Contains Episode 8 Spoilers!
Actress Heida Reed reflects on her four years on Poldark, her insights about Elizabeth’s parting scenes, and her experiences saying goodbye to the tight-knit cast. Plus, find out what her costars gave her as a parting gift, and who she thinks is smarter: Elizabeth or George!
MASTERPIECE: When did you learn that Elizabeth would be killed off in the final episode of Season 4?
REED: I signed on for four years so I knew it would happen in Series 4, although I kept writing to Debbie [Horsfield, Poldark‘s writer] kind of every year going, “Are you killing her now? Are you killer her now? Because I’d rather you not kill her.” And so when Season 4 came up, I remember waiting to go back to filming, and I emailed her again and said, “I’m just wondering, when are you killing her, when does she die…Is it in the middle, or is it the beginning?” She’s like No. It’s at the very end, so you’ll be with us to the end, I’m like OK, okay. Good!
MASTERPIECE: Episode 8 begins with a flashback to before the events of Poldark started, right before young Ross leaves for war. What was it like to have the old gang back together again, with Kyle Soller and Caroline Blakiston?
REED: Oh my god, yes. That was exciting. Kyle Soller came back for it and so did Agatha—Caroline—and it was amazing to just have a day of old school Poldark filming with this original cast. It was really sweet and quite emotional. But just really fun! Even though it was only four years ago that we started, it was very nostalgic for us because Trenwith—and Chavenage House, where we first started filming—it was one of our first filming days, with me, Ruby, Kyle, and Caroline. That was our main location. So to be able to all come back for that, and also, knowing that the end of Elizabeth was very soon, it meant a lot to me. You just can’t beat that first year, how we felt all coming together and getting to know each other, because we became such good friends. And then with Jack and Aidan there, too, it was just a great, great day of filming.
With George, it’s perfection. I mean, if she had to go, it’s exactly how she would have wanted it to go…–Heida Reed on Elizabeth’s last scene with George
MASTERPIECE: What was the last scene that you shot for Poldark?
REED: The last scene was quite small, it was when I go with George to the casino. And it was a funny day—I think it was my only scene that day, or there were just two scenes. Jack and I had exchanged presents and spent some time in each of our trailers, just reminiscing and going over everything. He’s the best partner anyone could ask for…so it was very hard to say goodbye to him. He’s a great friend, so I still see him. But we’ve been through so much together, and I’ve had more scenes with him than anybody. First it was Kyle (Francis) then a lot was Aiden, but Elizabeth was married to George, maybe the longest, I’m not sure…but I did most of my work with Jack, and it was very emotional.
They gave me some flowers and the vial that my laudanum drops came out of—Well, I actually hated it, because it kept dripping, so every time I had to use it there were drops everywhere and someone had to come clean up. So I thought it was quite ironic that they gave that to me, with a little bow! But it was great. It was quite strange, and emotional. We all celebrated afterwards, and later on in London we had a big dinner. We’re a very tight-knit cast and crew, and I just felt a lot of love from everyone. It’s definitely a hard thing to leave.
MASTERPIECE: What will you miss most about your time on Poldark?
REED: Just the camaraderie. It’s easy when you’re filming to overlook how lucky you really are, and now that it’s been a few months, and I’m looking back and going oh I was cold, and I was tired… And I right now I wish I was cold and tired with my friends, working with all these great people and this amazing story on an amazing show. I think what I miss the most, obviously, it will be the people, but just the fact that it went on for this long, and you came in for work and everyone knew each other and it was such a comfortable relaxed atmosphere. That was really nice, and you don’t always have that working in film and television, because you might not get that much time with people. You might not get to run for that long. So I’ll miss the people. And I’ll miss Elizabeth.
MASTERPIECE: Elizabeth’s scenes with George, sometimes plotting, other times trying to divert him from his nefarious plans, are such fun to watch! She’s really expert at managing George. Would you agree with me that she’s a lot smarter than him?
REED: That’s a very good question, and I’ve never been asked it. I guess she is a bit smarter. You know, being a woman at that time, she didn’t get to exercise her entire intelligence, but she probably would have been able to deal with George’s problems in a more dignified manner. In a lot of ways, she seems less emotional when it comes to problem-solving. You know George runs hot and kind of attacks, whereas Elizabeth will sit and think and strategize. So I guess in a way—I’m not saying entirely—but I’m saying in a way. And I think when George lets Elizabeth be a part of his decision-making, that’s when they’re the best team.
MASTERPIECE: Elizabeth has a sort of final interaction with many of the important characters in her life. Can you describe how she leaves things with the following characters, and what that means to you:
REED: I think with Morwenna, she probably would have liked it to end better, obviously. She runs away and that’s the last time she ever sees her. They do have, kind of, an almost reconciliation when she goes and sees her at Drake’s cottage. But then unfortunately, with her running out, I guess that’s that. So I guess she would have wished to have more of a reconciliation with Morwenna. With the other three, with Ross, Demelza, and George, it seems like she’s lucky in that way. She has a very tender moment—just a very tender second—with Ross, where he asks for her forgiveness and she gives it to him, and that is their final reconciliation, and the final time they see each other. The same goes for Demelza, when they run into each other at church and there’s a kindness between them which you haven’t seen in a long time, and it’s great. With George, it’s perfection. I mean, if she had to go, it’s exactly how she would have wanted it to go—I mean, not rotting, but the interaction with George. She’s managed to make him believe what she needed him to believe, and he has nothing but pure love for her at the end, and admiration. So I think at least she got to end on a good note with most of the people in her life.
MASTERPIECE: What was your favorite costume that you got to wear?
REED: There’s a dress that I wear towards the end of Series 2, in episode 10 when George and Elizabeth are having dinner, and Demelza comes to warn him that basically the villagers are coming to kill the beast. [laughs] That’s how I always see it, like Beauty and the Beast! She wears it a few times. It’s kind of minty, and shiny, and it’s the most French looking of Elizabeth’s dresses. It was really tight, and actually, one time I almost fainted! So it’s typical that the most uncomfortable costume was actually my favorite. It had these frills and these ruffley, torn pieces on the bodice. It looked very French, and the whole French vibe was always my favorite look.
MASTERPIECE: Elizabeth hasn’t always been the most popular character—she’s been blamed for a lot of problems that I think we all know are really Ross’ fault! But how would you like fans to remember Elizabeth?
REED: That’s a really loaded question…I guess I would like them to remember her as someone who, as a character, served her purpose in the story, and for them to remember that if she wasn’t there, it would be an entirely different story that might not be as exciting to watch. [laughs] And that she was genuinely a good person who was just trying to survive in her world!
See the Poldark cast’s camaraderie in action in candids & BTS photos culled from Heida Reed’s Instagram
Hear the MASTERPIECE Studio Podcast’s in-depth interview with Heida Reed.