaking the rules, etc. There was no there’s no cross-examination in fact I think he does the only cross-examination in the thing and when they when the ship’s captain finally says you know oh well actually they they did he did take us back and you know shelter us and feed us although his his wife was sick, the defense counsel didn’t get up and question the witnesses, the few who were for for him a bit more. Yeah. So. It’s very frustrating because I think that that was very unfair. I mean his usual frustrating you know going to one step too far which which could do for him. I mean with with the judge’s summing up he summed up and he more or less said well if you think there was a riot then he’s guilty. And clearly the jury who I thought was actually very good at the shooting of the jury was very very interesting. They were they were not distracting but somehow you felt that they were thinking about the case and that that added I thinka depth to the scene. I really enjoyed them. They’re very well-chosen and I take my hat off to the jury.
Barrett Yeah you did see them coming around. It’s true now. I feel like. In your in your sort of understanding of what Ross has done in your defence of Ross in a way I feel like you’ve convinced me again to changed my mind because I feel like Ross wasn’t sort of grandstanding or taking this last chance to try to teach somebody what’s right. He was actually fighting for his life in the only way he knew how.
Robin That’s right, He was and sometimes is his. He just gets ahead of himself and says too much. And it’s it’s that that that is very frustrating about him. But he actually I thought he was more controlled than one would expect in fact he was he was polite to begin with for a start. He said, I apologize for taking up your time.
Barrett Well that was part of his script. When you when you were playing Ross in him in a moment like this you had to convey sort of fear and anger but trying to control that anger but feeling the injustice of it all of those things I can’t imagine, how did you do that?
Robin I think I was exactly that the part just gets it gets away. You can’t. I can’t remember it exactly but I think it was more or less as it was played. Yeah. This time that you are in the center of this person who is outside society and it is so hard to behave in an untruthful way if you know what I mean for him I think he can’t…he just can’t do it because he feels so angry about the plight of these these people that it’s very very hard for him.
Barrett Oh good. I’m glad. I’m glad that I chose that one because I loved getting to talk with you about it and you changed my mind again but this was a perfect Ross moment. We. It’s just part of quintessential Ross.
Barrett So tell me about your next choice.
Robin Well my next choice is a couple of scenes with Elizabeth and Francis. it’s after the verdict and Elizabeth comes out with a tear in her eye and she’s she’s clearly been through whereas everybody has really has been a very difficult few minutes. And it’s it’s turned out right and it’s had an effect on Francis. I mean I think Francis has the whole experience of the previous night as has affected Francis very much. Do you remember the little the little quote he has from it’s from The Merchant of Venice.
Barrett The quality of mercy, right?
Robin That’s right, the quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath. The message behind it is that sometimes it falls on the wrong person and it’s a very reflective moment. Therefore I think the verdict where he thinks my word I survived last night is Ross going to survive this thing?
Barrett Oh, poor Francis.
Robin And which is a very it’s. And then Francis comes out and obviously he’s very pleased he has a little reconciliation or at least almost reconciliation
Robin With Verity.
Barrett Poor Verity.
Robin And then Elizabeth comes in and it’s that it comes out and it’s the start of a reconciliation that really rather touching reconciliation with Elizabeth. And it’s it’s played beautifully and very very tentatively. I’m not quite sure. And then and then the continuation of the scene is when they get back to Trenwith.
Francis Not guilty!
Aunt Agatha As I expected.
Francis Sit here, my dear. May I get you a glass of wine?
Elizabeth Thank you.
Robin: And this sort of an unspoken reconciliation between them which is very convincing very truthful. And I find that very very moving and made me want to think well what’s going to happen next with them of course we do know what’s going to happen next with them? Of course we do what’s going to happen next with them, and that’s it has a lot of tragic dramatic irony about it.
Barrett Which makes this this moment resonate even more. I agree I loved that that moment was it was that almost a strange moment. And she has a sort of a hint of a smile that’s very hopeful and tentative.
Barrett And so does he. And then even Aunt Agatha even pauses sort of as though she’s perceiving a slight shift in things. It was a really good quiet moment. I loved it.
Robin It was very fresh and unexpected and positive.
Barrett Yeah it’s it’s a beautiful moment.
Robin Why do you think the verdict came out as it did? Who turned it for the jury, do you think?
Barrett I think that it helped you know that Judd changed his testimonial. I think that the captain’s testimony. You know when Ross questioned him. I mean how could that how could those two things be true that Ross was you know violently leading a riot and trying to shelter these people. Those two things couldn’t be true. But I think it was his his testimony because you saw the jury as as you pointed out they they they did a good job with that. You saw the jury did. You saw their minds changing and these points hitting home with them. So what do you think?
Robin No I think that’s right. I think Judd’s…although the judge does actually say to him to to the prosecuting counsel your your client is is either lying to us or I forget the actual words but he was you know the judge was pretty pretty doubtful about Judd’s testimony. Maybe George didn’t pay the jury enough.
