Poldark preview with Aidan Turner

BFI preview

BFI preview

Wish all Mondays would end as nicely 🙂

I’ve always been reluctant to go out Monday night but I may change my mind after this if Monday evenings involve a trip to Cornwall. To clarify, this was not an actual trip to Cornwall, only on screen 😉 But I guarantee the views on screen will make you want to visit the actual place!

We were lucky enough to grab 2 tickets for the BFI (British Film Institute) preview of the first episode of Poldark, the new series made by Mammoth for the BBC. This will start airing in early March on BBC One in the Uk and if I understand correctly from June also in the US and more countries to follow. Some of you may be aware of the 40 years older BBC version, but this is not a remake of that series, it is a completely new adaptation over 8 episodes of the books (in this case the first 2 Winston Graham ‘Poldark’ books).

The evening entertainment contained not only the screening, but also a Q&A with main cast – Aidan Turner (Ross Poldark), Eleanor Tomlinson (Demelza Carne), writer Debbie Horsfield and director Ed Bazalgette (the panel was chaired by Emma Kennedy).

First things first, the episode. To give you a tiny idea of what it is like, here’s the trailer:

If you think this is exciting, it was much more so in full! The scenes in the trailer cover episode 2 as well I think. But it’s all there, the detail in interior scenes with really detailed costumes (though not overdone), the right lighting and truly breath-taking views of fields, beaches and costal lines in Cornwall. It will actually be hard to see this on the small screen going forward as it was an absolute pleasure to watch it on a screen that does justice both to the detail and the landscapes. And the sound is excellent, from subtle music to wonderful sounds of hooves thudding on fields and crunching on gravel. Add to this really clear diction and individual voices, each really suited to the personalities they represent.

The hour past in a flash and we were really startled when it came to an end. I’d forgotten this was just a 60 min episode, it felt cinema-film epic… I just wanted it to continue. As far as I can tell the script is good, it’s not too aged historically to make it hard to understand and I think it will be easy on the ears of all English speaking audiences, without feeling too contemporary. Natural, unfussed is the one word that comes to mind. There are enough silences and pauses in dialogue for one to make their own mind about the character and even more, to admire the expression on their faces. And let’s face it the close up to the characters are almost as beautiful as the landscapes 😉 But I think in all cases are talking about good acting here, not standing around looking good.

Ah, and we all really appreciated the subtle and no so subtle humour in the script. Ross Poldark is surprisingly outspoken at times and because it is not overdone or slapstick and delivered naturally, but not too dead-pan it is really effective. You get a sense of a character which is spirited and bright, but not too cocky 😉 And he’s not the only one providing the light elements, there’s a variety of villagers, servants, uncles and cousins, animals 😉 who contribute.

I was relieved to see that it lived up to its marketing hype and I was drawn in immediately and can’t wait to see more. It is good and promises even better things to come.

(click on thumbnails below for bigger versions, sorry they are a bit blurry and dark, my zoom is not the best and the camera ran out of battery as well..)

The Q&A fully confirmed the great chemistry between main characters as well as the good atmosphere within the cast. There are a lot of firsts, a first true leading role for Aidan, a unique developing female role for Eleanor, a first adaptation of books for  Debbie Horsfield. But there is an obvious team spirit there, built through a lot of research and a 6 months location driven shoot. The enjoyment on working on the project is obvious from the affection with which they talk about it and from the friendly banter.

From what I have seen so far, Bazalgette has really done justice to Cornwall, the skies were really dizzyingly deep and you just wanted to tumble in the grass in the fields. The cinematography is beautiful and it adds a wonderful depth to the atmosphere. But the landscape is not a set, it’s a character on its own, the mines are part of it, the houses, the crossroads to home and far away, etc.

There were loads of laughs during the Q&A: about Eleanor really pestering the casting director to be seen as initially they only wanted to see her for the role of Elizabeth; then about her showing up in her brother’s oversized Xmas jumper to the audition; about the health and safety challenges of riding along the coast; about Aidan’s decidedly physical approach to the manual labours of the work (including heaving massive stones on the wall around Ross’ house to the director’s concern about a potential hernia that would kill filming 😉 – they initially gave him polystyrene ones which he refused); about the romantic impact of riding a horse together but the massive discomfort that it creates for the rider in the back ‘ggg’; about the Cornwall sun induced tan (not always …. :-p) ; the casting director having the impossible task of choosing strong and handsome actors for the iconic leading parts and having to settle for ‘just’ good actors ;-); about how a scene really called for shallow waters (you’ll have to wait to see what is meant, suffice to say it caused endless hilarity and Aidan to blush) . Oh and most of the time was spent actually answering questions from the public.

And as you can see from the pic above the public was quite mixed, it was by no means mainly fans.

But it wasn’t all banter, there was a lot of discussion about the potential stress of being pitched against the memories of the very successful previous adaptation (on an aside, Robin Ellis who embodied the previous Poldark was very supporting of the project and will be back for 2 episodes in a role – another aside Robin Ellis is Jack Ellis’ brother – Danforth in the Crucible). About the pressure and the pleasure of playing such a role can bring.. it’s been said often it is a mixture of Darcy, Rochester, Heathcliff, etc and it really is 🙂 Also about what a rewarding character Demelza is, as few female characters in period drama have such scope of growth and development. About the challenges of moving from being almost a boy as Demelza to a married women with children across the story arch. There was also an interesting debate about film vs television and appreciation of great work that is currently being done for TV with a number of really good series on the small screen. Both actors remarked that they felt TV scripts they had seen recently were much better than what they had seen for films for example.

Both actors shared with us some insight about their favourite scenes and what they love most about their characters: Aidan admires Ross’ determination and grit, the fact that he just gets on with it and doesn’t wallow and Eleanor love the growth and fearlessness of her character.

All I can say is they were really warm and funny in person and very compelling on screen. Can’t wait to see more 🙂

As we were making our way to the exit more than 2h 30 min later we bumped into a spontaneous gathering, Aidan had been caught between fans coming back from the gents 😉 He very graciously stopped to sign and take pictures in spite of the late hour 🙂 He’s really sweet I have to say!

We didn’t get out books signed because too many people were gathering, we just looked on a few minutes and left looking back with smile 🙂 Ah the books, we received these for free as part of the presentation pack!

So, look out for this in your TV schedule and make sure you don’t miss it!

To take away - book 1, new issue ;-)

To take away – book 1, new issue 😉

For extra info, pretty spoiler -free there is the BBC media pack. Includes some nice interviews with the cast, writer and director.

And the Radio Times article hidden behind the photo below has more production stills newly released 😉

PS if you are the lady with the red hair in the last pics with Aidan and want me to take down the pics, please say so and i#ll do asap.

PPS  Sorry for no titles, descriptions to photos, the editing and the info it wants does my head in!

PPPS there was a lot of banter about the hair 😉 Aidan said seeing it on screen he was almost sorry he’d chopped it off! LOL