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A week today at roughly 5.05 pm the Reverend Dr Halse walked out of the card room on the ground floor of George Warleggan’s impressive mansion and disappeared.

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It had been a bruising encounter.

That pest, Poldark–more than a pest–a ruffian and a rogue–had challenged him and indeed any of his esteemed colleagues on the bench to “meet” him at any convenient time.

An outrage.

As he headed for the door he was heard muttering:

He is a traitor to his class and he WILL get his come-uppance–such men are dangerous and must not be tolerated!

Next meeting of the justices…!

If it were up to me alone, he’d be following Jim Carter to Bodmin Gaol or better still–the Antipodes.

And then he was gone–in a puff of self-righteous, sulfurous smoke.

*          *          *

In truth, he popped in a unit car and with Meredith by his side was driven the short distance to the unit camp.

There he was relieved of the wig and the costume and–Jekyll and Hyde-like–resumed his everyday guise as Robin.

In a trice the car was off again, speeding towards Bath and the London train.

All that was left of the Reverend Dr. Halse was a name on the dressing room door–

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a pile of sombre 18th century clerical clothes, a beautifully woven wig and a faint smell of sulfur in the air….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Friday–a long day in court!

I parked my behind on the “bench” at 8.30am and we wrapped at 5pm.
It was the full Montyred robe and full judicial wig–recognisable by nose alone!
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I wore my ministers’ costume beneath–all black–which kept me warm when all about were freezing.(Poor Meredith caught a chill and is in bed with a heavy cold!)
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Reverend Halse relaxes on the ice after a heavy day’s sentencing…

We were filming at Horton Court, outside Bristol, in an ancient hall dating back to Norman times–made up to look like a courtroom.
Beautiful, but dank and chilly even in mid-May.
Horton Court
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Actor prepares in the comfort of the Green Room! That small heater couldn’t quite cope with the arctic chill.

These days the shooting process is different.
Forty years ago we rehearsed for six days–then spent two days in the studio preparing to record it  at the end of the second day.
It was like a play–you had to know it all by heart!
Curtain up” at 7.30pm and “down” at 10pm. Best not to be in the last scene, which was always a race against the clock.
Now you film a certain number of pages each day (in our case on Friday about four or five).
There is no rehearsal.
Learn the lines and find out how best to play them on the job.
A little scary! For a while, I was thinking, “I’d rather be back in my kitchen….”
Then I started to get the hang of it.
When we wrapped at 5pm, the director, Ed Balzelgette, made a sweet remark to the assembly (many extras on hand) about the unusual circumstance of having two “Ross Poldarks” in the same room!
Everyone clapped–which was touching!
Aidan Turner (aka Ross Poldark) and I–all smiles–relieved we’d done it and happy we were smiling about it, shook hands warmly and vigorously.
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 I look forward to our next encounter in Episode 6.
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Relieved actor ready to derobe.

Now for the cooking workshop!

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First day’s filming today, on the NEW POLDARK.

The twittersphere is alive with anticipation as the cast and crew embark on the journey.

I’m looking forward to joining the caravan in May.

Jacqueline, make-up supremo, emailed this morning with ideas and images (facial hair!) and I’m already experiencing moments of anxiety about my first day.

First days are fraught.

My first day at my pre-prep school, aged 4, I left the school mid-morning and walked home– a mile at least.

A couple of days later, I’d fallen in love with beautiful Miss Rosemary and nothing could keep me away–much to my mother’s relief.

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From my memoir, Making Poldark, the first day’s filming in 1975 –a typical spring day in Cornwall:

It was bitterly cold and dank.

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Another bitterly cold and dank day!

We were in Towednack churchyard near St. Ives. I remember it well.

Contrary to rumour, I was born without a scar–so on went the first scar of many, made unromantically of glue; on went the make-up and the back-piece of hair.

My hair had been dyed darker with copper tints for the part.

I put on my black mourning coat–the scene was Uncle Charles’ funeral–and my specially-made boots and there I was: Captain Ross Poldark.

But as the day wore on and they still didn’t get to my bit, I began to wonder. I saw the director looking worried and thought at first it must be the weather.

Then I thought maybe it’s my hair, then my scar, then my FACE.

Then I thought: my God, it’s ME!

They don’t want ME!

They think they’ve made a mistake. They’re re-casting–the lines are hot to London and actors are streaming into the producer’s office with the sun in their eyes–it was fine in London–and they’re all Olympic equestrians.

