The Poldark star, 29, on the reality of wearing corsets, riding side-saddle and acting alongside snuffling pugs
What’s in store for Caroline Penvenen in Poldark?
There’s a lot in store for her and this series has been a real roller-coaster for me. I’m not allowed to tell you too much but Caroline is married to Dwight now. I think I am allowed to say that she has a baby, which is a huge thing for her because she is quite a selfish woman on the surface. Also, she was an orphan, so having her own child is going to bring a lot of growth and change. Starting her own family is not remotely straightforward and she and Dwight have a traumatic time.
You’ve become a mum yourself — twice — since Poldark started. Was that a seismic change?
Absolutely and I don’t know any woman who would say it wasn’t. I was 24 when I had my first son and I think it’s the first time in your life you are totally responsible for somebody other than yourself. I remember it being a very fast and intense education into who you really are.
You win best creative use of a pug during pregnancy! How else did you hide the bulge during filming?
The dog was one of numerous objects that were useful disguises for the bulge! It started with small objects, which gradually got bigger, and it progressed to me having to sit behind a desk towards the end! So many things are not designed for pregnancy, and it was uncomfortable and tough wearing those corsets and long heavy dresses. In the end, I felt just like a moving sofa.
What’s the pug called and have you bonded?
His character name is Horace but he’s actually been played by a few pugs now, so sorry to break the spell that it’s been just me and one dog for four years! George played Horace for the first series, then it was mainly Sonny and when he’s otherwise occupied we have another dog who stands in. Yes, the dog probably is the biggest star on set…
Pugs snuffle, though…
You have to do a lot of ADR — which is re-recording dialogue — for any period drama because the costumes are rustling and there’s often background noises that have to be removed, like cars or planes in the distance. But I have to do a lot myself because any scene with Caroline’s pug I have to re-record thanks to his snuffling. They are the noisiest dogs you could put on a film set.
Were you tempted to get a pug of your own?
I actually have a bulldog, which is similar to a pug. I did get him after joining Poldark but I’ve always been a dog lover and he’s lovely. In fact he’s slightly like Horace but much bigger!
Do you do your own galloping in Poldark?
I could horse-ride before joining but I wasn’t allowed to ride for my first series because I was pregnant, so they used a stunt double. It’s always slightly bizarre when there are two of you walking around on a set dressed exactly the same. I’d love to say I did all of the horse-riding in the later series but we’re not allowed to do the really fast stuff. The slightly slower stuff is me but it’s quite tough because it’s side-saddle, which I hadn’t done before. Also, it’s with huge dresses, so it can be the cause of some amusement.
Roller-coaster: As Caroline Penvenen
Has your older son been on the set? Does he know why Mummy wears ‘olden days’ clothes?
He has been on set and he can’t quite grasp what is going on. He would simply think I was wearing a weird outfit! He hasn’t seen Poldark, as he’s not awake at that time on a Sunday night. When he does see Mummy on TV it will be quite strange but I will avoid that moment until it really is unavoidable.
How easy was it to film with the baby on the set?
Tough and tiring but also wonderful to have my son there and be afforded the time to feed him. Yes, it was a bit of a mental and physical marathon to suddenly switch in and out of character, to go off and breastfeed and then go straight back into filming. I didn’t have much sleep for that six months so if the dark shadows were hidden it was down to good make-up artists. It was bizarre at times and it does make you think: ‘What am I doing, sitting here feeding my son dressed like this?’ But it kept my real life and work life interesting and connected.
Is it hard to eat and move with a corset?
Yes it is. The physicality of wearing a corset is very real and you actually feel as those women did back then. The constraints are incredible. You can’t move or eat properly or even really sit down.
Do people recognise you out of costume?
I’m never recognised when I’m out and about in my modern-day clothes. I think if I walked around in full Poldark costume, then yes, I would be stopped. But probably for other reasons!
Poldark returns on Sunday at 9pm on BBC1
Via Metro UK