Posts Tagged ‘Making Poldark’

Winston Graham–who would have been 112 today (!)–and all things Poldark have featured in my life since the day I walked into BBC-TV Centre, for my first audition for the role of Ross Poldark in January, 1975.

Of course, I had no inkling then how significant the outcome of that test might be for me.

I wrote about it in Making Poldark:

It was a lovely sunny day, I remember, and I was going to an interview at the BBC. Another interview! I’d been to hundreds before. I’d been to three in this particular building—and I’d got all three jobs. What had my agent said? It’s for a thing called Poldark, written by a man whose name rang a bell—Winston Graham—and set in 18th century Cornwall.

I sat facing the sun in the producer’s office, my eyes twitching, and thinking of the third degree. As always happens, he covered the awkwardness of the situation by giving me an outline of the story while looking me up and down and through and through. The subtext of first interviews is always more interesting than the scene itself.

“Thanks for coming in. Of course, I’m seeing others for this part….I want to get it right—but very good to meet you at last. I’ve wanted to use you for some time.”

I found a bookshop in Gloucester Road, bought the books and attacked Ross Poldark for the rest of the afternoon.

I went through two more of these interviews and read a scene or two for the directors. By the end of the third interview I was quite keen to get the part.

The rest is history–a history that keeps refreshing itself.

Bonne Anniversaire, Winston!

I have much to thank you for.

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Sunday night’s splendid finale to the second series involved a scene which brought back vivid memories for me.

Here’s what I wrote in my memoir, Making Poldark, about the studio recording of the miners attack on Trenwith–the final episode of our first series.


We finished the series with a bang – in fact we nearly burned down the BBC Television Centre. The last scene to be done in the studio was the burning of Trenwith – from the inside.

This was another diversion from the books – where Trenwith was kept well intact by Winston Graham. For television it was felt a more dramatic climax was needed and what better than the burning down of the bosses’ home by the disaffected and starving miners.

The set was a fine recreation of an eighteenth century upper-class living room filled with a mixture of real antique and good reproduction furniture and objets d’art. Well in line with the BBC tradition of authenticity, it had cost a fair amount to bring it together.

With the miners in this mood any thoughts of negotiation or arbitration were clearly out of the question. It was simply a matter of looking after one’s own and everyone for himself. The miners attacked through the windows of the drawing room where Ross was trying to persuade George Warleggan to run for his life; Elizabeth was there as George’s wife and Demelza arrived with the news that the attack was imminent.

It was the finale – the `walk down’ and in came the miners, professional extras who had been given instructions to set light to the place with their burning torches. This they did in a most professional manner. Original eighteenth century furniture was smashed and burned. But nobody said `Cut and so this bizarre spectacle continued, until things got so hot that the action ground to a halt and an instinctive responsibility prevailed.

It was a spectacular ending to an eventful nine months – and a few questions were asked.

Exhausted, we all went to the party at Angharad’s house. We’d been looking forward to it and it was not a disappointment. Two hundred people were there and it finished at 8 a.m. the next morning.

And so ended the first series of Poldark.

Well–“A more dramatic climax”?

I haven’t re-screened the seventies version–but Sunday night’s was pretty dramatic!

And I fancied Aidan’s approach, parting the angry red sea of miners.

My horse, Dennis, would have relished the drama of that–he was a natural born star and a bit of a show-off.

This was a terrific episode; for American viewers–a couple of episodes behind–something exciting in store!


Just eight books to go…!




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Yesterday the audio version of Making Poldark became available for download via Audible, Amazon or iTunes.



Below, I’m re-posting my account of recording it way back in January.


Just back from UK where I recorded my memoir of Poldark as an audio book–with an extra chapter about taking part in the new BBC/Mammoth version–40 years after doing the original!


Two days in a small, soundproof booth in a basement recording studio in Hove in Sussex, while the wind and the rain raged above ground.

I was fortunate to have three helpmates in the studio running the show–and keeping my nose to the microphone.

Chris Daniels, sound engineer, owns the studio and is a member of that fraternity of calm console operators who are never flustered.


They have seen it all before–and behave as though they read the first verse of Rudyard Kipling’s poem, IF, before sitting down to work:

If you can keep your head when all about you
    Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
    But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
    Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
    And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
    And you’ll be make a Sound Engineer, my son!
(With apologies to Mr. Kipling.)
My old friend, Constantine de Goguel Toulouse-Lautrec–his grandmother was in St. Petersburg in the October Revolution of 1917 and survived–sat in the producer’s seat and guided a rusty performer through the sessions with grace and years of experience.
He’s a fine actor and an experienced dialogue coach for movies.
He also runs Spoken Ink–subtitled “The Home of Short Audio“–well worth checking out.
Meredith made up the triumvirate as back-up producer keeping a beady eye on the script and an ear out for things that could be better (like the American pronunciation of “Potomac”!).
Her occasional ripple of involuntary laughter was a morale boost for The Man in the Sound Proof Booth!
The project is in post production now. When complete, we’ll announce it here.