Barrett Note note to self George pay the jury more next time. Oh so I have one more moment that I would love to discuss with you. And it’s just it’s a little return to the light. It is this moment that Ross and Demelza share at the end of the episode. I’m such a sucker for these these wonderful playful moments. They’ve returned to Nampara. You know, yeah, she’s sprinkled flower petals on Julia’s bed. To us that reads as her sort of again coming to peace with that and and her own understanding of her new pregnancy. Right. And then she broaches the subject with Ross about a child. A new baby.
Demelza I did not care for Bodmin. This is what I desire. You, me – our house – candles burning – the scent of new-picked violets. Maybe it’s because I’m of common stock I’m so easily pleased.
Ross Common stock you are not.
Demelza There is one thing I do desire. A child in the crib?
Ross To take her place?
Demelza Not to make us forget her.
Ross Do not wish it.
Demelza Not – ever?
Ross Not for now. With our future so uncertain.
Demelza Our future looks kinder than we ever expected.
Ross Much kinder. I believe we agreed you would not come to Bodmin?
Demelza Yes, Ross, I believe that we did.
Ross Have I told you what I feel about a disobedient wife?
Demelza Have I told you what I feel about a reckless husband?
Barrett The episode ends but it’s just I, I love it when they’re like that with each other I just love it. I don’t there’s no innocent analysis that I have to give I just I just want to appreciate that moment.
Robin I think it’s accurate it’s just the release of tension stress to a playful moment. They you know they’re in love. They love each other very much and and their playfulness after the tension is is sort of promoted by the release that they’ve just experienced and it’s absolutely being in the moment. It’s it’s a tickling moment.
Robin They’re tickling each other and you know it sir it’s very very charming and is is quite characteristic of them like other things are characteristic of all of them. You know you’re getting cold. They get into a serious conversation after this terrible. But no they they actually have that resource to to to let the humor come through and just relax and it’s a shame actually. I. You know she’s so forceful in this episode. I’m surprised she doesn’t let him know that she’s pregnant. But again that’s another layer of to Demelza. You know it’s she’s she’s a very complicated complex person she knows. Makes it interesting.
Barrett Oh there’s one more thing about this that’s interesting it’s what I was griping about at the beginning is this that she’s disobedient and he’s reckless. I mean if things had turned out differently a disobedient wife and a reckless husband would would be tragic things turned out well. And here they are just sort of teasing one another about these qualities that these qualities that could have gone so terribly wrong. So you know it’s a good ending.
Robin Well they have it. It is a very good ending. Yeah I mean they they they they compliment each other in so many ways like as you said Caroline and Dwight too. And this kind of the contrasts and the provocative. This just adds to the sort of underlying pleasure that they get from their relationship. But you know it’s it’s it’s it’s not it’s gonna be pretty bumpy it’s gonna be a bumpy ride in the next few episodes I think.
Barrett I’ll say.
Robin Of course because that they’re the way they are.
Barrett Yeah. So Robin — how heroic is Ross in this episode?
Robin Well. You know what I said about you know having a absolute duff defense counsel. Yes I sort of changed my mind I was going to mark him a bit lower but I don’t know I think I’d I put him up seven and a half or eight in this. I mean it’s a terrible ordeal that he’s going through. I know he’s you know he’s he’s risky is his family and maybe it’s because you know all those years ago I played him I have sort of awaken sympathy with him and basically I I’m on his side and the way he can conduct his life and the way his beliefs and things maybe that’s a bit too high but maybe it maybe seven, seven, seven Yeah. OK. But if we’re we’re going we’re going on one to one to turn. Yes that’s true. Okay so you’re going to mark him down. I can hear it in your voice.
Barrett Actually I. I originally had a four out of 10 but I guess I’m giving him a bump. I’m bumping him up to six because I’ve re-evaluated him in light of our conversation.Ross Poldark can say he he cannot send his special thanks to Robin Ellis for the bump up.
Robin That’s very funny. Okay. All right well I hope we’re keeping, we should we should keep a record of the score over the next few episodes to see where you know where he is what what his score is actually.
Robin I think the last time did you say five and I said five and a half was that.
Barrett I think so yeah.
Robin Yeah. So six and seven seven and a half.
Barrett Right so it’s it’s a slight improvement but I’m not confident he’s going to hold or keep going up.
Robin One may never be confident.
Barrett He’d better find some copper.
Robin He better, he better. Yes.
Barrett Well this has been such fun. Thank you so much for discussing the episode.
Robin Thank you very much. Barrett.
Barrett Before we go today, I wanted to hear a quick excerpt from my colleague Jace Lacob’s interview with Eleanor Tomlinson on our companion podcast, MASTERPIECE Studio.
Jace: What was it, initially, about the character of Demelza Carne that drew you to the character?
Eleanor Tomlinson: When I first found out that they were casting a series called Poldark, I spoke to my family about it. They told me of this incredible success the previous adaptation had had. And then, this character, Demelza, played by Angharad Rees and what a phenomenal part it was. So, at first, I was asked to audition for Elizabeth, and I, upon reading the scripts, absolutely fell in love with the role of Demelza and just thought is was the most extraordinary challenge for an actress to take on and something that I really wanted to get stuck into. So I, basically, begged them to audition me and they did. I got the job, so, yeah, I was incredibly lucky. But, I think what drew me to the role, particularly, is, is how she’s very much a modern woman, but in a period drama, which is very rare. And that gives me such license as an actress to not conform to the ways of society. To, you know, to be, you know, her own person and this journey that she goes on, certainly, in series one. You know, she changes from this urchin servant to lady of the house. And that was just the most exciting journey for me to take this character on.
