Cast Interview: Beatie Edney
Get 5 seasons of Poldark BTS insights from Beatie Edney, the actress behind Poldark‘s Queen of Nampara, Prudie! In her exclusive MASTERPIECE interview, she reveals her favorite moments from the set and with the cast, sheds light on the Prudie/Demelza friendship, and reveals who was really taking care of those kids during all the swashbuckling and high drama!
MASTERPIECE: Prudie is in the position of keeping lots of secrets, some of Demelza’s and some of Ross’. How do you think she navigates these secrets over the years, and chooses when to disclose them?
EDNEY: Well, I don’t think she’s manipulative at all. Basically, I’ve always described Prudie as a cross between a rat and a toddler. She’s like a rat—she’s very interested in her own comfort, and food and drink. But like a toddler, her parents are Ross and Demelza. So, she doesn’t like it when they’re upset or arguing. And she doesn’t hide her feelings very well, which doesn’t let her be a particularly manipulative liar, or keeper of secrets. I don’t think she cares if she keeps it. I think it shows on her face. Also, she’s pretty intimidated by Ross!
MASTERPIECE: If Prudie had to choose between Ross and Demelza, who do you think she’d choose?
EDNEY: Demelza. She’s always been a servant to Ross; she’s been a friend to Demelza.
She’s her maid, she’s her friend, she’s her companion, her daughter.–Beatie Edney on Prudie’s relationship with Demelza
MASTERPIECE: Is there any Prudie in you?
EDNEY: Well, there’s Prudie in all of us, isn’t there? Yeah. I mean, it’s all me really, I think. I don’t know, I’m probably not as lazy. She’s quite lazy, she gets Demelza to do lots of work for her. And, she gets the kids to work for her as well—she teaches the kids cooking so they can do the cooking. I’m loyal. I’m quite loyal. She likes to laugh, and so do I.
MASTERPIECE: What surprised you most in Prudie’s journey?
EDNEY: What surprised me most? Well, that she’s not in the book series after series! She leaves, and doesn’t really appear in the books anymore. Jud appears, but basically, they get new servants at Nampara. It was [series creator and writer] Debbie [Horsfield]’s decision to keep me in.
MASTERPIECE: Do you have a favorite moment from filming with Aiden Turner?
EDNEY: Probably when he laughs at me, because he really does laugh—he’ll catch me out of the corner of his eye, and he will laugh! It’s gone on since Season 1, and I don’t know why, but he will always have a laugh at me!
MASTERPIECE: How about Eleanor Tomlinson?
EDNEY: Well, I think it’s actually Eleanor’s favorite moment with me! We were at the mine, and there was this terrible mine accident. Everyone was injured, and we were handing out brandy and stuff. I’ve had the same costume every year for five years, and in Season 5 I got a new costume, and it comprises about four skirts. It’s incredibly heavy, and if it’s wet, the hems of the skirts get heavier, and heavier, and heavier as they’re soaking. So, I’m kind of dragging around these heavy skirts. Also, as they get heavier, they get longer.
The area around the mine is quite hilly, rough ground. And I basically walked up my skirts! I fell over—I walked up and just fell onto my face! Eleanor was hysterical with laughter, because of the noises I was making, like this fat beetle trying to get up again. I couldn’t get up. I was making these extraordinary sort of noises, and grumbles, and mumbles, trying to stand up again. She didn’t help me at all—she was just standing there laughing at me. That was probably one of my favorite moments, I think.
I do like making people laugh. I really liked trying to make Luke [Norris, who plays Dwight] laugh, but I’ve never managed it.
EDNEY: Never. No, never, never, never. Whenever he comes to Nampara, I always try to be in the background of the scene. Or, standing next to him and looking up at him. He never laughs. Never bats an eyelid! It’s amazing.
MASTERPIECE: Do you have any favorite moments from filming on the Nampara set?
EDNEY: Probably all the scenes I do with Demelza, cooking, even though it’s never as nice as you think it’s going to be—you can’t imagine what it’s like sitting with fish for a whole day! But probably cooking in the kitchen with Demelza.
MASTERPIECE: What do you like most about Prudie’s relationship with Demelza?
EDNEY: I think she’s the daughter she never had. I mean, Demelza’s wiser, definitely wiser than Prudie. But, she’s her maid, she’s her friend, she’s her companion, her daughter. They’re pretty loyal to each other. It was Demelza who got Prudie back to Nampara, after all. What’s lovely about that relationship is that it’s really grown. Prudie’s slightly wary, a bit frightened, of Ross. But even though she’s frightened, she sometimes gives him advice. If it’s about Demelza, she’ll step in there. So, it’s a very loyal friendship. There’s real love there. And, of course, she adores the children.
