Entertainment

PBS' "Poldark" is back: Flawed hero, satisfied star

FILE - In this July 27, 2016 file photo, actor Aidan Turner, a cast member in the PBS Masterpiece series

FILE - In this July 27, 2016 file photo, actor Aidan Turner, a cast member in the PBS Masterpiece series "Poldark", poses for a portrait during the 2016 Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. The remake of the 1970s drama series begins its second season Sunday, Sept. 25, with a two-hour episode. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File)

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Before starting an interview, Aidan Turner checks that he won't be a bother.

"If I need to shut up a bit, let me know, OK?" the Irish actor called out to others using a hotel conference area. "You don't mind if I smoke this vapour thing?" Turner then inquired of a reporter sitting opposite him.

Very considerate, much like Ross Poldark, the 18th-century soldier-turned-mine-owner he plays in PBS' "Poldark." The remake of the 1970s drama series begins its second season Sunday on "Masterpiece" with a two-hour episode (8-10 p.m. EDT; check local listings for time).

The reincarnated Poldark struck some viewers as more of a "do-gooder" than Robin Ellis' portrayal of a moral but wilful man in the original series, Turner acknowledges. But he says change is ahead for the Revolutionary War veteran engaged in new fights on his home turf of Cornwall, England.

When the series first began, Turner said, he realized that a sweeping dramatic arc was needed to reveal Poldark's character, for better and worse. After betrayals, a wrenching family death and criminal charges that could cost him his life, Ross isn't Mr. Perfect anymore.

"I knew we were going to have to crash him down, and he makes huge blunders and mistakes, unforgivable kind of actions this season," Turner said. While his "heart is there," he said, Poldark thrashes opponents and cruelly confronts his lost love, Elizabeth, played by Heida Reed.

Sporting a black leather jacket and a beard nearly as dark, the actor himself looks a bit dangerous. But he's affable, smiles freely and is far more engagingly talkative than his character.

Turner's grin is especially notable when he discusses scenes in which his character guides a galloping horse along the Cornish cliffs. They're a staple of the series and always "thrilling" to shoot, he said.

"You finish a take and think, 'This is my job? How lucky am I to do this?'" he said.

But his favourite season-two scene takes place in a courtroom, with Poldark defending himself against murder and other crimes.

"These days, you don't have a lot of time to learn the lines and prep. You might give yourself a week ahead or a few days. I gave myself a month or five weeks of learning the dialogue and playing with it," he said. "I was quite happy with how it turned out. It reminded me of the old theatre days, with four or five pages of really chunky stuff."

He also enjoys the domestic turns in which Poldark and wife Demelza, played by Eleanor Tomlinson, simply talk. "She's such a wonderful performer. She's so real, so truthful," Turner said of his co-star.

Between "Poldark" seasons, Turner is making movies and in impressive company.

One is the upcoming "Loving Vincent," about the last days of Vincent van Gogh and including characters from the painter's works (Turner plays one, the Boatman). Saoirse Ronan, Chris O'Dowd and Turner's "Poldark" spouse, Tomlinson, also star.

Another is "The Secret Scripture," directed by fellow Irishman Jim Sheridan ("My Left Foot," ''In the Name of the Father"). The film, shown recently at the Toronto film festival, includes Rooney Mara, Eric Bana and Vanessa Redgrave.

Sheridan is "a hero of mine. He's crazy brilliant," Turner said. "I would have taken any job. I would have worked with the catering guys to see what he was like."

The filmmaker didn't let him down, proving himself a true "actor's director" who sets the bar high and helps his cast stretch to reach it, Turner said. That mirrors how he's pursuing his career as he's become an established name, thanks to projects including "The Hobbit" franchise and "Poldark."

"I'm just picking, if I can, these interesting projects, trying to pick and choose a little more," he said, something he knows is a gift. "At the beginning, to get any job is a privilege — and it still is. That will never disappear because you're only as good as your last job."

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Lynn Elber is a national television columnist for The Associated Press. She can be reached at lelber@ap.org and on Twitter at http://twitter.com/lynnelber.