A pirate’s life for me
Sean Gilder takes TV Times behind the scenes to reveal his incredible transformation into Poldark’s salty seadog
Picture the scene. It’s an autumnal afternoon in Somerset, rain is lashing down on the catering bus in which
TV Times is sitting, when suddenly in walks a pirate with a deep scar running from his forehead to just below his nose. Eek!
We’re slightly scared but can’t think of a better way to meet Sean Gilder, who makes his screen debut as the terrifically-named Tholly Tregirls in this week’s second episode of the third series of BBC1’S hit costume drama, Poldark.
A dangerous but comical old friend of Ross’s father, reckless womaniser Bartholomew – Tholly for short – has been away from Cornwall for 13 years and comes back to put down some roots.
But it’s not long before he’s stirring the adventurer spirit in Ross (Aidan Turner), which could spell trouble for all…
‘In Tholly’s own words, some people call him a pirate, others say he’s a salty seadog or a freetrader,’ says Sean, 53. ‘Aidan and I worked on a back story based on Winston Graham’s books. Ross lost his mother quite young, so his father brought him up. We thought Ross was around 12 when we met, his father was in his forties and Tholly was in his late twenties.
‘Whenever Ross’s father wanted to go on adventures, Tholly would know where to go and became a troublesome mentor to Ross – he probably introduced him to booze! After Ross’s father died, Tholly disappeared from Cornwall.
‘So my character comes into the books and series as someone who could possibly pull Ross back to the exciting ways of his younger years.’ Does he succeed?
‘Well, I arrive in episode two and we’re on an adventure by episode three!’ chuckles Sean, who has two children Tommy, eight, and Violet, six, with his actress wife Robin Weaver (The Inbetweeners).
‘It’s interesting because people look at photos of my character and ask, “Is Tholly a baddie or a goodie?” Even my kids went, “You’re always a baddie, Dad”. Well, this time I’m a baddie by looks and history, but I’m actually a goodie as during this series Ross needs
somebody he can trust to defend and protect him from his enemies.’
Sean – who in real life is incredibly down-to-earth and jolly – completely understands why people may have assumed Tholly was a villain. Over the years, he has played his fair share of them, the most memorable perhaps being gangster Paddy Maguire in C4 drama Shameless.
‘I’m 6ft tall, with a deep voice and acne scars, it’s as crude as that,’ offers Sean as an explanation. ‘I would like to get away from it, to be honest.’
Which is why he jumped at the chance to play Tholly. ‘The role
allows me to have a bit of a sense of humour and not take myself quite so seriously,’ he says.
Another bonus for Sean is that he has been able to work closely with the show’s costume and make-up teams to create a plausible character for the drama.
Tholly has a facial scar, tattoos and wears a hook in place of his left hand, and Sean couldn’t wait to show us his 60-minute transformation for our exclusive behind-the-scenes photo gallery (see above).
‘Even though I’m this new large
character, he must be sufficiently believable for Ross to tolerate him,’ says Sean. ‘If Tholly is just loud and piratey, Ross wouldn’t trust him.’
With Sean about to be whisked back to work, there’s just time to ask if he has anything in common with his character?
‘Oh yeah, you always use bits of yourself in a character,’ he grins. ‘I definitely share Tholly’s sense of mischief and anarchy!’
Back to his roots: Tholly returns to settle in Cornwall
Home and astray: Will the old rogue be a bad influence on ross?