MASTERPIECE: We all know that when it comes to lullaby singing, Demelza gets an A+ in her mothering. But I suspect that Prudie has the lion’s share of the child-raising in that house. What was it like working with the children?
EDNEY: I’ve had a lot to do with all our child actors over the years. Somebody’s got to be in their corner! I couldn’t stop myself. It was quite funny, because Eleanor didn’t particularly find it that easy with the young kids. We had one amazing Jeremy, Morgan [Roberts], who was just the cutest child you’ve ever met in your life—everybody adored him, he was just so cool. We had twin girls at one point, and they were hilarious. They were identical twins, one of them liked it, one of them didn’t.
We often worked with kids and babies who’d never worked before on a film set, and quite often, the kids don’t want to be there—it’s their parents who want to be there. Their parents will say, “Oh, yes, yes,” to everything, so you have to be the best host, just their number one, because they’re just children and babies. I made one film when I was five or six years old, only one, so I know what it’s like to be on a film set. They’re very well looked after. Not only are their parents there, they also have supper as well.
We would play games with the whole crew. If you wanted them to be quiet, you’d basically play a game of “who’s going to be the first to speak.” All the crew had to play that! We’d invent games for them, because otherwise they’re going to chat through a take. And because I’ve got less to do, it’s easier for me to carry a child and wrangle a dog at the same time, whereas, Aiden and Eleanor have so much dialogue to do, it’s not as easy for them. I’ve had to do less and less with the kids, because by the time of Series Five, they were both very able to do everything. The kids have all been absolutely amazing.
MASTERPIECE: Can you could share something about Poldark that you think is or isn’t right, and fair, and proper.
EDNEY: Okay, something that is “right”: I think some of the political things are right. The anti-slavery stuff. Some of the political things about poverty, welfare to the workers, is good.
“T’aint fair” is the inequality between the sexes, it’s just not fair in any way, how women were treated. You know, you were the chattel of your man. It’s really, really not fair.
And, “proper”…oh, that’s really hard. What’s really funny about it is, in those days, they curtsied and bowed to everybody, that’s just how it was. Instead of shaking hands, you curtsied and bowed. So Phil Davis (who played Jud) and I decided that we were really bad servants. And we decided that Jud and Prudie wouldn’t do that, because we hadn’t got a clue—we wouldn’t curtsy to anybody. But I basically only curtsy to Caroline, and I don’t really know how to do it, so that was the proper bit. That’s Prudie being really proper. And it made Gabriella [Wilde] and I laugh a lot, because we were always in these scenes together, and it’s like, Caroline would never mix with Prudie, but she’s so proper that she would never, ever, ever complain to Demelza about the servants that she’s having to have tea with!
In [shows like] Downton Abbey, you have those people who are career servants, trained servants. And Prudie is not, she’s really not. She’s some old drunk friend, a gambling buddy, of Ross’ dad. So, she’s not really trained in anything, except how Demelza’s trained her. And occasionally, she gets a look from Ross, which is, you know, “Behave.” She doesn’t really know how to do any of it.
MASTERPIECE: Right. She’s not like the servants over at Trenwith.
EDNEY: No. Not a clue.
MASTERPIECE: Yes! But that’s why we love her.
MASTERPIECE: Another wonderful thing about Prudie is her sort of lascivious nature. When Drake is still a new guy in town and she’s drooling over him as he’s swimming—
EDNEY: Yes, that was hilarious!
MASTERPIECE: So funny! But I wonder, did she have a thing going on with Tholly?
EDNEY: That maybe was an idea, but I think she just found him really annoying. This leads her to Ned. She thinks that he is rather wonderful…because he drinks, and he sings songs, and she thinks he’s a bit of a firebrand.
MASTERPIECE: What would you wish for Prudie in the future?
EDNEY: I think a little retirement cottage in the grounds. We didn’t make enough of it, but she learns to read at Morwenna’s school. I kept coming up with different story ideas for Prudie, and I said to them, when they were having that school, “You know, Prudie never learns to read, so it would be nice if she went to school to learn to read with the children.” They shot it, but never used it. It’s all them panning along the school table with all these kids, and then Prudie. So she learns to read, has a little retirement cottage with some chickens and goats. And they pay me, probably, to look after children.