It’s been 40 years since Robin Ellis first played Ross Poldark in the BBC’s classic 1970s series, and now the veteran actor is making a guest appearance in the new version of Poldark on March 22 (BBC1, 9pm).
Looking very different from his dashing young Ross of 1975, 73-year-old Robin tells What’s On TV what it’s like to return to Poldark as a very different character…
How did you find stepping on to the set of a brand new Poldark?
“It wasn’t too strange, and everyone was so welcoming. It was an extremely nice experience, because walking into the make-up and costume departments brought back so many happy memories of my time as a working actor – not that I’m retired fully, I just don’t tend to do so much these days. It caused quite a flutter of excitement in me to hear all the characters’ names again, and I was in awe that the drama looked so wonderful. So it was an easy passage back into the Poldark world.”
What can you tell us about your character in this version of Poldark?
“Reverend Halse is a cantankerous elderly judge and a member of the gentry in Cornwall. He’s on the bench, judging Jim Carter, an employee of Ross Poldark who has been caught poaching. Halse is a thoroughly unpleasant character.”
How did you find doing Halse’s scenes with Aidan Turner, playing Ross Poldark?
“It was so strange for me, because I remember playing the same scene as Ross 40 years ago. Back then the courtroom had a similar atmosphere of aggression, with Ross trying to reason with the outraged gentry.”
Is there a big clash bewteen Halse and Ross Poldark in court?
“Oh yes, there’s a lot of back and forth with me as Halse and Aidan Tuner as Ross, and there’s such antogonism between them when Halse sentences Jim to two years hard labour, just for poaching. Ross of course is outraged, and questions the whole justice system and the decision, which gets him hot water with Halse. But that’s very Ross Poldark, he’s a very rebellious character.”
What do you think of Aidan Turner as Ross this time?
“Oh he’s wonderful. He’s extremely handsome and passionate, and I think he’ll prove very popular with Poldark viewers. I’d never seen him in previous dramas so I was coming fresh to him, and I was blown away.”
Was it special to have two actors who’ve played Ross Poldark – the old and the new – in such a tense scene?
“Yes, there was a buzz on set. At the end of the scene the director came over and said in front of the rest of the cast what an exceptional day it was to have two Ross Poldarks on set and doing a scene together. We were both chuffed.”
Did you swap stories with Aidan on what it’s like stepping into Ross Poldark’s boots?
“We didn’t really talk about the character at all. But Aidan was well occupied getting into the role, and learning the many lines. Ross is a huge part that carries the series, and he was playing it every day. So he didn’t have time to stand around and chat, though we did have a photograph session together (see above), which was very nice, and we talked then about his ballroom dancing sessions for a scene and his early days in Ireland.
“We had a dinner later on, but we didn’t talk much about the character. He had his own interpretation of Ross which was entirely right.”
You must have great memories of playing Ross, from 1975 to 1979?
“Yes I do and it’s great to still be remembered so fondly for being Ross Poldark by so many fans. All the cast got on so well back then so all the memories are really pleasant ones. So many of my co-stars from then like Angharad Rees and Ralph Bates have passed away, but they’d have been thrilled that Poldark is a hit all over again!”
*Poldark continues on BBC1 every Sunday at 9pm. Robin will appear as Reverend Halse on March 22.