Actress Ellise Chappell has thought carefully about the journey her character, Morwenna, has endured in Season 4, and shares these insights—plus her experience of being part of such a beloved couple, and what she thinks of her Poldark costars—in an exclusive interview with MASTERPIECE.
[Contains Episode 5 Spoilers]
MASTERPIECE: Morwenna and Drake are a favorite couple among Poldark fans—What’s that been like for you?
CHAPPELL: So wonderful. I really do adore Morwenna and her relationship with Drake, so it’s lovely to hear that Poldark fans are rooting for them! #Drowenna
MASTERPIECE: What was it like returning for Season 4, compared with joining the cast as a newcomer last year?
CHAPPELL: I was excited! It was so nice to come back to what is essentially one big family. I was less nervous, but having said that, I didn’t really have too many nerves when joining last year—everyone was so lovely and welcoming that I felt very comfortable very quickly. I was mainly looking forward to carrying on Morwenna’s story—she goes on such an intense, immense journey.
MASTERPIECE: It’s hard to see Morwenna suffering from Ossie’s horrific abuse and PTSD. Is this storyline great for you, as an actor, or do you just wish it didn’t even exist, because you care about Morwenna?
CHAPPELL: It’s a double-edged sword. The full scope of Morwenna’s storyline has been so incredible for me as an actress. She goes through so much, moving from a life of playfulness and innocence to one of hopelessness and suffering. Her awful, harrowing journey at the end of Series 3 and into Series 4 has been a great challenge. But then on the other side of it, yes, I care so much for Morwenna that I wish she didn’t have to go through any of it! She goes through things that no one should ever have to endure.
For Morwenna’s sake, I’m glad that we’re rid of the monstrous Ossie Whitworth, but for own my sake, it is very much the opposite!–Ellise Chappell on the departure of actor Christian Brassington
MASTERPIECE: In Episode 5, a detached and traumatized Morwenna tells Elizabeth and George about Ossie’s monstrous behavior. Do you believe that Elizabeth had no knowledge of how she was suffering?
CHAPPELL: I do, actually. I think that Elizabeth always thought Ossie was slimy and vile (I think she even says at one point, in Series 3, that he makes her skin crawl) but never that he was an abusive monster. I like to believe that if Elizabeth had known, she would have tried to intervene in some way.
MASTERPIECE: It’s absolutely devastating when Morwenna, approached by Drake, tells him to leave forever, because she’s “sick” and “tainted.” How did you prepare for this scene?
CHAPPELL: It was challenging. I felt a responsibility to do the material and the subject matter justice, in a believable and respectful way. I did a lot of reading into trauma and tried to put myself in a certain headspace as best I could, one where she feels frightened, exhausted, overwhelmed, and so much shame. It’s heartbreaking and complex.
MASTERPIECE: What is Morwenna feeling in the moment that she throws her shell bracelet into the ocean?
CHAPPELL: A complexity of emotions. Complete hopelessness, sadness, disgust, shame. She doesn’t feel that she deserves Drake anymore, or that he needs someone like her in his life. I see it as a coping mechanism, too—she wants to close that chapter in her life. At that point, Drake isn’t really Drake, he is just a man who reminds her of the trauma she’s been through.
MASTERPIECE: What was it like working with Rebecca Front [Lady Whitworth]?
CHAPPELL: It was wonderful. I’ve watched her on screen for so long and have always admired her work, so to actually work alongside her and play her daughter-in-law was very, very cool. On top of that, she’s also a 10/10 person! So kind, generous and open, she’s nothing like the formidable Lady Whitworth she plays so well.
MASTERPIECE: What will you miss the most about working with Christian Brassington?
CHAPPELL: What will I not miss?! Working with Christian has been an absolute highlight. Not only is he stonkingly brilliant as Ossie Whitworth, he’s such a committed, giving and sensitive person to work with. He’s also hilarious. For Morwenna’s sake, I’m glad that we’re rid of the monstrous Ossie Whitworth, but for own my sake, it is very much the opposite!
MASTERPIECE: Pol-dark or Pol-dark?
MASTERPIECE: What’s the one thing, in your opinion, a visitor to Cornwall should make sure they see or do?
CHAPPELL: They should make sure they go for AT LEAST a fortnight. Cornwall is so beautiful and there is so much to do! I love St. Ives—everyone should go there.