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My memoir of MAKING POLDARK–with a chapter on how I got involved in the 2015 adaptation of Winston Graham’s romantic saga, and behind-the-scenes photos taken during the shooting of the new series–is NOW AVAILABLE FOR PRE-ORDER on Amazon.

(The book is currently available only on Amazon USA.)


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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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Making Poldark has been Nooked at last!

Nick it on NOOK–it’s a steal!

It’s available now on NOOK.

Making Poldark: Memoir of a BBC/Masterpiece Theatre Actor
Making Poldark: Memoir of a BBC/Masterpiece Theatre Actor
by Robin Ellis
This revised version came out in April 2012 and is greatly expanded–including new photos from Winston Graham’s personal Poldark photo album.
And while we are at it…
Delicious Dishes for Diabetics
Delicious Dishes for Diabetics 

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…from the local Amazon service in the UK, France, Italy, Germany  and Spain!

The postage and packaging charges should be significantly cheaper than when ordering it from the US.

The revision is 9000 words longer and tells the sad story of the how the promising third series of Poldark failed to materialise– plus further stories of life after Poldark, including our move to France and how a passion for cooking and a diagnosis of Type Two diabetes had very positive consequences…

There are many more photos, some from Winston Graham’s private collection, taken when he and his wife Jean joined us on location in Cornwall during the filming of the second series.

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Originally written and published by a small Cornish publisher in 1978–Making Poldark was updated in 1987 when the BBC aired the series again.

When I heard that Acorn Media were going to make Poldark available in a double DVD set for the first time in the United States, it seemed like a good opportunity to take another look at the book to see if it was worth updating again.

This extended version is the result. With many more photographs, some from Winston’s own album of photos he took while with us on location for the second series (published with the kind permission of his son, Andrew Graham).

It covers both the professional and the personal.

The original was a light-hearted memoir of the making of the series.

The new edition includes an account of how and why the plan to make a third series ended so badly–a sad and disappointing tale–enlivened towards the end by The Poldark Appreciation Society’s valiant and colorful protest campaign.

It sketches in the intervening years which have seen our move to France, my diagnosis with Type Two diabetes and the publication of Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

There are  two versions of the new edition. One is a color-enhanced Collectors Edition, the other is a standard black & white version.

They are available via the website, CreateSpace: 

 The Black and White version $14.99

Colour version $24.99

or http://www.Amazon.com/.

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This blog, was set up at the end of January 2011 to help promote my book of recipesDelicious Dishes for Diabeticswhich was published on the 4th of August in The UK and on November 1st in the USA.

Today I’m publishing my 200th post!

To mark the  occasion, here’s a review of the book we discovered yesterday on an interesting site targeted at book lovers:

Delicious Dishes for Diabetics

Robin Ellis (Author)

Better known for his role as the dashing Captain Ross in the 1970s BBC series ofPoldark, the writer having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes was determined to manage his condition through life style changes rather than medication.

This is a very well written, visually attractive, concise cookbook, which appeals to diabetics and non-diabetics alike. It is organised in clear sections, from Soups in Section 1, through to Grains and Pulses in Section 11.

Instead of the usual photos of dishes, there are enchanting illustrations instead.

The recipes are tantalizing; Farinata (Pancake), Comfort Lentils and Caponata, to name just a few. My only criticism is that a few healthy puds or cakes could have been included as there is no sweet section.

The book is based on the ‘Mediterranean’ diet; plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, whole grains, fish etc.

It really appealed to me, firstly being vegan vegetarian and secondly with Type 2 diabetes in my family. This book would make an ideal gift.

Reviewed by: Alison B-Hill – Bradford

How did I come to write a cookbook?

I tell that story in my updated memoir, Making Poldark.

That slim volume is being republished later this year, to coincide with the release in American of the boxed set of Poldark dvds by Acorn Media. I thought I’d share an excerpt of the new chapter with my blog readers….

“Why don’t you write a cookbook Robin?”.

A cookbook? That’s a bit of a leap!

I liked to cook—in fact that’s mainly what I did now.

Twice a day I cooked (still do)—lunch and dinner–and did the marketing.

But a cookbook…?

Weren’t there too many cooks writing too many cookbooks?

