Belfast Telegraph

Actress Ellise Chappell: 'I was on my way to a cafe to ask for my job back when I got the Poldark role'


As the very naive Morwenna, Ellise Chappell is proving to be one of the shining lights in the current run of Poldark. Ahead of the penultimate episode of series three, Susan Griffin chats to the rising star about the perks of peppermint tea and pinch-me moments.

What a difference a few months in the world of Poldark can make, as the sweet and innocent Morwenna is discovering to her detriment.

One of a number of new faces introduced at the beginning of the current run, we've witnessed Elizabeth's cousin and former governess fall in love with Ross Poldark's brother-in-law, Drake Carne.

The pretty pair even promised to marry before Elizabeth's dastardly husband, George, ensured that plan was put to rest.

As Debbie Horsfield, who's adapted the story from the Winston Graham novels, has said: "They inadvertently got mixed up in the Warleggan and Poldark feud and they're innocent casualties of that. It's very much Romeo and Juliet in that they're from warring families."

When it looked like Drake would hang by the noose, Morwenna allowed herself to be blackmailed, as she tells her sister, "to save the life of the man I loved" and now finds herself pregnant and wed to the gruesome Osborne Whitworth, a vile and violent man she refers to as "a monster".

"Her struggle comes from what her heart is telling her and her duties," explains actress Ellise Chappell, who plays Morwenna in the hit BBC show.

"She's become a pawn in George's constant games and he uses her to further his own aspirations, which is sad because as much as she has the courage to try and take control of her own life, ultimately that is taken away from her."

There are two more episodes before the final credits roll on series three on Sunday, August 6, and it's unclear whether Morwenna and Drake (Harry Richardson) will enjoy a happy ever after. Chappell hopes they do.

"Morwenna has certain qualities and Drake has certain qualities that they're just like a jigsaw puzzle, they just kind of fit," she says. "I think that Drake pulls out certain qualities in Morwenna that she didn't realise she had and I think vice versa. So I think it's just a sweet, lovely relationship."

It could be said there is an element of fate at play in Chappell's casting.

Ellise Chappell with fellow stars Harry Richardson and Tom York

Karen Thrussell, Poldark's executive producer, used to frequent the cafe that she once worked in.

"I had previously served her coffee. I like to think it was all meant to be," exclaims Chappell, who was on her way back to the very same cafe "to ask for my job back" when she got the call to say the role was hers.

"I just kind of turned around and skipped home," she laughs.

As fans of the show, her parents couldn't have been happier to hear her news.

"My mum just hysterically laughed for about five minutes. She couldn't believe it. She was just like, 'Oh my god'. That's all she really said and was so over the moon, as was my dad," she explains.

Chappell doesn't deny she felt "quite nervous" at the thought of joining an established cast such as Poldark's "but everyone was so wonderful".

"It's a cliche, but I really did feel so welcome straight away and everyone was just brilliant and relaxed," she says.

And the Cornish setting wasn't too drab either. "It was just beautiful," she recalls.

"We all hung out most evenings. We would make dinner together and we played a lot of board games, specifically Bananagrams. Although I never won a single game.

"There were so many pinch-me moments when it would be gorgeous weather, a beautiful breeze and you would just be sat like, 'Woah, this is my Monday!' It was so amazing".

Ellise with Harry Richardson, who plays Drake Carne

Chappell is in fact half-Cornish as her dad hails from the county.

"It was incredible really as I mentioned some of the locations we were filming on and he told me he had ridden horses on those exact beaches as a young boy, which was really amazing," says the actress.

She also confesses that it's something of "a childhood dream" to appear in a period drama and so couldn't complain too much at finally getting to wear a corset.

"It's really fun. Obviously getting used to it was one thing. It does really help pulling you into the idea of being in that society, the way you have to hold yourself. We are lucky in the sense that we have some elastic to help with our breathing in the corset.

Troubled love: Ossie Whitworth (Christian Brassington), who marries Morwenna

"Peppermint tea I've discovered after lunch helps with digestion and I just tend to eat fish and vegetables (on set), which are lighter."

Chappell only has two other professional acting credits to her name so far - New Blood, alongside Anna Chancellor, and The Last Dragonslayer, opposite Matt Berry, which both aired last year.

"Poldark's a massive contrast, which is so amazing. I'm so lucky to have got these very different roles in one year - and very grateful," says the actress, who no doubt is set to return for series four when it begins shooting this autumn.

Apart from that, she's unsure what the future holds.

"It's really scary but also part of the excitement. I'm just thinking what amazing opportunities these are."

Poldark, Sunday, BBC1, 9pm

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