Interview: Poldark’s Writer, Debbie Horsfield


Poldark‘s writer, executive producer, and the person we should all thank for identifying Aidan Turner for the part of Ross Poldark, Debbie Horsfield, reveals what’s in store for Ross & Co. during Season 4 in an exclusive interview with MASTERPIECE. Get character insights, BTS details, and check back at the end of the season for more—we don’t want to spoil anything for you! #PoldarkPBS

MASTERPIECE: In this season, where Ross goes to Parliament, it’s his chance to advocate for everything he’s been fighting for: an end to famine and economic injustice…What could possibly go wrong?
HORSFIELD: Well, what can possibly go wrong for him is that he will find that he meets huge opposition, because a lot of the MPs, of course, are there to further their own careers, not to better the lives of their constituents. And this is one of the lessons Ross will have to learn: that his reasons for going to parliament are not the same as other people’s.

MASTERPIECE: Do you think Ross has changed, between Seasons 3 and 4?
HORSFIELD: In actual time, there is not much of a time jump between those two seasons. But in terms of realizations that he has come to, yes. There are some key realizations that he has made to do with what his mission is as a potential politician, and also what his mission is as a husband, as well. He has realized the things that matter to him. He’s realized the pain that he has inflicted on in the past. He’s realized, I think, what really matters to him.

MASTERPIECE: What can you share with viewers about the Feast of Saint Sawle, which is celebrated in Episode 2?
HORSFIELD: Since we make up a lot of the traditions, we look into various Cornish traditions to incorporate them. And so we created this ritual, this totem pole of this figure, and we made up the bringing up of this pole from the sea and carrying it up to where all of the feast day celebrations happen. It isn’t actually a real ceremony, but we felt that in order to give weight to the fact that this was the one day of the year, for instance, that Ross actually set foot in church, we wanted to give it some pageantry and ritual to just make it a little bit more significant.

MASTERPIECE: Let’s talk about some Episode 2’s action…Did you learn anything you can share with viewers about Cornish wrestling?
HORSFIELD: Cornish wrestling! Yes I did, actually. You have to wear particular outfits for Cornish wrestling. Because you’re not supposed to actually touch the skin of the arms, you’re only allowed to grab the material, which is a kind of very coarse linen. So it’s not like the kind of wrestling that I may have grown up with seeing on a Saturday afternoon on television, where people are kind of dressed in little shorts and slammed to the ground. Cornish wrestling has a very particular set of rules, and I don’t think many people will have seen anything like it.

MASTERPIECE: The adorable rapport between Dwight and Caroline makes their scenes together a complete delight. Are those scenes as fun to write as they are to watch?
HORSFIELD: They’re wonderful to write; actually, they’re beautifully written. Obviously, not all of the scenes are in the book, but I’ve tried to capture the tone of those scenes that are so beautifully written in the book. Because those two characters come from such different backgrounds, and Caroline has such a wonderful teasing way of talking to Dwight, they are just a joy to write, actually.

MASTERPIECE: I imagine writing the character of Ossie is especially challenging…he’s a figure of ridicule, often comedic, yet he’s also a monster…How did you get that balance right?
HORSFIELD: It was tricky, and obviously when we cast the wonderful Christian [Brassington] to play the part, it was a challenge for him, too. And I think what was brilliant about him is that, to begin with, we think he’s just some buffoon. You know—we laugh at him we find him amusing and then, having become almost implicated in laughing at him, we realized that he is monstrous. And suddenly, the shock of what he’s actually doing really hits us. It was important, I think, to do justice to that, because obviously that was the reality for full for many women, particularly in a marriage that was arranged for them. Women obviously were chattels and had absolutely no rights at all. And I think Winston Graham doesn’t pull any punches on that, and we felt that we shouldn’t either.


Don’t miss the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast interview with Debbie Horsfield for more Poldark secrets and surprises!

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