Thursday 19 February 2015

An Interview with Andrew Graham

Photo via BBC Radio Cornwall

In this interview with the BBC Andrew Graham, author Winston Graham's son and series consultant on behalf of the Poldark Estate, talks about being on set, his memories from the original series and what his father would have thought of the new adaptation.

Why did you feel it was time for a new adaptation of Poldark?
I think anytime would have been right because the stories have a very enduring quality. It feels like all the key ingredients you need for a big historical drama are there: the love story, the class story, the new money versus old money story, and there’s the addition of the whole Cornish background that gives it a particularly different take. I suppose the other reason why it might be a good idea is that the Poldark that was shown in 70’s got these huge audiences, and quite a lot of them would have been people in their teens and twenties, and those people are now in their 50’s and 60’s with their children probably in their teens and twenties, so there might be a whole new audience for Poldark.

What would your father have thought about these various generations all finding something relevant to them and their lives in his work?
He would have loved it and been extremely pleased; any writer wants to think that their work goes on being interesting, and the only thing I think he would have cared a lot about, would be that the people making it retained as much authenticity to the novels as possible. I’ve absolutely no doubt one of the reasons why I was extremely happy to see what Mammoth Screen were doing was that from the very beginning it was clear it was the novels that motivated them.

How have you enjoyed being close to the process of bringing Poldark to the screen ?
It’s been extraordinarily interesting. I’ve been on a film set before when one of my father’s books was being made into a movie – Hitchcock made ‘Marnie’ into a movie – so it wasn’t the first time to go on set, and it wasn’t the first time I’ve looked at film scripts, but it’s a wholly new process. I’m an academic working in a university and this was a different world completely. I had absolutely no idea there were so many different processes to go through with so many different people doing things; the continuity, the makeup, the lighting, the sound, all the processes that go on with balancing colouring, grading, mixing – I found it fascinating!

Was there a particular stand out moment?
You’re bound to remember some things as they were fairly dramatic within themselves. We were trying to film the piece in which there’s a duel between Francis and Andrew Blamey happening outside Nampara and it was a really ‘good Cornish day’ – the wind was about 50mph and rain spalls were coming in, even though it was the middle of May the temperature was below zero degrees. These poor actors were trying to rush out of the house at a time where there might not be torrential rain and still the wind was blowing but they kept doing it and of course, when you watch it, you would never know that!

Have you always spent a lot of time in Cornwall?
I lived there until I was 17 and I must have been back to Cornwall at least once every year since then. After my parents moved and went to live in Sussex, they would go down to Cornwall for a holiday every year – maybe three times – and my wife, Peggotty, and I went down once a year. It has a real place in my heart.

Do you feel that the people of Cornwall have got a place in their hearts for Poldark?
I think they would have to speak for that, but I know that there’s a strong interest in it. I think that the Cornish people who have been there a long time take quite a while to decide whether you’re really interested in them and want to be there. I think my father certainly felt that as he wasn’t Cornish – he moved from Lancashire when he was 17, but my mother was. I think that most Cornish people would feel Poldark gives a pretty fair and honest account of Cornwall; it isn’t trying to pretend that it’s more romantic than it is, that it’s more beautiful than it is, but it is saying that it can be the most amazing place. Neither does it does it try to pretend that life for people in the late 18th Century was anything other than staggeringly hard with people on the edge of starvation!

Do you have any memories of Poldark from the series filmed in the 70s? Was it a nice connection to have Robin Ellis back for this?

I wasn’t on set much at all, my mother and father were a great deal, but we got to know a lot of the actors’ very well - Robin and Angharad Rees, Clive Francis, Ralph Bates, Christopher Biggins etc. It was very clear that all the actors liked my parents and vice versa. My parents like to have parties so the actors came over to them and for lunch at our house in Sussex, so we got to know the actors very well indeed. They were a lovely set of people – and to have Robin back is great, I think he’s really enjoying it! There is a real affinity for him, that’s a nice link to the past.

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