Certain scenes go down in TV history – and Poldark’s Captain Ross scything topless in a field may well be the ‘Mr Darcy in a wet shirt ‘of our generation. It was voted the public’s best TV moment of 2015 and catapulted Aidan Turner, owner of the abs in question, to the top of GLAMOUR’s Sexiest Men Poll 2016.
“I wasn’t going to take my top off until we were doing it,” says Aidan, clearly still slightly bemused by the furore it caused. “It was my suggestion, stupidly enough. It was mid-August and they’re working outside – it wouldn’t make sense to have the shirt on. I didn’t know what I was letting myself in for.”
Of course, the huge success of Poldark (pulling in over eight million viewers, helping BBC One to a ten-year high) was down to more than Aidan’s chest. Set in 18th-century Cornwall, the story of Captain Ross’s plight – returning from war to find is father dead, estate in ruins and the woman he loves engaged to his cousin – truly “hit on a nerve”, as Aidan puts it.
Rugged men, heart-wrenching romances, plot twists aplenty and ravishing scenery (making us want to book a holiday to Cornwall immediately), there’s no wonder it beat the Bake Off to win this year’s BAFTA Radio Times Audience Award. The original ’70s version of the show – based on the novels by Winston Graham – was a phenomenon in itself, but writer Debbie Horsfield has managed the tricky task of staying true to the original story, while making the Poldark saga feel thoroughly modern and fresh. “The scripts are so tight,” says Aidan. “Writing is everything; if the ideas aren’t on the page, you’re kind of screwed.”
The BBC has already confirmed that there will be a third season of Poldark, so to celebrate the return of the nation’s TV obsession, we spent a day with Aidan and co-stars Kyle Soller (Ross’s hapless, sweetheart-stealing cousin Francis), Jack Farthing (the dastardly ‘villain’ George Warleggan, intent on ruining Ross’s business) and Luke Norris (the heartbroken Dr Dwight Enys and fighter of ‘putrid throat’).
Collectively they are some of the most lusted-after actors on TV; between laughing at each other’s best ‘Blue Steel’ poses, and saying hi to actor Russell Tovey who popped by our shoot with his dog, Rocky, we sat down with the Poldark boys to talk about love, man crushes and why women rule…
Glamour UK: So Season One brought us Aidan’s award-winning abs – will any of the rest of you be following suit? What are your feelings about stripping off on screen?
Kyle: Well, I flash a lot of calf in Season Two. Ha, not really. I think each to their own, you know, it’s a delicate matter for each person to decide.
Jack: I’ve never had to do it, no, but I would if it was part of the story – I’m not gagging to get my clothes off just for the sake of it.
Luke: Yeah context is everything, isn’t it?
Glamour UK: Do you think there’s more pressure for men in your industry to attain that beefcake physique?
Aidan: I personally don’t feel any pressure, I wasn’t told to get in shape for Poldark. I just envisaged the character of Captain Ross looking a certain way; he is very physical, he’s a miner and he’s on a horse all the time, so it wouldn’t have made sense to look any different.
K: There are a lot of superhero films out now, though, and that’s kind of the trend. So there are a lot of buff dudes hanging out.
Glamour UK: Calf-flashing aside, what’s in store for each of your characters in the second season?
A: Ross has been accused of murder – for that you’re going to hang or get a jail sentence that’s going to kill you anyway, so it’s pretty bad times for Ross. When you’re low, you think you can’t get any lower and you hit rock bottom, so maybe he’s not even there yet…
J: George gets a bit bolder, a bit braver, a bit angrier… his confidence in rivalling Ross has grown. He’s less simmering and really lets go, which is fun.
L: For Dr Enys, it’s lots more love and heartache – and some really bad luck.
K: Francis tries to patch things up with his cousin Ross, but he’s continuing to be pushed away. Without giving too much away, he gets to a point where he feels the only logical course of action is to kill himself. I’ll leave it there…
Glamour UK: As well as all this misery, there’s a lot of romance in Poldark, too. How romantic are you?
L: I got married, and that sort of feels like the most romantic thing I’ve done, in a very real way. It feels like a statement of intent to the world that love is worth nailing your colours to the mast for.
A: Yes, love changes with age. As guys get older they want different things, and hopefully you’ve learnt a lot more about relationships: the ins and outs of them. Love is ever more confusing for me, and it changes all the time.
K: The most romantic moment of my life was being woken at dawn and whisked away to another country, with no idea it was going to happen. That was pretty cool.
J: I can tell you about the least romantic moment of my life – I once went for a walk around a park on a date and we had three exchanges in an hour. It was appalling.
Glamour UK: If you were a woman for a day, what would you get up to?
A: I’d probably spend a lot of time on my own [laughs]. Walking around seeing how differently people treat you would be quite interesting. You can be in the company of women but you never really know what it’s like to walk in their shoes.
L: I probably wouldn’t get much done, either!
K: I’d make the most of being able to talk about my feelings, while doing two things really well at the same time.
Glamour UK: What else do you think women are better at than men?
J: Well, that’s a hard question, because what are men better at than women? Not much!”
Glamour UK: Tell us your man crush…
L: Professor Brian Cox.
A: Ian McKellen. He must be 75 now, and he’s just got so much energy and lust for life. He’s an inspiration.
K: I’ve got a massive man crush on Channing Tatum after seeing him do Beyoncé’s Run The World on Lip Sync Battle.
J: Kyle Soller, Luke Norris and Aidan Turner – if you could combine the three of them that would be my ultimate man crush.
Glamour UK: And how about a woman that you really admire?
K: In terms of someone who is making a difference, Emma Watson. I really admire what she’s about and what she cares about.
J: Emma’s so intelligent and articulate – she’s sort of astonishing really. Someone put in her position with so much attention from a young age could have crumbled, but she’s a voice for all sorts of good things.
L: The person who springs to mind for me is Hillary Clinton. Politically, we’re going to hell in a handcart; Donald Trump is possibly the greatest evil living on the planet, so anyone who can throw weight behind her should.
A: I’m slightly obsessed with Tracey Emin. I’d like to work with her in some capacity. I don’t know how we’d make that work – she’s not in the film business. I’ll ask the universe and it might come up with an answer.
Glamour UK: Which woman – famous or ‘IRL’ – can always make you laugh?
A: Sarah Silverman, she’s just smashing it. She’s been brilliant in every film I’ve see her in.
J: Jennifer Saunders. From when I was tiny, I’ve thought she’s the most natural comedian. I was lucky enough to work with her on a BBC comedy series and it was just the dream; she made me howl the whole time.
K: Phoebe Fox [Kyle’s wife] might be one of the funniest people I know.
L: I’d have to say my wife, too.
Glamour UK: Finally, finish the sentence: if women ran the world it would be…
K: Probably perfect.
L: Calmer, much calmer.
J: Yes, less about ego.
A: It would categorically be a better place.
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