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Being Elizabeth: Heida Reed on PBS Masterpiece’s Poldark

October 6, 2017

By Mantha Petrovich | Rewire

You might know Elizabeth as Ross Poldark’s first love on the hit PBS show “Poldark,” but we wanted to get to know the woman behind the love triangles and period costuming.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth in “Poldark.” — photo courtesy Mammoth Screen for BBC and Masterpiece

Here’s a little recap of Ross and Elizabeth’s relationship: Ross supposedly died in the American Revolutionary War–leaving family and friends to move on with their lives. That included Elizabeth, his first love.

As season 3 starts, Elizabeth is in her second marriage with a second child. But even though she and Poldark are married to other people and have kids, there’s still a spark between them.

Rewire spoke with Heida Reed, the Icelandic actress who portrays the very proper Elizabeth in “Poldark” on PBS’s “Masterpiece.” We learned how she gets into the role of her evolving character, some insights into a new project she’s involved in and what causes she cares about most.

Rewire: What’s the most challenging part of getting into the character of Elizabeth? What’s your favorite thing about embodying her?

Heida Reed: The most challenging thing about playing her is probably how still and poised she always is. I am not like that. I’m very reactive and clumsy and I like to slouch and cross my legs and put my elbows on the table. Elizabeth would never!

My favorite thing about playing Elizabeth is her journey throughout the whole story. She’s forever changing and adapting to new circumstances. (“Poldark” writer) Debbie (Horsfield) has written such a three-dimensional character. She feels more realistic by changing with the times than being stuck as one type of character the whole time.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth in “Poldark.” — photo courtesy Adrian Rogers/Mammoth Screen for Masterpiece

Rewire: Do you get any inspiration from the portrayal of Elizabeth in the original 1970s “Poldark”? Who else inspires you as an actor?

HR: I haven’t seen the original “Poldark” adaptation as I try not to get confused with my interpretation and someone else’s. Billie Piper (of “Doctor Who” fame) is someone I think is doing an amazing job at the moment and choosing some fantastic roles. (Actor) Ben Whishaw also inspires me a lot.

Rewire: Do you feel like you have any real-life similarities with Elizabeth’s character?

HR: I only felt like that at the very beginning when I connected with her on the feeling of always having to do the right and proper thing. I’ve been a bit like that throughout my life. However, I think I still follow my heart a lot more than she does, and if she’s taught me anything, it’s to do that more, otherwise you might end up living in regret.

Rewire: Elizabeth is very submissive to the men in her life—as women were supposed to be during that time. The character Demelza is a bit more progressive. Will Elizabeth learn anything from Demelza’s character and become more independent in the third season?

HR: Elizabeth and Demelza come from two different worlds and Demelza is given a lot more allowances in that department. I do think it is safe to say, though, that Elizabeth does have to put her foot down a lot more in (season 3) than she has before.

Rewire: How did you feel the first time someone recognized you in public as Elizabeth?

HR: It’s nice to know that people are watching the show and enjoying it.

Rewire: How has your life changed since starring on “Poldark?”

HR: Well, I’m lucky that I’ve had a job for the past four years and met so many incredible people along the way. But apart from that, not much really. It’s very normal.

Heida Reed as Elizabeth in the new season of “Poldark.” — photo courtesy Robert Viglasky/Mammoth Screen for BBC and Masterpiece

Rewire: What’s one of your favorite memories being on set with the “Poldark” cast and crew?

HR: Dancing outside our trailers at lunchtime. We shot the first series in summer and we always ate lunch together outside and had a little boogie.

Rewire: What other projects are you working on that we should know about?

HR: I have an Icelandic thriller series coming out at the end of the year called “Stella Blómkvist.” Stella is a freelance lawyer who’s very eccentric. She gets wrapped up in a high-profile murder case that gets a lot more complicated than she first thought it would be.

Rewire: What would be your one piece of advice to young women trying to make it in the acting world?

HR: Patience and persistence is essential. It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Rewire: Our readers are really interested in social good. What causes are important to you?

HR: I am focused on supporting women and our right for equality in the work place as well as trying to be a part of a healthier movement for young women who feel too much pressure in looking and acting a certain way because of social media and pressure from society. These things affect me personally and if I can be of any help towards a better future for us I will do my part.

Watch Reed in season 3 of “Poldark” on “Masterpiece,” airing Sundays on TPT. Or watch online!


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