Jace Along those lines, I can think of very few examples where a character transforms that much in just eight episodes. As you say, she goes from, sort of, a sexless urchin to a mistress of Nampara to a possible widow. After Ross is arrested at the end of Season One. Could you just describe that arc, a little more, and how you, sort of, played that character through that transformation?
Eleanor: Well, I mean, at the start of Season One, she’s mistaken for a boy, so I think, certainly, I worked very closely with costume and make up designers to create this very, kind of, realistic look. I wanted all of her costumes throughout Series 1 to take on a very practical vibe. You know, each one, she has to be able to work the land in. And then, I think, you see that, certainly, in Season 1, and then we started experimenting with different shapes. And I think, certainly, you know, in, in Season 1, you get this, this real impression that she’s growing, she’s growing up. And she’s … She never becomes a lady, but she tries. She really tries to fit in with society and then she slowly starts to fall in love with this man, Ross Pol dark. And, um, that journey when she starts discovering her own, kind of, sexuality and these feelings that she has for him, it’s, you know, that’s, it’s beautiful. It’s amazing and, you know, she starts to really take an interest in, you know, herself. And she wants to be a better person for him. And then she grows and grows and grows, but, when they marry, he’s still, almost, ashamed of her. It takes him a while to fall in love with her, to realize, actually, that she’s the one that he really loves. And I think, by the end of the series, you have this incredibly realistic relationship that has its bumps. They shout and scream at each other, but I think that’s what people love about the 2 characters is that they can relate to them. o I think, you know, as an actress, you just have to be so cross, all 8 scripts at the same time, to know exactly, because we don’t shoot in any kind of sequence, to know exactly where your character was and how she talks, how she stands, how she eats, you know, what the relationship with Ross is, at that stage. That was really, you know, interesting for me and very challenging.
Jace:I think Season Two would be a cake walk.
Eleanor: Well, Season Two was certainly easier from that point of view but then, what’s great about Season 2, and I think incredibly interesting, I think it makes it equally as good as season 1, is that these relationships that you’ve become so used to, they become tested, as relationships do. You know, marriage isn’t easy and that is really explored. Jealousy is explored. This character, Elizabeth, is still very much there. There’s still that love there that Ross and Elizabeth have for each other that just, Demelza can never touch. And that’s incredibly difficult for her. But, that’s real life and that’s, you know, incredibly exciting to take that on. To take that journey on with these characters.
Jace: Were you intimidated, at all, in terms of stepping into the shoes of such a beloved character?
Eleanor: I was more excited about taking on the character than intimidated. I deliberately didn’t want to watch the previous adaptation, because I didn’t want to subconsciously give a performance that would, I don’t know, that would be similar to Anne Harrod Reeson’s. I wanted to do my own thing with the character. And I watched little bits of it, because I thought, you know, it was very important and it had been such a huge success, but by today’s standards, it’s now a very dated series. And, I think, learning from it, I couldn’t get that much from it that I would, you know, take into the series, my series. And so, you know, I wouldn’t say that I was intimidated, I would just say that I was really looking forward to making this character my own.
Barrett That was Poldark star, Eleanor Tomlinson, speaking with MASTERPIECE Studio host Jace Lacob. You can listen to the rest of their conversation, and many more interviews with her Poldark castmates besides, at our website, PBS dot org slash MASTERPIECE Studio, or on Apple Podcasts, Stitcher, Radio Public or wherever else you listen to podcasts.
On our next episode, Ross continues to make questionable romantic choices.
Ross After all, there’s no point thinking about what might have been. R
Elizabeth But you and I would never have been happy together. Our characters are too different.
Ross True. But cannot love overcome such obstacles? And surely there’s a greater impediment? You’re a lady — you could never have played the scullery maid.
Elizabeth Perhaps I have hidden talents.
Barrett We’ll scold him and explore the repercussions, next time on Mining Poldark.
And you can join us in our rewatching adventure here on Mining Poldark by watching the entire series on PBS Passport — a new member benefit from your local PBS station. You can watch select MASTERPIECE titles like Poldark, Downton Abbey or Victoria as a part of the Passport experience. To learn more, visit pbs.org/getpassport.
You can also follow along with us on the the PBS Masterpiece Prime Video Channel, available as an add-on service to your Amazon Prime Membership.
Mining Poldark is hosted by me, Barrett Brountas, with co-host Robin Ellis. We’re produced by Nick Andersen, with help from Robyn Bissette. Meredith Wheeler is our field producer. Tina Tobey-Mack is our sound designer. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
Sponsors for MASTERPIECE on PBS are Viking Cruises, Raymond James and The MASTERPIECE Trust. Poldark is a Mammoth Screen production for BBC, co-produced with MASTERPIECE.
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