And I wasn’t a professional.

It was flattering that friends suggested it though.

My resistence stayed firm for some time–for a few years in fact. I was happy cooking for Meredith and friends who came to visit.

I continued collecting recipes and pasting them in a red foolscap notebook—Ma had done the same in a blue one. We clearly shared a compulsive urge to look for recipes that work.

Brother Jack and sister-in-law Christine kept my bookshelves up-to-date with the newest cookbooks—as did friends who knew I’d be delighted with any new addition.

The pressure was growing though!

When Meredith noticed me writing up a few recipes for the fun of it, she began to say at lunch and dinner tables, “Robin’s writing a cookbook”!

“Really–what a good idea!”

“Um—yes. I’m enjoying it—we’ll see….”

Then on subsequent visits the first question to me was:

“How’s the cookbook going, Robin?”

“Um–fine thanks–slowly.”

About four years ago I’d started working with a laptop—more practical than the desktop in my office.

One afternoon I found myself sitting in the shade under the trees in the garden, experimenting with an introduction to the putative book!

Clearly I had started believing in the idea myself.

The following summer a friend emailed me from her home in the Basque country asking for recipes. She knew I liked to cook, and was too busy working to do much searching for new dishes.

It was a tipping point.

I realised I had a range of interesting recipes ready to send off.

These later formed the basis of the collection that Meredith packaged up to send to potential publishers, testing the waters.

The response was friendly but unproductive.

Unless you are a TV chef/cook or have a current celebrity profile, it is hard to interest that cash-strapped world.

It is tough out there.

Meredith then had a brainwave. It was obvious in a way, but one doesn’t always see clearly what is staring you in the face. 

There was nothing in the proposed book that I didn’t eat on a daily basis and I had been diagnosed 10 years earlier with type 2 diabetes. Meredith ate the same meals as me and didn’t feel deprived. This could be a book of everyday eating for diabetics that the entire family could enjoy too.

The title came later.

Delicious Dishes for Diabetics.

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A Hundred and Fifty Two posts and…

…I’m going to have a few days off.

Partly to finish the update of a book I wrote years ago called Making Poldarkand partly to have a few days off!

Back in 1978 I was commissioned by Bossiney Books (a small publisher in Cornwall)  to write an account of the filming of the two series. I updated it in 1987 and it had a life with the issue of the videos and the DVDs (only recently released in the United States).

Acorn Media are issuing a box set of both series in the USA soon and are including, as a special “extra”, the first chapter of my original memoir. That inspired me to begin work on a further update.

Here’s a “sneak preview” of the draft of the new chapter:

Making PoldarkPART 3

Twenty five years on and I’m living in a Presbytère—(priest’s house– the last priest moved out 90 years ago)—deep in the countryside of SW France with an American wife, Meredith, six cats and a hen.

I shop in the local markets and cook for the two of us twice a day. I’ve written a cookbook for Type Two diabetics and blog most days about that, cooking and the life here.

 What happened to the actor who for years feared the day he discovered he didn’t need to act anymore?

What happened to the townie who found the countryside beautiful–but dull–and couldn’t wait to get back to the city on a Sunday night?

 Well—“life moves on” is the easy answer, but that won’t do.

 When we reissued Making Poldark in the late 80s, Meredith and I were living in a Victorian house in north London, not far from where I grew up around Hampstead.

London is blessed with large parks and Hampstead Heath was a brisk walk away—you can lose yourself in the woods there and make believe you are in the countryside and still be a 15 minute walk from the local movie house.

 I had never thought of owning a second home in the sticks—let alone in France. (I knew Italy better and went to Florence regularly—I love the Italian kitchen.)

It was a shock then to hear myself asking the friends of Hughes Rudd—Meredith’s colleague and friend from ABC News in New York, who had retired down here–if they knew of anyone selling a house. 

More shocking still—having visited the house Hughes’ friends came up with—to find myself offering the owner the asking price five hours later! Not exactly businesslike, but the truth was I’d fallen in love (coup de foudre)—again.

 Meredith, coup de foudre no. 1 (lightning strike) in 1986, and I were getting married in the summer and though she thought the house was a gem—she must have been asking herself : “Do I need this and a wedding to see to?”

 We were married at the Rosslyn Hill Chapel in Hampstead in August and had our reception at the London Zoo.

We honeymooned at the empty house in the Tarn—empty apart from a couple of large beds a friend had made and some cardboard furniture.

The year was 1990.

To be continued…!

Thanks everyone for your continuing support–I am getting a big kick from doing it–and from reading your comments.

A trés bientôt…


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