Former Fakenham College student Will McGregor directs new BBC costume drama Poldark
PUBLISHED: 13:00 04 March 2015 | UPDATED: 14:14 04 March 2015
A filmmaker who grew up in Norfolk has helped direct the BBC’s remake of the cult 1970s costume drama Poldark.
Set in 1783, Poldark tells the story of a young-man’s turbulent return to his Cornish home following the American War of Independence.
Ross Poldark loses his fiancee to his cousin and ends up marrying his servant, before becoming embroiled in the battle to keep his struggling tin mines afloat.
It’s the second time the BBC has adapted Winston Graham’s Poldark novels, having previously made two series between 1975 and 1977.
The show gained a cult following and one of the most successful costume dramas ever. The latest incarnation stars Aidan Turner (The Hobbit Trilogy, Being Human) and Eleanor
Tomlinson (Death Comes to Pemberley, The White Queen) as Ross and Demelza.
Robin Ellis, who played Ross in the first television adaptation of the Poldark novels in the
Writer Debbie Horsfield said: “Ross Poldark is one of literature’s great heroes: a
gentleman who is also a rebel, who has a keen sense of morality and social justice but
without any priggishness or moralising. He’s also a great romantic figure - caught between
two women from two completely different backgrounds. A gentleman who marries his
kitchen maid. A man who doesn’t stand on ceremony, who doesn’t play by the rules and
often falls foul of authority. He has elements of Darcy, Heathcliffe, Rochester, Rhett Butler
and Robin Hood.”
Will McGregor, who comes from East Rudham and went to Fakenham High and Fakenham College, went on to the University for the Creative Arts (UCA) in Farnham, Surrey.
Mr McGregor was commissioned by the BBC to co-direct their new Sunday night prime-time period drama Poldark.
Mr McGregor, who directs episodes five to eight, as well as the series’ opening sequence, got the gig on the back of previous work including Pepsi’s 2014 Super Bowl advert.
“It was almost exactly a year ago that I was reading the scripts for it, and it was something that was quite moving and epic and dramatic, and something I thought would be quite fun to do,” he said.
At 27, Mr McGregor is too young to remember the 1970s Poldark, a smouldering drama starring Robin Ellis and Angharad Rees.
“It was the first period drama really, it was the first on to do it and get everyone’s attention,” he said. “There was a huge amount of admiration for the books and the TV show, so we were aware we had to get it right.”
With much of his previous work based in a contemporary setting, Mr McGregor said he was excited about being given the opportunity to work on a period piece set on the Cornish coast.
“I really enjoy period dramas set in a historical context,” he said. “If you can escape the everyday through history or through fantasy, it enables a different level of storytelling. You can tell stories such as Poldark – which is about the relationship between a community and the hierarchy, and of the social unrest – without feeling like you’re shoving it down people throats.
“That’s what I really enjoy about something that is its own genre like Poldark, there’s just something satisfying about filming a world where there’s these period costumes, and period houses, which you can really escape to and build this different world. That’s something I find very appealing on an aesthetic level.”
Mr McGregor’s scenes include a shipwreck and a riot. But he said it was the more intimate, character-lead moments he found the most daunting to be put in charge of.
Asked for any plot hints, he said: “It ends on a cliffhanger - in fact there are lots of cliffs - so let’s hope we get a second series.”
Poldark premiers this Sunday, March 8, on BBC1 (9pm).