Robin, will you come to the graveside please?’

Of course, I’ve got it–I mean–of course I will.’

I’d started at last.

 

Good luck to Aidan and Eleanor and everyone–(me included)!

 

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That was then!

The BBC have just announced the news–Mammoth Screen have offered me a cameo in their new production of Poldark.

Poldark has brought much joy to my life–I’ve often called them Poldark Perks–which doesn’t do them justice.

It continues to deliver.

I am delighted to be invited to play a role in the new venture which has got off to a flying start with superb scripts from Debbie Horsfield (I have just finished reading them) and a tremendous first tranche of principal casting.

I am cast as Dr. Halse–the clergyman with whom Ross shares the coach on his journey home to Nampara from Truro in the opening scene of the first series. Back then, a benign figure–in the new series he comes over as rather less so!

I fear I’ll be exchanging the marvelous leather coat and boots for drab, black church cloth and a sneer.

Joining the Cornish establishment that Ross so despises (though he was born into it) will be a challenge!

Joining the new Poldark will be exciting–but also poignant for me, bringing back many wonderful memories of 40 years ago.

Not least in my mind will be fellow members of the original cast–especially those no longer with us: the beloved Angharad Rees, Ralph Bates, Richard Morant, Frank Middlemas, Paul Curran and Mary Wimbush.

I’ll be there for their memory–and for the late Winston Graham–as well as for the intriguing prospect of acting with the new cast to help bring this wonderful saga to a new audience.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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and Ross Poldark remounts…

Today the BBC announced the name of the actor who is to play the lead in the re-working of the series  first screened in 1975.

Irish actor Aidan Turner has bagged it.

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Just needs to add the scar and he’s away!

Congratulations to him–I hope he has as much fun as we did filming this wild and wonderful saga written in 12 books over a sixty year period by Winston Graham.

Forty years ago this November I went for the first of three auditions for the part, knowing little about Winston Graham and less of the books.

A brief glance at the first book of the saga, Ross Poldark, was enough–I seriously wanted him to be me or vice versa.

I had to go through two more nail-biting sessions in front of producer and directors before finding myself in the position Aidan is in today….

…Cast to play Ross Poldark.

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Now–two generations on–this great piece of storytelling will be enjoyed again by millions on TV and in book form.

The time is right. The wheel of fashion turns and Poldark, an unashamedly romantic tale, can be told again with a straight face.

The new series has the advantage of being adapted from original books written by an exceptionally gifted storyteller–Winston Graham.

The characters develop at their own pace and seem responsible for their own destiny.

No visible puppeteer, no obvious manipulation–just the telling of stories through the characters involved.

Aidan and I share a common debt to Winston, for giving us the chance to play a difficult, contrary, complex man often out of his time.

It’s a roller coaster of a ride!

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As part of the publicity for my new cook book, Healthy Eating for Life, I was interviewed  a couple of weeks back for the The Daily Express’ popular Saturday morning feature:

Whatever Happened to ???! 

Which puts me in mind of theFive lives of an actor”:

Runs like this:

Who is Robin Ellis?

What about Robin Ellis?

We must have Robin Ellis!

We need someone like Robin Ellis….

Whatever Happened to Robin Ellis…??

The good thing is that this sequence can recycle more than once!

(Click on the article to get a bigger, readable version.)
ExpressArticleJan'12(Apologies to those who have already been subjected to this on Facebook.)

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For the past few days I’ve been holed up in bed with the “lurgie” (a tummy bug).

In a reversal of roles, Meredith has been cooking and caring (she was ill first)–serving up simple, delicious, restorative vegetable soup and scrambled eggs.

Yesterday I had stomach enough to read a brilliant piece in The Observer newspaper by food writer Jay Rayner challenging people’s reluctance to give a second try to food they have detested eating (or in my case, the thought of eating)–tripe for instance.

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It transported me back nearly 35 years to Madrid.

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Angharad and I were in Spain to promote Poldark, which was proving enormously popular there.

At that time there were only two TV channels–and the other one was devoted to parliamentary debates.

The visit was an extraordinary experience.

Two thousand plus fans at the airport to welcome us. We were mobbed everywhere we went–it felt momentarily like being a Beatle. (Nobody waiting for us at Heathrow on our return, however….)

Years before Angharad had spent some months in the city au pairing for the family of a well known psychiatrist–a friend and professional colleague of her father Professor Lynford Rees.

Her return had a particular resonance for her and the Spanish family.

