Sunday 7 July 2019

Kerri McLean is Kitty Despard in 'Poldark'

Photo: BBC
Kerri McLean is proud to portray the strong-willed former slave Kitty Despard for the  final series of Poldark - a real woman wiped from our history books: ‘When I first researched Catherine Despard online and found that she was going around London in the early 1800s campaigning, writing, and giving talks I just thought 'what a woman'. She is one of those unheard voices of history. Period drama has traditionally not shown black characters and so it is a real honour to play her and I have felt a responsibility to do a good job. I am proud and feel enormously lucky to have been given this role.

‘Kitty is a formidable woman; very determined and intelligent, she is strategic and knows how to play the long game. When we meet Kitty she has been in London for a year and her husband, Ned (Vincent Regan), has had his governorship taken away and has been wrongfully imprisoned. Kitty is going all over London campaigning and trying to convince people to help get Ned released. She is having no luck and so as a last result Ned advises her to contact a friend of his from the revolutionary war in America, Ross Poldark (Aidan Turner). Kitty recognises the name as he is an MP and is well known but she is also a bit wary of him as she has an inkling of what these two are like together, which is a bit of a nightmare. But they’re out of options so she gets a carriage down to Cornwall and turns up on the Poldark’s doorstep asking for help. That’s when the mission begins.’

Kerri tells us how Kitty and Ned came to meet and what it was like working alongside Vincent Regan: ‘Kitty is Jamaican and with her mother, who was a slave, she went to Honduras to work and when Kitty was about 13 her mother begged her current master to sell her and she ended up working as a kitchen maid for Ned, a governor. They were in close quarters and when Ned got ill with a fever Kitty nursed him back to health and they fell for each other, so when Kitty fell pregnant they decided to get married. They have this amazing relationship and they really do love each other, they didn’t marry for convenience or to strengthen a family standing, they married for love and I hope that is very strong when you see us on screen.

‘I remember the first day I met Vincent, we got in the car on my first day of work and started chatting and we just hit it off from then on. He is such a strong actor that I feel really lucky to have had the opportunity to work alongside him. He is also a lovely man and now friend.’

Photo: BBC
New to Cornwall, Kitty is welcomed by some but not by all. Kerri reveals a little about Kitty’s relationships with Poldark’s key characters: ‘When Kitty meets Ross there is an immediate understanding that she is Ned’s wife and so he takes her in without hesitation and they get on right away. Early on Ross and Dwight (Luke Norris) come to see Kitty speak and are impressed. They realise she is not a passive woman, she has been out in London on her own for a year. London was a major city and there were not a lot of black people around but she very much could stand on her own two feet and Ross recognises that in her. When Demelza (Eleanor Tomlinson) first meets Kitty she is a little thrown but there is a mirroring between the two characters as it is established that they were both maids who fell in love with and married their masters and for both of these women, that now puts them in a very different social class. So there is a natural bond they share with each other.

‘When Kitty meets Dwight there is a little twinkle in their eye, she genuinely enjoys his company, she likes his intelligence and his emotional depth. Dwight is rather fascinated with Kitty and the two spend a lot of time together, causing some problems between Dwight and Caroline (Gabriella Wilde).  When Kitty first meets Caroline she realises that she and Dwight are quite different and that Caroline keeps her emotions close to her chest. However, Caroline is a good person and she really takes to Kitty. After being so appalled with the way the upper classes are treating Kitty when she is around town Caroline even decided to hold a ball to introduce her into society.’

Kerri tells us about her favourite moments from filming: ‘One of my favourite days of filming was the day we were shooting a scene in the Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. Kitty spends most of her time in a dowdy dress as Ned has had his income stopped and we don’t have much money, but for this scene I got to wear a beautiful brown dress that I felt amazing in. The scene is pretty hard-core with everyone thinking Kitty is a prostitute and looking down on her so it was tough to film but being in that dress made me feel so confident.  Although I got a terrible cold from this, another favourite moment from filming was the incredible moment when Kitty comes face to face with someone she has a traumatic history with and we have this incredibly tense standoff.’

Related Links:
Aidan Turner Talks 'Poldark' Series Five
Eleanor Tomlinson on 'Poldark' Series Five
Jack Farthing on the Final Series of 'Poldark'
Luke Norris Talks 'Poldark' Series Five
Gabriella Wilde Talks 'Poldark' Series Five
Vincent Regan is Ned Despard in 'Poldark'
Ellise Chappell on 'Poldark' Series Five
Harry Richardson Talks 'Poldark' Series Five
Freddie Wise is Geoffrey Charles Poldark
Lily Dodsworth-Evans is Cecily Hanson in 'Poldark'
Sofia Oxenham is Tess Tregidden in 'Poldark'

Source:  BBC Press Pack

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