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Guest Star Goodness: Poldark’s Robin Ellis

As the first season of Poldark comes to an end, it’s only fitting that we pay tribute to Robin Ellis, the actor who portrayed Ross Poldark in the original television series.

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Robin appeared this season in episode 3 and last week in episode 6. He replaced his tricorn hat with a judicial wig and a new role. This time he played the very rigid Reverend Halse – the man who sent Jim Carter (Alexander Arnold)  to prison for poaching – and ultimately to his death. I’ve met Robin. He’s completely opposite of the character he portrayed this season.

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Fans of the original series (including myself) were delighted to see him “unofficially” turn over the role of Ross Poldark to Aidan Turner. I like to call it: Poldark vs. Poldark!

Photo Credit: Nick Kenyon

Photo Credit: Nick Kenyon

Earlier this year, Robin Ellis released an updated edition of his book, Making Poldark: Memoir of a BBC/Masterpiece Theater Actor.

Photo Credit: Courtesy BBC

Photo Credit: Courtesy BBC

This is the fourth time it has been published.  It first hit the shelves in 1978. This time it includes an expanded chapter about his role in the new television adaptation of Poldark. It’s available in print, via Kindle and on Audible.com. I listened to the audio book and it was simply delightful.

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Robin narrates the entire book. It’s pleasing hearing his voice. He tells tales of what took place behind-the-scenes during the filming of his Poldark and shares many other stories too.

“It was bitterly cold and dank on the first day’s filming. We were in Towednack churchyard near St. Ives. On went the first scar of many, unromantically of glue; on went the make-up and the back piece of my hair. My hair had been dyed darker with copper tints for the part. I put on my Black Mourning coat – the scene was Uncle Charle’s funeral – and my specially made boots and there I was: Captain Ross Poldark.”

Each and every chapter in Making Poldark reveals a little bit more. If you buy the book or the Kindle edition, they both include memorable photos. It’s a must read for all Poldark fans! I believe it bridges the gap between Poldark -the old and new. For those of you who have never watched the first series, or someone like me, who enjoys watching it over and over again, here’s a look at the original trailer – courtesy of AcornMediaUS.

It seems like a lifetime ago and maybe it is; after all, it’s been 40 years since Poldark originally aired in the UK. The first series hit the airways in 1975 and included 16 episodes. Two years later – in 1977 – the second series aired and included 13 episodes. The ’70s mega-hit covered the first seven books – Ross PoldarkAngry Tide. Here’s a clip from the original series – even new Poldark fans will recognize these characters – Ross Poldark (Robin Ellis), Demelza (Angharad Rees), Verity Poldark (Norma Streader), and Captain Blamey (Jonathan Newth)

A few years later, Winston Graham continued writing the Poldark saga. He wrote The Stranger from the Sea – it was published in 1981. Eventually, it was made into a television movie; however, the original cast did not appear in it. That being said, Robin and his late and beloved co-star, Angharad Rees, were approached to reprise their roles as Ross and Demelza. In the end, neither one of them participated in the project. In the chapter entitled, ” The Series That Never Was,” Robin describes problems with the script, deadlines and other issues.

“Back in the UK it all went wrong. The formal negotiations over our fees became a confused nightmare. The fee offer from HTV was drastically reduced – by half! Our agents had agreed to our salary back in February – but no documents had been signed. The gentleman’s agreement was apparently being jettisoned. Back and forth it went with very little coming forth from the company. They were not giving an inch on anything – and I felt bad about it.”

The movie eventually aired in 1996. It wasn’t a total loss, at least from my point of view. A budding star, named Ioan Gruffudd played the role of Jeremy Poldark. Since that time, Ioan has gone on to do many movies and television series, including his most recent role as Dr. Henry Morgan in the now defunct, but still loved, Forever, which aired on ABC.

Photo Credit: Bob D'Amico/ABC

Photo Credit: Bob D’Amico/ABC

After The Stranger from the Sea, Graham penned four additional Poldark novels – a total of 12 in all – from 1945-2002.

Photo Credit: Nick Kenyon

Photo Credit: Nick Kenyon

So why did Robin decide to make a cameo appearance in the 2015 Mammoth Screen adaptation of Poldark? This is just one of his reasons.

“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.”

No matter if you read the book, download the Kindle edition or listen to the audio version, this intriguing memoir not only captures the essence of Robin Ellis, but takes Poldark fans on a journey they’ll never forget. As for newcomers, I highly recommend this book. It will provide you with some interesting insights – including some of the differences in the television adaptations. In fact, there’s an entire chapter devoted to that very subject.

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Robin has also written two cookbooks, Delicious Dishes for Diabetics: Eating Well with Type 2 Diabetes and Healthy Eating for Life: Over 100 Simple and Tasty Recipe. He was inspired to write these books after being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes. I’m excited to share this news with you. Robin has written a third cookbook. It’s scheduled to come out next year. This new one will hold extra special meaning for readers. His lovely wife, Meredith Wheeler is the official photographer. I can’t wait to read it!

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

You can always keep up with Robin on his blog: robin-ellis.net. When he’s not acting or writing, he’s cooking! In fact, he holds cooking workshops twice a year in southwest France. You have to book ahead of time. They fill up quickly. If you’re interested, you should email Meredith Wheeler at meredithwheeler1@ gmail.com.

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

Photo Credit: Meredith Wheeler

On a personal note, I’d like to thank Meredith for all of her help regarding this article. She was kind enough to provide me with the information and photos that I needed to write it. I had the privilege of meeting both her and Robin in a few years ago in Washington, D.C. at a book signing. I can tell you that both of them are very kind and generous individuals.

Photo Credit: (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE

Photo Credit: (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE

Poldark starring Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson resumes filming in September.

Photo Credit: (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE

Photo Credit: (C) Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for MASTERPIECE

You can catch the two-hour series finale tonight!

Poldark airs on Masterpiece Theater at 9/8c on PBS.

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