To celebrate, they threw a lunch party for us at their home.

It was a moment of peace, an escape from the craziness of the celebrity culture that was new to me and which I was finding both exciting and at times hard to handle.

(At one point, the tabloid johnnies were crowding me with questions about how it was that at the age of 35 I wasn’t married. Angharad–sensing the danger of an explosion–whispered in my ear, “Smile, Robin, for heaven’s sake, SMILE!”.

The party was delightful, of course, except for one detail: The main dish was tripe in tomato sauce.

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Photo found on the Internet–but strongly resembling the dreaded dish.

Tripe, I’m told, is a delicacy in Spain–and cooked by an expert (I have to take Jay Rayner’s word for it) it’s delicious.

I eat most things–growing up in the fifties, fussiness about food was not encouraged in our house. The starving children in India featured often at meal times when a reluctance to polish off the last crumb was shown. My mother never tried tripe on us though.

I remember looking down at the plate I’d been offered and after a moment mastering feelings of politeness, guilt and hunger, turning discreetly away from the crowd and parking the plate of offal, untried, behind a palm tree.

There have been moments since–in Florence for example where street stalls selling steaming piles of tripe are a regular sight–when I have thought about giving it a second try. So far I have managed to resist the temptation.

Anyone else willing to own up to a food phobia?

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Time to “festival”!

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Here for a week in Edinburgh.

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First festival visit for nearly a quarter of a century–hard to believe how quickly the time flies.

We have achieved a modest total–for festival goers–of five plays, a variety show, a stand-up comedian, an art exhibit on the subject of witches and a talk by a lobby correspondent dishing the dirt on politicians, so far.

Meredith can count a visit to the book fair, a visit to the jazz club and ride on the bumper cars on top…

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…while I was taking 24 hours to go to London to be the studio guest on SATURDAY LIVE on BBC Radio 4.

Click below to listen to the programme (just until the end of the week!).

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0381fm9

p.s. Oh yes and a whisky tasting too!

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With our host, Steve, at the Scottish Malt Whisky Society Tasting Bar

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With fond memories of the late Angharad Rees

The BBC announced yesterday that Poldark is to be remade and will hit the screens in 2015–the 40th anniversary of the original showing.

Amazing news for everyone who loves a good story, for fans of the original, for Cornwall and for a whole new generation who are unaware of the rich pickin’s in Winston Graham’s saga.

His stories and characters are still being enjoyed 70 years after he wrote the first book in 1945. They still stand up–as many who contribute to this blog bear witness.

Our Winston was a master storyteller and we, the original cast, were lucky to be involved.

Mammoth Screen is the company producing the new version.

They have recently been responsible for Parade’s End and Endeavour (the prequel to Morse). Both period pieces done with a care and attention to detail that bodes well for the remake of Poldark.

Richard Morant, the first Dr. Enys, who died too young at 65 in 2011 was asked in a TV programme what made Poldark a success. He replied:

It’s about love—it’s about betrayal—the things that hurt us– the things that give us joy….Where people you know are going through their emotions, expressing their feelings of love, life and death–it evokes strong attachments, strong passion–and you love it! You love them, you love the people, you cherish them, you honour them, you respect them!”

Winston would have liked this explanation and I’m sure would have joined me in wishing Good luck to everyone involved in the new project.

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The second group of Bravehearts (participants in my cooking workshops here) are enjoying an aperitif in the sunshine, on the terrace of the magnificent and aptly named B & B, La Terrace de Lautrec.

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We are about to sit down to a well deserved final meal (prepared by us of course).

Lunch, al fresco, overlooking the historic parterre–newly-clipped and  immaculate.

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Suddenly we hear a ruckus from inside the house. The sound of a voice that has a familiar and unwelcome ring to me–is of a particular timbre.

Loud, angry and Scots! 

It triggers unpleasant memories and I find my overall sense of well being and satisfaction at completing a second workshop is swiftly turning into a feeling of anxiety–as I realise I am about to be nabbed!

Like the dour Scot he was back in the days of Poldark, dear old Captain McNeil never gave up the chase, it appears! His persistence (some would say his obsession) has finally paid off for him and I am cornered by a red faced redcoat on horseback!

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Donald Douglas as Capt. McNeil

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IevZBj6Yisw

Happily for all concerned, the redoubtable Captain (aka Donald Douglas), after agreeing to hang up his musket–sits down, at the head of the table and charms us all with his highland banter.

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Old enemies bury the past.

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