As one half of Drake and Morwenna, Ellise Chappell has a stake in one of Poldark’s central romances. But the actress – who played the governess enlisted to tutor Geoffrey Charles – had a tall order as she joined the cast of the BBC1 period drama, portraying a carefree youngster who found herself wed to a monstrous clergyman.
Poor Morwenna spent much of the latter part of the series suffering abuse at the hands of her husband, Osbourne Whitworth, while her heart lay with Drake Carne, Demelza’s handsome brother.
After finally standing up to her odious spouse – and re-establishing contact with Drake – we caught up with Ellise Chappell to hear all about the “hope” that might lie around the corner in series four…
Morwenna underwent such a transformation, from a fresh-faced young woman to beleaguered wife – how did you go about playing that?
It’s so brilliant to have an opportunity like that as an actor and a character who goes on such a tumultuous journey. I tried to work hard and prep and it helped that I was working with such brilliant people.
And physically, Morwenna looked so different towards the end of the series…
She becomes pregnant so the whole costume was different but in terms of my overall look, my hair was not as loose – it was more tied up – and I feel like she doesn’t look like Morwenna. She looks like a shadow of herself. The done up, more formal look is such a sharp contrast to the free-flowing hair she had before. Also, I just looked more pale. I worked with the make up team so she didn’t look so flushed and fresh-faced and rosy.
Was it hard to film such harrowing scenes?
It was a difficult few days just because the material was very dark and harrowing and disturbing. But everyone was so supportive and respectful and Christian [Brassington, who plays Osbourne Whitworth] was a star. He was just so lovely so to have that support network around you when you’re facing that kind of content was really important.
Is it strange when someone is so nice and then has to act so cruel the minute the camera is on you?
It’s his talent, isn’t it? He’s just so brilliant and so believable in that role. I really respect him.
Have you seen THAT toe-sucking scene?
I have… I mean, amazing. That’s true commitment.
Drake came to Morwenna’s door in the series finale – do you think things might start looking up for them in the next series?
I don’t want to give anything away but it’s always nice to have that little bit of hope that it’s not awful. And what was really nice from episode eight was she got that little carved necklace from him and she knew at that point that he was still thinking about her and I think that definitely provides a bit of hope that we can have.
Do you think that line of communication between Drake and Morwenna will continue?
I think the fact that it’s acknowledged – in that scene, she doesn’t know that he’s there listening at all – it’s that element of hope that could hopefully continue. Just a little bit of hope. That’s all I’m going to say. I’m waiting to read the script. I know we’re starting filming again in September so hopefully it’s soon.
Morwenna, Drake and Osbourne were all new characters for series three – was it nice to join the cast with a big group of actors?
It was kind of a safety blanket, knowing that you’re coming in with all these other new people and you’re not the only one, but at the same time everyone who was already there was so lovely and wonderful, you didn’t really need that safety blanket.
Have you been watching the series as it goes out?
Yes, I’ve been watching it week by week and my parents call me after every episode. They’re at home and they talk to me about it, it’s so sweet.
It must be hard for them to watch you act out such harrowing scenes…
They’re just very, very proud and they tell me they think that I’ve done a good job. It’s nice just to have that support network around you.
What’s going to happen in Poldark series 4? Listen to our podcast to hear our thoughts…