When Masterpiece‘s Poldark returns for its second season, it’s grim times. Our smoldering hero Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner) is in prison for allegedly inciting a riot and a murder and he’s facing death by hanging; his daughter Julia has died after his wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) brings home a bug after nursing sick relatives; the mining company that he’s had such high hopes for is in liquidation; and his friendship with Francis (Kyle Soller), something he’s cherished for years, is at its lowest ebb.
“We’re starting from a pretty low place,” Turner tells Parade.com in this one-one-interview. “Sometimes you need to go down to go back up again. It’s nice that there isn’t a time jump time. We can kick back in straightaway, to where we were, and just get back into the drama of it all.”
The nine episodes of Season 2 also feature a romantic triangle between Ross, Elizabeth and Demelza. Ross, who was engaged to Elizabeth before he left to fight in the Revolutionary War, hasn’t quite gotten over her, so there is still a strong attraction there, and, then, when things get rocky with Demelza, especially after Julia’s death, it’s natural for him to turn to Elizabeth for consolation.
“It’s somebody that he understands,” Turner says. “He’s known her for years and they are friends. She’s somebody that he gravitates back to when things get a bit shaky. As the relationship with Francis improves, I think he’s just more comfortable around her. She encourages that a lot more. She gets very flirtatious. I think Ross never saw that coming. When that’s there, he’s thinking, ‘What’s on here? What am I allowed to do?’”
In our chat with Turner, he also talked about what makes Ross such a romantic figure, whether or not he is a good guy, the reaction to his shirtless scene in Season 1 that had the ladies panting, and more.
Parade: Poldark is a guy who can’t seem to catch a break. He lost his child, his mine is not producing, and now he’s under arrest. How do you deal with that as an actor?
Aidan Turner: How do you get to those places? It’s hard. It’s something we all do but I can’t imagine really – well I have to, but it’s really tough to imagine what it’s like to lose a child. I don’t sort of pretend to ever nail something like that. It’s the world of imagination. You work with these great actors, like Eleanor is just so talented, and together we can try to get to that place.
Parade: Maybe that pain is part of what makes him a romantic figure?
AT: Yeah, maybe. He’s certainly tormented. I don’t think he ever really gets over that. Somebody asked earlier if he’s essentially a good guy. Is he just a good guy? I think we see from the beginning of [Season 2] that Julia’s death is something that’s going to torment him forever. He gets into a darker place after that. I don’t know if he’ll ever get out of it. It’s hard for him, but as an actor it’s exciting to play. It’s exciting to put yourself in that position and then at the end of the day, you take off the tricorn hat, you take off the boots, and go home. Then it’s not real.
Parade: I think we think he’s a good guy because the town’s people love him. They’re really loyal to him. They know that he’s on their side. That he’s trying to build something, and he has the right touch with the common folk, despite being gentry.
AT: I think he can slip seamlessly between the two classes. I think that’s why George Warleggan (Jack Farthing) hates him. George can’t do that. George isn’t respected or appreciated or revered among the working class people. That’s what George always wanted. He’s the son of a blacksmith. He’s come from a very working class background. He quite can’t understand why he’s not accepted. That’s all George wants. He wants to be on top. He wants people to love him. He wants to be the people’s hero.
Ross just has it I guess. Ross has that respect. I guess there’s a real truth to Ross. Ross doesn’t try to be somebody that he’s not. He can’t understand the likes of the George Warleggan. The merchants and the landowners can. They can just disregard the past. That’s something that Ross can never do. I think that’s what makes him work. That’s why between the classes, he rejects the upper classes, but I don’t think they reject him.
Parade: So is he a good guy?
AT: People say he’s a do-gooder, but the decisions he makes sometimes are incredibly selfish and incredibly single minded. He does love Demelza. Demelza is a friend and a confidant. She makes him laugh. She’s got a big heart. He is torn. He’s torn between the two women. They’re so different, it’s hard to separate.
Parade: Season two is only nine episodes but you filmed for seven months? You get so much time per episode compared to U.S. television.
AT: We shoot so fast. The scheduling is crazy, crazy busy for us six days a week. We spend 14-hour days on camera. They’re hour-long episodes. I think in the U.S., you have several units. You might have four or five units. At any one time, you’re accumulating more footage than maybe we would. We have two units going, sometimes only the one. It just takes a bit longer to shoot. It’s a budgetary thing. If we could afford four units, we’d get it shot in four months.
Parade: You also have the Secret Scripture movie coming up?
AT: The Secret Scripture. There’s a movie called Loving Vincent. There’s a movie called Look Away. There’s another show called, And Then There Were None. I had a busy term last year. Those six months, I must have fit in four jobs, which is incredible.
Parade: Do you attribute them to Poldark?
AT: I was trying to figure out the logistics of when the offers came in to where I was and what I was doing. I can’t quite put my finger on them. The Agatha Christie Show was produced by the guys who produced Poldark so that kind of made sense that that was there. I know jobs in future now, I could probably work out that’s the thing. You know The Hobbit put me on the map a lot, too. It’s always been that.
Parade: When I Googled you, the thing that came up most in the U.K. is that in 2015 you won Radio Time’s Top TV Moment because of the shirtless scene in Season 1. What’s your take on press like that?
AT: I really don’t take that stuff seriously. It just made sense for me for the scene. It was my idea to take the top off. It would have been silly having a shirt on. Why ruin a good shirt? It just wouldn’t have made any sense. You’re out there, you’re sweating, you’re in the fields, there was a lot going on in that scene. Elizabeth is riding up to tell Ross, “I think I’ve made a mistake. I do love you.” That’s in the background, and then we have George telling Ross that this guy Jim Carter might be getting sentenced and we need to do something to help. There’s so much happening. This was just a byproduct of what the scene was. But it did blow up a lot.
Certainly no regrets doing it. The scene still makes sense to me. It kept its integrity. It’s turned into a bit of a Diet Coke commercial. No, I’m very proud of it. I wouldn’t change anything about that scene. I have zero regrets about it. I think it worked quite well.
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