These past two months, the nation has been in the grip of a fever: a quickening heartbeat that accompanies glimpses of tousled dark hair, a rippling torso, a field of wheat and… a scythe. Diagnosis: Poldark Fever – or, to be more specific, a national crush on Aidan Turner – and we’ve got it bad.
It’s every TV producer’s dream to land a romantic lead who compares favourably to Colin Firth’s Mr Darcy – the cultural touchstone for period hunks – and the 31-year-old’s rugged Ross Poldark measures up.
He’s become the Monday morning watercooler conversation – at least, in the Radio Times office – but while we’ve been obsessing over the wild locks, billowing shirts, chiselled chest (I could go on…), Turner’s co-star, Eleanor Tomlinson, has quietly put in a performance equally eye-catching – and no, I’m not referring to her unruly flame-red mane.
Why? Well, first cast your mind back to the moment Tomlinson’s Demelza first appeared on our screens. The 22-year-old actress convinced as a street urchin – her uncouth manner and grubby face had us recoiling but mere weeks later her comely servant girl left Ross mere putty in her hands. While Turner’s been glowering into the camera, Demelza has undergone a metamorphosis as she makes her first timid steps into 18th century society.
For Tomlinson, the role is a significant departure from her previous work. First introduced to audiences as Jules in Brit teen rom-com Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, she cut her teeth as eligible heiresses Isabel Neville (The White Queen) and Georgiana Darcy in Death Comes to Pemberley.
There’s no doubt the camera loves her as much as Turner, thanks to her red locks and piercing eyes, but when it comes to acting, she’s the scene-stealer.
Take the closing moments of last week’s episode which saw Demelza’s well-intentioned efforts to reunite Verity and Captain Blamey go horribly awry and the trust between she and Ross shattered.
For me, that final scene packed a real emotional punch. Demelza’s journey has been one of anxious turmoil – her fears over Ross’ love for Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and feelings of inferiority over her lowly status mixed with her unadulterated joy at having bagged such a catch. Tomlinson has spun the above with remarkable dexterity, so when it came to the moment that love was thrown into jeopardy, we cared. Not for Ross and his failing mine but for Demelza and her future in their marriage.
Tonight presents yet another challenge for the pair as the series reaches its emotionally-charged conclusion safe in the knowledge that a second has already been commissioned. But while we’ll no doubt miss our weekly dose of dashing Aidan Turner, Poldark has borne us not one but two stars – and it’s about time we started talking about Eleanor Tomlinson.