Aidan Turner: 'Poldark is not perfect and he doesn't try to be'
Aidan Turner is back in his breeches for a third series of Poldark, but while fans lap up the Cornish drama, he tells Susan Griffin why it can leave him cringing at times
Poldark fans might be waiting with baited breath for the return of the brooding Ross Poldark, but the man responsible for breathing life into the character has difficulty watching at times. It's the accent, explains Dubliner Aidan Turner, who adopts "a Posh British accent" for the Cornish drama.
"It's not always on point really," laughs the 33-year-old, casually dressed in jeans and a dark green T-shirt, his dark curly hair cut short. "That's why it's quite difficult to watch sometimes. You hear it slipping quite a bit."
The popular drama soon returns to our screens for season three and this time we're looking at a more mature Poldark.
"He's obviously getting older. I think drawing a line between the two families is what needs to happen," says the actor, referring to Poldark's frosty relationship with the ruthlessly ambitious George Warleggan (Jack Farthing).
"I think the last time they were fighting, it was George's head in the fire or something, and there are only so many places you can go from there.
"They're both fathers now and have a family to consider, so it's part of growing up. Ross is becoming more mature and his decisions are more measured... sometimes."
Turner points out Poldark was given a reality check when his long-suffering wife Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) threatened to walk out after learning he'd been unfaithful with his first love, Elizabeth (Heida Reed).
"She was leaving, she had her bags packed," he confirms. "It's only because he managed to pull it together at the last second that she stayed but I don't think he ever imagined she was going to leave. When she did, I think that's when it hit home, the severity of what he did. I don't think he really thought about it much before. I think he's conscious of not making the same mistakes again."
But then, Poldark's a man to put his head into thatching, scything, mining, or anything else that can distract him from the stark reality of a situation.
"If Ross isn't thinking about it or talking about it, it's not really happening. It doesn't exist," explains Turner, who played a vampire in the BBC Three series Being Human and the dwarf, Kili, in Peter Jackson's The Hobbit trilogy.
"There's a lot of denial, so he just keeps himself busy, taking his mind off that pressing concern until there's real reason to think about it. It's interesting playing someone like that. If he just involves himself with something else, he can detach himself from reality. It's quite a talent."
Debbie Horsfield, who's responsible for adapting Winston Graham's books, has revealed the action for series three is taken from The Black Moon and part of The Four Swans novels.
New faces will be popping up, including Demelza's brothers, the free-spirited Drake (Harry Richardson) and intensely religious Sam (Tom York).
"One of them is a staunch Methodist and I don't think Ross has a lot of time for that, but he puts up with them. But they're hard workers, they're good lads, slightly misguided Ross would imagine," says Turner.
The first episode opens with a heavily pregnant Elizabeth trying to gain control of her galloping horse, with Poldark in hot pursuit on the Cornish cliff-tops.
"I don't think I'm telling tales to say we went back to shoot it again a little bit. It was a tough one to get right, but it's always fun playing around on the horse."
The big question, of course, is whether the baby belongs to Poldark or Elizabeth's husband, Warleggan?
Given this is set in the 18th century, long before paternity tests, we'll never find out, but no doubt it's cause for even more tension. "It's a huge year, but then every year seems like a massive undertaking. There are different plots and storylines that don't necessarily relate to Ross's world," adds Turner, who's keen to delve deeper into Poldark and Demelza's relationship.
"It doesn't seem that long ago, really, since Ross took in this street urchin, this young girl, to work in his kitchen and now to see where they are is... it's good to grow up."
As for whether he'll be more considerate of his other half, he says: "I think he listens to her more, as she tends to be right most of the time, far more than he is, and he's recognising that."
But he believes it's Poldark's flaws that appeal to people.
"He's not a perfect human and he doesn't try to be," he says.
"He's quite courageous, he's ballsy. He's always going to go on the front foot. He's making decisions and helping people, too. He's not a selfish person and he's not a lazy person, and I think that's what I like most about him. He's always doing stuff, he's always thinking ahead if there are problems and issues and concerns, he's always trying to figure out ways to make it work."
A fourth series has already been confirmed, and asked why he thinks the show is so popular, Turner suggests that "there are a lot of hard-hitting crime dramas and this seems like an antidote to those types of shows".
But perhaps the actor, much like his alter-ego, is in denial, and the great appeal is Turner's topless scenes, whether scything in series one or mining in series two.
Is Poldark's chest making a cameo in series three?
"Am I keeping my clothes on?" he laughs, evidently playing for time.
"I think the clothes stay on this year. Maybe there's some topless sleeping... I don't know.
"Honestly, I swear to god, I can't remember."
- Poldark is back on BBC One later this month.