“It’s in the blood, son, adventure” says Tholly Tregirls, Poldark’s colourful new character when he sees his old friend Ross after thirteen years away.
He’s first seen in series three engaged in a fist fight with one of Ross’ miners, a set-to prompted by his rather liberal attitude towards other men’s wives.
“Is it my fault that maidens can’t resist I,” the Poldark newcomer roars before describing himself as many things in that extraordinarily broad Cornish accent of his: “A free trader, a fixer… you wants it, I ferrets it out.”
Tholly also sports a fabulous, piratical hook on his hand and some tattoos which hint at what he has been up to – romances with Polynesian women being one of them.
But he may have a hidden philosophical side: he keeps the bones of his missing limb in a pouch because it “remind I how fragile life is.”
He was a friend of Ross’ late father Joshua and had what he describes as many a “jaunt” with him. And he surmises that Ross will soon be joining him on one of those escapades…
“You can see where Ross got his bad lad tendencies from,” says scriptwriter Debbie Horsfield. “Not only did he lead his father astray he led the teenage Ross astray.”
Played by Sean Gilder (best known as Paddy in Shameless and Styles in Hornblower), Tholly serves a clear narrative purpose this series, says the Poldark production team. He is clearly a comic foil for Ross – filling a role vacated by the mysteriously absent Jud Paynter.
“From the books and Debbie’s scripts it’s clear Tholly is the comedy element,” continues Gilder.
He may also fill the aching hole in Prudie’s life – after all the Nampara serving women is missing a husband.
Says Gilder: “I rub shoulders quite a bit with Prudie and we’ve worked on a storyline that we’ve known each other for years, I think I’m one of those guys who came along before Judd. We have an unwritten history.”
Tholly is also a new injection of energy into the show and an important link to the past.
He has known Ross since he was eight and according to Gilder “believes he knows [him] better than anybody in the story.”
“Of course what’s happened in the meantime he has become a man, gone to war, started a family, but the kernel of Ross Poldark is something Tholly feels closest to. There’s a nice edge to it.
“I’m sort of around and tugging on him – I think it’s nice for him, albeit subconsciously that he gets pulled away from all the responsibilities that you see Ross having.
“[Tholly] reappears and it’s not specifically said in this series but he comes back looking for his daughter. He has a daughter and a son in the books and his daughter will appear in this series – he’s going to come back to his roots. His trading has become more and more difficult with the French Revolution. I’m certainly playing it that he’s come home.”
As for Gilder and Aiden Turner, they got on well behind the scenes.
“There’s a twinkle between us. Aidan and I enjoyed every scene we did.”
Poldark season three airs on Sundays, 9/8c, PBS Masterpiece