Get ready for a romantic, sweeping saga with beautiful Cornish vistas and a swoon-worthy leading man when Masterpiece begins airing “Poldark” on Sunday, June 21. Aidan Turner stars as Ross Poldark, an officer in the British Army, who returns home after fighting in the American Revolutionary War, only to find that his father died six months earlier, leaving his estate in major debt, and the woman (Heida Reed) who swore to love him forever is about to marry his cousin (Kyle Soller).
Poldark at first mourns both his losses, but then becomes a man of action and vows to find a way to reclaim his birthright if not the woman he loves. Along the way, he encounters Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson, “The White Queen”), a street urchin, who has run away from home. Making a rash decision, he takes her in to be his kitchen maid, and she becomes a very important part of his life.
At a press day in Pasadena, Calif. for the Masterpiece miniseries, Tomlinson spoke with atombash.com about working with Aidan, how wearing the period costumes helps her get into character, shooting in Cornwall, and more.
You’ve gone from playing a princess to a scullery maid. Is your career headed in the right direction?
I think I might be doing all right. I’ve been amazingly lucky with my career and my roles. I always look for something that’s different, that’s challenging. Yes, I’ve done a lot of period stuff but each role is different. Each one presents a new challenge and I’ve had the best time.
So for Poldark was there something that you needed to learn about the late 18th century in order to make Demelza seem real?
We had a historian working with us at the beginning, which was amazingly helpful, because it helps to learn about the etiquette of the time. Demelza may not have [understood etiquette] at the beginning but she certainly grows into it. It was fascinating to learn all about the time, and it does help bring the piece to life because it’s surprising the standard of life that existed back then. But it was nice to be able to have license with the role of Demelza to be able to pull away from the etiquette because she doesn’t have to know it, which is great. Even as the series goes on, I think, she never loses sight of where she’s come from. She never totally becomes one of the gentry.
What was it like working with Aidan?
Lovely. He’s a brilliant actor. He’s very, very clever. I think he really brought Ross Poldark to life. It’s amazingly hard; it’s a very long schedule, long days and you don’t shoot things in any particular order, so you’d be jumping from episode to episode. There was one day we went from episode 8 to episode 1, which for Demelza couldn’t be worse. It’s just a nightmare, so you’ve got to be on point all the time.
Did you do a chemistry test? Did you and Aidan have instant chemistry?
We did do a chemistry test and that’s always difficult because you know that there are other girls going in, and they’re reading with him, and he’s obviously going to have an opinion on who was best, but we got on well.
When we first meet Demelza, she’s the help, so she doesn’t have to wear all the layers, but as she progresses she has to dress more properly. Does putting on the corsets and all the petticoats and such make you walk and act different?
Absolutely. Corsets are not the most comfortable, but it’s interesting how they do affect your walking. I worked closely with the costume department because I wanted Demelza’s costumes to be very practical. She’s a worker through and through, and I want her dresses to be something that she can scoop up and carry potatoes or logs in. Nothing too refined. She wears the same outfit for a long time. Each dress to her is a present. It’s new. It’s still secondhand, but she doesn’t have a great wardrobe of different items.
Jane Austen was always popular so we know Elizabeth Bennet really well. Do you think that there’s a possibility since this is such a sweeping romantic saga, that this could become like “Pride & Prejudice,” where it would be something that people would take an interest in again and start reading the books?
That’s the dream. Definitely. It’s so difficult to know though. You can do a big series, or a big film, and you can be promised the world and you can expect it to become the next big thing but you never know how it’s going to be received. So I really hope that “Poldark” goes well and it does become a classic and that people want more of it.
The scenery in this is so incredible. Cornwall was like another character. What did shooting on location add?
It’s such a beautiful place. I felt that my character really came to life when we started to work outdoors. I think everyone felt that because suddenly the whole series had a completely different feel. Certainly for a role like Demelza, she’s really rural. She spends so much time outside. It was really good to get there and express that freedom, that love of the outdoors that she has. Then when you come back to do the interiors, you know where you’ve come from
We always hear what crappy weather England has. Did that hold up production?
To be honest, we were ridiculously lucky. It was so beautiful, the weather. It was just extraordinary. I can’t complain about it at all. There was one day where it rained and everyone was like, “I can’t believe this. It is not going to tie in well,” because everything else had been so sunny. But I think they wanted a bit of cloud to make it a bit moodier.
Masterpiece’s “Poldark” premieres Sunday, June 21 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on PBS. It has already been picked up for a second season.