Meet Max Bennett – the man playing Ross Poldark's deadliest foe Monk Adderley
He has the looks and panache to match our hero – and a dangerous insouciance. But what is the actor who plays him really like?
In episode 7 of Poldark, Aidan Turner’s Ross confronts perhaps his deadliest foe – Regency rake Monk Adderley.
The politician is a privileged man and both a noted lover and (yikes!) duellist who alleviates his boredom by manipulating people – whether it’s getting Geoffrey Charles drunk or, on the evidence for teasers for series 4 episode 7, making eyes at Demelza. And it looks like it will lead to a duel with Ross.
We met 33-year-old actor Max Bennett who plays Adderley to get the lowdown on his character, and what he was like to play.
Max Bennett: Debbie Horsfield’s version of Monk [Adderley] I think is brilliant. She told me she was thinking constantly of Valmont from Dangerous Liaisons when we were filming, and actually it had been quite an instant reference to me when I was first reading the part. There’s a sort of profound boredom at this very opulent life around him, and a kind of dangerous charisma, and a kind of desire to mess with people. Monk is someone who is very self-serving, and whether that is to do with his own entertainment, or whether he’s trying to charm somebody because he wants something from them, or whether he’s just trying to meddle with someone because he doesn’t like the cut of their jib. He’s a classic lovable rogue. He’s very nasty, but very entertaining to watch while he’s being nasty. He’s described as “a wild, worthless rake” in the novel.
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In the books he has a steel plate in his head – but you don’t on screen. Why’s that?
I think it might just be a really tricky thing makeup-wise to do. It’s an old duelling injury in the book and it’s quite unsettling when you first have it explained as a thing. In the books he occasionally gets these headaches. There’s a sense in the novel that his wildness comes a little bit from that.
And what about you? What’s your background? Are you as posh as Monk?
Well, my mum’s side of the family has been in the East End of London for generations. We’re working class, really. My mum was a journalist. I guess class is a funny way of putting people in boxes, I think. My Dad’s from the Isle of Man, so a sort of Celtic heritage on that side and an East End heritage on the other side. I don’t know what class I would describe myself as. I’ve certainly played a lot of posh parts in my career, and I think that’s probably because I’m not from that sort of background
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What was your favourite moment while filming from the series?
There’s an excellent scene with Eleanor [Tomlinson, who plays Demelza] that I really enjoyed filming. A very juicy scene in episode seven. I really enjoyed that. She’s terrific. It’s an attempted seduction scene. He takes a shine to her. He’s already developed an antipathy to Ross. His interest in Demelza is slightly fuelled by that and by her beauty – also Demelza is a fish out of water in London, and that’s fun for him.
What’s it been like, filming Poldark? Did you know anyone from the team?
It’s been great. Honestly, the most welcoming bunch I’ve encountered – it’s like a family atmosphere, it’s lovely. I have a mutual friend with Jack Farthing [George Warleggan], and I did National Youth Theatre with Luke Norris [Dwight Enys]. So it was nice to see some friendly faces.
How have you found the costumes?
Oh, great! The sets are amazing, the costumes are amazing. Monk is shifting into a different time period. The hair and make-up was based on a kind of Beau Brummell-esque sort of figure. He’s shifting towards modern men’s tailoring and obviously there needs to be a bit of contrast between the more rustic Cornwall stuff, and he’s such a society-loving thing – it’s a new world that Ross kind of comes into and [Adderley] embodies that. I think in the previous adaptation he was very flamboyant and quite foppish, but it’s a bit more elegant this time, not as garish.
Did you learn anything about the history of 18th century Britain from filming Poldark?
I knew a little bit about it from A-level history. I studied 19th century politics and the way the huge population explosion in Manchester mentioned in episode five and some of the big industrial cities was not represented by the Parliamentarians for those areas. You’d still have these old land boroughs with MPs, and not for those huge amounts of people.
Presumably Monk wouldn’t get your vote?
Monk wouldn’t get my vote!
A few hearts were fluttering on Twitter when you first appeared on screen. Did you notice that?
Really? How intriguing! I haven’t noticed that! I’ve haven’t seen any of the responses, but it’s a very handsome cast, men and women.
Mariella Frostrup suggested in Radio Times that there may be a sexual double standard about women admiring Aidan Turner’s bare chest while it's not acceptable for men to ogle women – do you agree?
Well, it’s happened for years with women, so if this is a gesture towards redressing the balance, maybe that’s a good thing. I don’t know. So long as it’s in the story, it doesn’t bother me.
Your duel with Ross in episode 7 – what was that like to film?
It was great! It was on my first day. Baptism of fire! There’s a fella, Ken, who works at the arms company who are experts in period firearms, and I worked with him on my last job, so it was nice to see a different period handgun being fired. I used a flintlock when I was doing Will for TNT, which is a show about Shakespeare, about his lost year – I played Robert Southwell, who is his cousin and who kind of becomes a martyr.
What would you say to Poldark fans ahead of Monk's showdown with Ross?
Hold onto your hats…..or your Tricorns...
This article was originally published on 22 July 2018