In the second season, Ross Poldark played by Aidan Turner, begins to better understand the world he inhabits.
In the character of Ross Poldark, actor Aidan Turner was handed a gift: a complex man, writ large from one of Britain’s great novel series, by Winston Graham.
But the television series, which now glides into its second season, was adapted for the screen by Debbie Horsfield, whose work has predominantly been in contemporary dramas such as Cutting It and True Dare Kiss.
That contemporary sensibility, explains Turner, permeates every part of the Poldark saga.
“It gives her certain freedom,” Turner says. “We don’t want to see a modern period drama in any way, we want to keep true to the world we’re in, but Debbie writes really, really fast and her changes or visions are quick. She’s not precious about her writing in a sense.”
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Here in the states, Poldark isn’t much of a phenomenon yet. It airs as part of PBS’ Masterpiece series, and it’ll kick off its second season this Sunday, September 25, with a two-hour premiere. In England, however, Poldark mania is downright maniacal. The show draws about seven million viewers a week, which is about 15 percent of the entire English population. Some viewers are there to reminisce about the original Poldark series, which ran on the BBC from 1975 to 1977, but others are there for Poldark himself, ably played this time around by Hobbit alum Aidan Turner.
On screen, Turner is equal parts smoldering and smothering, struggling to make a go of it as a copper miner in 18th-century Cornwall, England. There’s a love triangle, of course, because that’s how British period dramas operate, but Poldark is more than a bodice ripper. It’s about truth, justice, and Ross Poldark getting his way, and the fans who love the show have come to embrace that mantra wholeheartedly.
The A.V. Club talked to Turner about the Poldark phenomenon, Ross’ character flaws, and what fans can expect from Poldark as the show inches closer to its third season, which Turner is filming in Cornwall now.
The A.V. Club: Are you surprised by the fervent reaction to the show, especially in the U.K.?
Aidan Turner: I think we’re all a little taken aback and surprised by it. You can have a good vibe and a good feeling about something, but you never really know how it’s going to be received and how an audience is going to react to it. It’s lovely when you work so hard on the show, and everyone pulls their weight, and it’s great when you actually get a response like that and people actually watch it. There’s no point in really making something if it doesn’t appeal to a lot of people or the masses or if it’s not seen by a lot of people. There’s a lot of confidence going into [season] two knowing that we’ve established our audience and hit on a demographic that we were looking for.
AVC: How is the response in the U.S. different from the U.K.’s?
AT: I was at the TCAs a couple of months ago; there seemed like a very positive reaction. From what I could gather, the press was really clued in and had seen our show, which is always a help. It’s always a good sign when they press is engaged, and they haven’t just read the profile a bit and are making a stab at questions. It seemed like they actually knew what was going on.
We got a good slot too. We took over Downton Abbey’s slot, I think. PBS is a great network. From what I could gather, people are really liking it across the water. But again, I’m not really 100 percent on ratings or viewership or anything.
AVC: Why do you think people are responding to it now? Why do you think this show about 18th-century England resonates in now in the 21st century?
AT: It’s hard to know at any stage whether a show is going to work or not. Every few years, a different trend comes along. I was in a show seven or eight years ago called Being Human where I played a vampire. After our first episode came out, I think the same month that Twilight did, everything seemed to be vampires and werewolves and those kind of things. That show became quite popular, and became a little cult hit on a network called BBC3 over here. We just thought we were very lucky that we struck on that while it was the right time.
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Aidan narrated this story for BBC about Adam Smith, who used the metaphor of an ‘invisible hand’ to describe how individuals making self-interested decisions can collectively and unwittingly engineer an effective economic system that is in the public interest.
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Aidan Turner, star of the BBC series Poldark, wears his fame lightly
Aidan Turner is sitting in a London hotel room. In an hour he will attend the GQ awards at Tate Modern, where he will receive the TV actor of the year trophy for his performance in the BBC’s 18th-century Cornish drama Poldark.
His tuxedo has arrived and he’s surrounded by scripts for series three, which started shooting this week. What? He can memorise lines and get dressed for a big night out? No wonder Demelza and Elizabeth are fighting over him in the series.
That morning he was on location in Gloucestershire in breeches and tricorn giving his beloved Irish steed Seamus a run after four months off. “I had some horse-riding today,” he says cheerfully. “I was galloping around Trenwith [the Poldark family home] this morning.”
Contrary to reports, he performs all his own riding stunts.
Next week the cast and crew of the good ship Poldark move on to Cornwall for a month of filming in their spiritual homeland. This evening’s bash will be Turner’s last jolly until Christmas. Until then it’s hot, heavy work in the tin mine.
The following day newspapers and websites show pictures of Turner smouldering on the red carpet in his Dunhill suit, period tresses tamed in a natty man-bun. Of course he has been touted as the next Bond: he is the part. During the scrum he proves to showbiz reporters that he’s a sweetie, too. Even tonight he can’t smoke, he says, because his mam would be upset.
Ross will not behave well and reports of an aggressive sexual liaison with Elizabeth later in the series are true, although insinuations that a rape scene was shot and then edited out are not.
Turner says that he enjoyed interpreting Ross’s nastier side: “You are in the depths of this torment and the only way is up.”
He’s had to shave off a helpful summer beard for the shooting of series three. “I am on TV so walking the streets is a bit trickier. People are generally quite nice … ”
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