As Poldark gallops into its second week, we’re starting to get the feel of the new series. Ross’s romances dominated the first series – his hopeless love for Elizabeth and his complex relationship with Demelza. In series two, however, it’s the men as much as the women who are shaping Ross’s impetuous battles to right wrongs and live well – specifically his best friend Dr Dwight Enys and his worst enemy George Warleggan.
George Warleggan – the bad banker played by Jack Farthing
Winston Graham, the writer of the Poldark novels, left Ross and George Warleggan’s relationship conspicuously undetailed – he never explains why there is an atmosphere between them.
There are suggestions they’ve been this way since school. Fundamentally they have very different outlooks and priorities, but I think what’s interesting about them is that they also share quite a lot – possibly more than Ross might want to admit.
They’re both incredibly proud and stubborn. But from George’s perspective, Ross has every- thing that George desperately wants – the popularity, a name and status. George’s money can only get him so far. He strives more than anything for that popularity.
They motivate each other completely and propel the story through their feelings towards each other. Ross would probably make more sensible decisions where it not for the anger he feels towards George.
Similarly, George’s life would be much easier if Ross wasn’t around. Ross is the only man who refuses to back down to George’s bullying and financial authority.
In series two George grows in confidence and allows himself to be more assertive with business, Elizabeth and Ross – moving things forward rather than simply brooding. George and Ross’s relationship goes in waves.
There are moments when George can’t see past his anger and jealousy and then there are times when he can, and he thinks that he could perhaps use Ross.
Even in series two, after the grand shipwreck and the death of someone close to George, which he blames Ross for, there are moments when George thinks Ross will say, ‘Actually George, I need your help.’
George feels jealousy and admiration in spite of himself. He knows Ross is well regarded but doesn’t care about it. Clearly, George is deluding himself, but he thinks the more powerful he becomes the more likely Ross is to submit.
Ross, of course, has the courage of his convictions and refuses to give in, whatever his circumstances.
So now George is fuelled by even more anger and determination, which push him to behave in more confidently antagonistic ways.
He lets things come to the surface that he didn’t in series one. That leads to more drama and more confrontation with Ross.
There’s a line from the books that’s stuck with me about the relationship between Ross and George: ‘Seeds of enmity had been sown time and again which had never borne fruit.’ But in this series it starts to bear fruit.
Dwight Enys – the good doctor played by Luke Norris
In the books, Ross and Dwight Enys meet in Cornwall, but the writer, Debbie Hors eld, has given us this brilliant new backstory – how we fought together in Virginia in the war of independence.
Dr Enys is the guy who patched up Ross’s face and gave him the famous scar. It’s nice for us to play brothers in arms. Dwight’s a corner man in the fight: Ross is the boxer and Dr Enys is the man attending to him.
Dwight comes to Cornwall initially to study lung diseases and quickly falls in love with everyone – the people, the miners, everybody in general but specifically a young woman called Keren Daniel.
He’s a kind of humanitarian; he wants to help the most vulnerable. At the time in Cornwall there was a huge divide between rich and poor and so he was drawn towards the poorer community to try to improve their lot.
Dwight provides a sounding board for Ross and attempts to guide him in some of his more rash decisions. He also tries to exert a stabilising effect on Ross – he certainly fails numerous times, but that I think that’s his goal.
Something I say in my first episode is that I intend to keep my head down – a good day for Dwight is one without incident, and a good day for Ross is the opposite.
So their personalities tend to balance each other – Ross is the ballast that Dwight needs to have the courage of his convictions while Dwight often ends up playing peacemaker for Ross and helps him get out of various scrapes. They both dig the other one out of a hole when it’s necessary.
They joined the army, I think, for the same reasons – they are idealists and Dwight is slightly naive as well. He goes where he feels he can do the most good. As in any conflict there was a huge loss of life during the American war of independence, and my sense is that Dwight wants to make up for that and help people to live better lives.
Politics also comes into understanding Ross and Dwight. Winston Graham was a Labour man and Debbie Horsfield is a socialist.
Dwight, too, believes in the equality of man and tries to live according to his principles. Ross is slightly different – the homegrown common law in place at the time is the backdrop of his life.
Although often in conflict with the Crown, everyone understands it as the Cornish way. These local communities and relationships have their own set of rules and that’s Ross’s world.
In series two, Ross becomes more vulnerable because of the situation he finds himself in at the end of the first series. Dwight tries to counter-balance that a bit.
Ross’s grand project of a self-sustaining mining community requires a good doctor, particularly with diphtheria threatening lives. So Ross needs Dwight – he’s essential to the survival of his vision.
As a result, Dwight is snowed under by work – things are pretty bleak and the increasing illness and poverty are a key element in the two men’s friendship.
But their relationship is also influenced by Dwight’s guilt from feeling responsible for killing Beth. The circumstances are overwhelming. The art department did me a favour on that score, by the way, and they gave me a proper working surgery. So in series two Dwight’s role is much more integral to the mines and that whole community than he was before.
Some people have said Ross and Dwight’s friendship is very modern – and I think we were hoping for that.
Poldark is Poldark – women want him and men want to be him, but he does the kind of heroic burden of solitude. He’s more comfortable when he doesn’t share problems but bears all the weight of responsibility himself.
He thinks he can deal with everything, he doesn’t feel he needs anyone else, but Dwight hustles around trying to make everything work. So we get some moments of tenderness and sensitivity and we just do what friends do. It’s a 21st-century lens on the time period, but it’s honest.
Poldark continues on BBC1 on Sunday nights at 9pm