In the run up to the premiere of the second season of BBC period drama Poldark we’ve got interviews with the cast, here Eleanor Tomlinson, who plays Demelza Poldark, talks about playing such a strong character and filming in glorious Cornwall.
Eleanor Tomlinson is extremely proud to be playing one of prime time’s strongest female roles, Demelza Poldark.
“It’s an honour to play such an exciting and strong female character, it’s very rare that these roles come along and it’s brilliant to be given the opportunity. Demelza is so strong and also very modern in ways, her ideas and the way she lives her life. That’s what, I think, is so lovable about her – you can relate to her; to her situation and struggles.
She’s very realistic; she certainly doesn’t sit there sipping tea when there are jobs and chores to be done or people to help. There’s also this rebellious streak in her. If Ross is going to misbehave why should she stay at home and be the loving wife who is forgotten?”
The last time the audience saw Demelza was in pretty devastating circumstances and unfortunately her situation isn’t much better at the offset of the new series.
“The series opens as powerfully as it finished. Ross is on trial and is going to be hanged if found guilty so it’s a very emotional time. She’s also pregnant but doesn’t know it yet, she finds out during the trial. That’s obviously a huge deal, having lost Julia so tension are running very high.”
Eleanor feels the relationship between Demelza and Ross is authentically depicted, allowing audiences to engage with and understand it.
“Their relationship is certainly very real. I think that’s what people love about Ross and Demelza that they can relate to their issues and their problems. There’s jealousy and another woman involved so it’s classic really, very modern in many ways. There’s lots of exciting highs and lows, there’s a great journey that their relationship goes on and the question is will it stand the test of time?”
One person who continues to test their relationship is Ross’ first love, Elizabeth. Eleanor reveals a little about the turbulent relationship between these women.
“Demelza and Elizabeth have an uneasy relationship, she is irritated by Elizabeth, always threatened by her but she is trying her best to make things work and they are family at the end of the day. The most important thing to Demelza is family and she doesn’t want any animosity which is why at the end of series one we see her asking Ross to promise that they will try and mend this family rift between him and Francis so that Julia’s death wasn’t in vain. But as it goes on the relationship between the two women becomes almost impossible.”
Whilst her character faces challenges, Eleanor too has had to become pretty hardy for the role, filming scenes in the freezing and at times, choppy sea.
“For one scene I was filming in a fishing boat and I get terribly seasick so I was terrified. The waves were insane so it was quite dangerous but it was great fun. The crew definitely bonded on that day, as it was really rough! Of course, Demelza is pregnant when she’s doing that too – nothing stands in her way. She has family to feed at home – it wouldn’t occur to her to sit around and wait for Ross to do it she is perfectly capable, just because she’s pregnant doesn’t mean she has to stop.
I mean there’s not a lot I wouldn’t do for the sake of a scene and I think it worked really well, I haven’t seen it but I hope it did. It’s things like that that make iconic moments in series and I hope it was one of those but it was blooming freezing!”
Whilst being thrown about in the cold sea may be difficult, Eleanor feels extremely lucky to be playing this role.
“It’s the stuff dreams are made of really. When you think about what you have done at work and you think I was galloping side saddle in period costume, on a beach or along a cliff – it’s amazing!”
And she was very happy to be back filming against the beautiful backdrop of Cornwall.
“I love Cornwall; it’s glorious and so much the heart of this show. Sometimes you forget the part it plays until you get there and suddenly everything makes sense. It’s just so lovely to see what it’s all about, to see the mines and the history of this story.”
Wanting to stay true to the Cornish roots of the show, Eleanor worked with a voice coach again this series to perfect her accent.
“With Cornwall and the Cornish people being so much at the heart of this series, I’m so desperate to do them proud that the accent is always scary because I want to get it right for them. I just wanted Demelza’s accent to soften this series; she always stays true to her roots but I wanted to take the edge off and for it to become slightly more refined.”
Eleanor was also keen on representing Demelza properly through costume.
“She is never a lady really and so all her clothes need to be very practical. They have no money so she doesn’t have anything new; you see the same outfits again because she lives and dies in the same clothes and I was quite adamant about that. The costume designer was fantastic in creating that realistic image for Demelza.
I think we’re all in corsets this year which makes you stand correctly and although they may not be so comfortable it is an image and it works so well. You do hold yourself differently. As soon as the costume goes on I feel like I become the character, which is great.”
The most recognisable feature of Demelza’s costume is her red hair, which Eleanor has become attached to now.
I love it. I’ve dyed my hair every colour under the sun but I think this is my favourite. I’ll definitely keep it, I feel like it is strong and I gain a certain confidence by having it and I like that.”
Poldark series 2 premieres on BBC One on Sunday 4 September at 9.00pm, you can read our interview with Aidan Turner here.