Poldark star Vincent Regan on Ned Despard as he prepares to die: ‘He’s a bit like Butch Cassidy!’

Poldark stars Vincent Regan and Kerri McLean reveal how Ross Poldark’s friend Ned Despard faces the gallows for treason in episode six, which is on this Sunday (18th August)…

Ross Poldark’s renegade Irish friend Ned Despard is in deep trouble and his days appear to be numbered! After his dramatic arrest, Ned’s on trial for treason in this week’s Poldark and it looks like even our Cornish hero Ross (Aidan Turner) won’t be able to save him from the gallows this time! Poldark baddies Joseph Merceron (Tim Dutton) and Ralph Hanson (Peter Sullivan) have conspired against Ned from the start.

And when they manage to get Ned sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered, Ross stages a jailbreak in a last desperate bid to free his friend – but is it too late..?

Here, Vincent Regan, who stars as Ned Despard, and Kerri McLean, who plays Ned’s wife Kitty Despard, tell What’s On TV about the tragedy that awaits the Despards and how their two Poldark characters are based on real-life historical figures…

Ned Despard is found guilty of treason this week. But he’s been stitched up, hasn’t he?

Vincent Regan: “Yes, so Ned’s fallen foul of the mahogany industry, including Ralph Hanson (Peter Sullivan), who has basically stitched him up by saying he’s been acting against the interests of the Crown. There’s a real fear that the monarchy will be overthrown in a revolution just like in France and Ned Despard’s seen as an obvious person for the establishment to stick all the pins into – he’s an easy scapegoat. So he’s sentenced to be hung, drawn and quartered because they want to make an example of him.”

But Ned’s been his own worst enemy and hasn’t taken Ross Poldark’s advice to lie low…

Kerri McLean: “Yes, the difference between Ned Despard and Ross Poldark is that Ross knows how to play the game and Ned doesn’t, which is why you see his demise!”

Vincent Regan: “Absolutely! Ned engages his mouth before he engages his brain on quite a few occasions. He’s an impulsive person and his impetuous behaviour gets him in real trouble. Ned and Ross are a bit Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, though Ned’s a bit too Butch Cassidy and not enough Sundance Kid!”

Ralph Hanson has been out to get Ned Despard

Mahogany trader Ralph Hanson has been out to get Ned Despard from the start…

Kitty Despard’s now pregnant with their longed-for child. How does she cope with her husband facing the gallows?

Kerri McLean: “Actually Kitty Despard is quite formidable, she’s really intelligent and a bit of a force, so she’s writing letters and being an activist. She’s quite strategic and she’s extremely determined to free him. Their story is so captivating.”

Ross Poldark then decides to stage a jail break to try to save his friend from the gallows. What happens?

Vincent Regan: “So Ross tries to get Ned out of jail and just at the end Ned says to Ross that Ross is everything that he wanted to be. It’s a really interesting relationship between them. It’s so nice to see central characters acting in very altruistic ways and working with the best motives – Ned’s very aware of Ross’s goodness.”

Ned and Kitty Despard

Poldark’s Ned and Kitty Despard are based on real-life characters in history

Both Kitty and Ned Despard are based on real-life characters, aren’t they?

Vincent Regan: “I hadn’t heard about Ned Despard until I started on Poldark, but yes, he was a real person. I did a level of research for it and you can get the pamphlet online which goes through verbatim the whole treason trial. I’d hate for Poldark viewers not to be aware that Ned was a real character and there was an injustice when it came to how he was treated by the state.”

Kerri McLean: “There’s actually not a lot written about Kitty Despard. It’s just astounding how as a black woman she’s kind of been written out of history, even though she was writing letters to the prime minister to try to get Ned pardoned. I feel honoured to be giving her a voice!”

* Poldark continues on BBC1, Sundays at 9pm

Interview by  Hannah Davies