Smoothly shaven, without a hint of Ross Poldark’s sultry stubble, Aidan Turner leans back in his chair and grins broadly. The famous unruly, wavy dark locks have also been shorn, and the bare chest that had women swooning on a Sunday evening earlier this year is snugly clad in a sharp three-piece suit.
It seems every trace of the character that propelled Turner from reasonably successful actor to Britain’s leading heart-throb has fallen victim to the barber or the tailor. At a glance the actor is almost unrecognisable, until he fixes his dark eyes, shadowed by those heavy, arched eyebrows, on you… And there it is – the brooding look that made Poldark so popular.
Blink and you’ll miss it, however, because 32-year-old, Dublin-born Turner has a permanent cheeky grin on his face. “No!” he exclaims with a booming laugh, when asked if life has changed post-Poldark. “It hasn’t changed at all, it’s exactly the same. It really is.” He almost sounds convincing.
“I mean, walking down Carnaby Street, there might be a couple more people who notice me, but that’s it…”
Turner as Ross Poldark
The fact that he’s “shed” Ross Poldark must help. Was he keen to cut his hair?
“Yeah, I guess I was… I want to keep that look for Ross, and doing a movie where you have long hair and you’re trying to style it differently just doesn’t work. Plus, you can’t get away with hair like that in real life!” And there’s that grin again.
Kit Harington was rumoured to have a clause in his Game of Thrones contract that said he couldn’t cut his hair… “I wouldn’t sign a contract like that,” he chuckles.
What about a clause that says filming must take place in Cornwall? “Yes,” he jokes, “That’s the kind of contract I will sign!”
This Christmas, Turner stars in the BBC’s adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None (above), partly filmed on the same Cornwall cliffs as Poldark.
“It was quite surreal, actually. It was the very first day of the shoot, and I was standing at the edge of a cliff – and I kind of had to check what costume I was wearing! Because all I could see were cliffs and sea and all these familiar sights.”
And Then There Were None is the most adapted of all Agatha Christie’s murder mysteries and the book has sold over 100 million copies worldwide. It sees ten strangers arrive on a remote island in Devon for a party. They don’t know their host or each other. They all, however, have a secret.
“I play Philip Lombard, who’s a gun for hire, a mercenary. He’s done a lot of nasty things for his own benefit; really immoral, only cares about himself, massive ego, but a smart, confident, charming guy.
“To play a Ross Poldark kind of character and then to jump to Lombard is interesting, because they’re very different people, and their moral compasses are very different. Lombard isn’t necessarily an evil person, I think he’s misguided, you know? And Ross isn’t just a do-gooder – some decisions he makes are pretty dangerous and put other people at risk.”
Having grown up on Columbo, Turner has relished being part of a murder mystery. A young Aidan would try to guess who the culprit was in the first scene and feel smug with satisfaction if he got it right. Agatha Christie plots are harder to figure out, he admits, and this one had him stumped until the end. But what he’s currently hooked on is a relatively new genre – murder mysteries based on real people and real cases.
“Have you seen The Jinx [about wealthy American murder suspect Robert Durst]?” he asks. “It’s so good! Oh, and my favourite documentary is Death on the Staircase. It’s directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, it’s in eight parts, and it’s about a woman who falls down the stairs and dies. And Serial – I did it all in one day. Welcome to the life of an unemployed actor! Guilty or not guilty? Don’t know, don’t know… It’s so difficult. Staircase is even harder to figure out.”
With filming for the second series of Poldark having started straight after And Then There Were None and continuing into the new year, there won’t be time to spend hours listening to radio podcasts. But there is a different kind of bloodthirsty plotting on Turner’s mind…
“Knives can be out for a second series,” he says, his brow furrowing. “Especially when we got so much support for the first series and everybody was just overwhelmingly positive. So next year, regardless of the quality of the show, people will tend to go, ‘Let’s knock you down a peg or two. And that’s understandable. But the scripts are strong and the performances are all there, so we have every confidence that we’re going to produce something great.”
And Then There Were None is on BBC1 on Boxing Day