Sweep­ing saga ‘Poldark’ re­turns to PBS

USA TODAY Weekend Extra - - LIFE - Jayme Deer­wester @jaymedeer­wester USA TO­DAY “They’re real peo­ple,” au­thor Win­ston Gra­ham says of Ross (Ai­dan Turner) and Demelza (Eleanor Tom­lin­son).

For many Amer­i­cans, Corn­wall is part of Duchess Camilla’s ti­tle or that town Will and Kate vis­ited re­cently.

But the rocky, windswept penin­sula on the south­west­ern coast of Eng­land is cen­tral to Mas­ter­piece’s sweep­ing late 18th-cen­tury drama Poldark. The drama re­turns for a sec­ond sea­son Sun­day (8 p.m. ET/PT) on PBS, which told the story once be­fore in a 1970s minis­eries.

“What re­ally sells the show is Corn­wall it­self,” says Ai­dan Turner, the 33-year-old Dubliner who plays the ti­tle char­ac­ter, Ross Poldark, and is now film­ing the show’s third sea­son. “In many ways, it’s like the west of Ire­land. It’s quite wild, and the land­scape is quite rus­tic. The cliffs are beau­ti­ful.”

Those pic­turesque cliffs pro­vide the back­drop for his char­ac­ter’s fre­quent horse­back rides to and from his fam­ily’s crum­bling es­tate and the cop­per mine he re­opens af­ter re­turn­ing home from the Amer­i­can Revo­lu­tion­ary War in 1783, in an at­tempt to re­verse his fad­ing for­tunes. In post-war Corn­wall, fam­ily names are all that’s left for the aris­toc­racy, which has mort­gaged land and mines to new power bro­kers: the ris­ing class of mer­chant bankers.

Ross, who feels a deep con­nec­tion and re­spon­si­bil­ity to his ten­ant min­ers, prefers their com­pany, to the landed gen­try’s con­ster­na­tion. Last sea­son, af­ter his long­time sweet­heart El­iz­a­beth (Heida Reed) mar­ried his wealth­ier cousin Fran­cis (Kyle Soller), he wed his kitchen maid Demelza (Eleanor Tom­lin­son) on a lark, but the two even­tu­ally found last­ing love to­gether.

“I think the im­por­tant thing to re­mem­ber is Demelza may grow through­out the se­ries; how­ever, she never be­comes landed gen­try like El­iz­a­beth,” Tom­lin­son notes. “She is al­ways mind­ful of her roots, and I think that’s why peo­ple love her. She’s re­lat­able.”

Poldark ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer Deb­bie Hors­field, who has writ­ten ev­ery episode, has echoed au­thor Win­ston Gra­ham’s goal in por­tray­ing their re­la­tion­ship in the books that in­spired the se­ries. “His aim in writ­ing th­ese books was to chart the jour­ney of a good mar­riage,” she says. “And by that, he didn’t mean a per­fect mar­riage, but the story of two peo­ple who stuck to­gether through thick and thin, even in the face of very se­ri­ous chal­lenges,” in­clud­ing fi­nan­cial dif­fi­cul­ties and the loss of their first child, Ju­lia.

The chal­lenges come quickly in Sea­son 2, as Ross stands trial for spear­head­ing the loot­ing of a mer­chant ship that wrecked in wa­ters just off his prop­erty, aware of the fact it was owned by his arch-en­emy Ge­orge War­leg­gan, an in­se­cure, new-money banker played by Jack Farthing. “They want to do a lot of dam­age to each other, both to their rep­u­ta­tions around town and phys­i­cally,” Turner ex­plains. “It’s quite a grue­some thing, ac­tu­ally. Ge­orge ac­tu­ally wishes Ross dead.”

Another ma­jor point of con­tention be­tween Ross and Ge­orge is El­iz­a­beth, the girl who broke Ross’ heart and is the ob­ject of Ge­orge’s un­re­quited af­fec­tion. De­spite be­ing one of the rich­est men in town, he’s still looked down upon as new money.

With her old fam­ily name, El­iz­a­beth could be the key that fi­nally un­locks Cor­nish so­ci­ety to him.

“She’s revered in so­ci­ety and very beau­ti­ful,” Turner says of El­iz­a­beth. “She can of­fer him chil­dren. It seems like a nat­u­ral pro­gres­sion for Ge­orge.”


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