‘Poldark’ fans travel cross-country to hear British actor Robin Ellis


Katie Pach/Daily Senior Staffer

Robin Ellis, the star of the BBC show “Poldark,” speaks at a Wednesday event hosted by Bookends and Beginnings. Fans of the show traveled from across the country to meet Ellis and share their enthusiasm.

Ally Mauch, Reporter

Amanda-Rae Prescott was not alive when the BBC TV series “Poldark” premiered in 1975, but the 28-year-old flew in from New York to see its star speak in Evanston on Wednesday.

Prescott was one of about 50 “Poldark” fans — from places as far as Fargo, North Dakota — who came to see Robin Ellis speak at an event hosted by Evanston bookstore Bookends and Beginnings. The event, part of Evanston’s Literary Festival, was held at the Music Institute of Chicago, 1702 Sherman Ave.

The popular TV series is set in post-American Revolution England and follows Ellis’ character, Ross Poldark, as he returns to England from America. In 2015, PBS began a remake of the show, garnering a new generation of “Poldark fans,” like Prescott.

Chris Jones, the Chicago Tribune’s chief theater critic, led a discussion with Ellis about the production of the show in the 1970s, and about the current remake — in which Ellis has a minor role. Jones is from Manchester, England, and said he grew up watching the original “Poldark.” The discussion was followed by a book signing of Ellis’ memoir, “Making Poldark.”

For fans like Prescott, who attended the event dressed in 18th-century English clothing inspired by Ellis’ character, “Poldark” is more than a story. Prescott said she would devote time to watching or reading “Poldark” to cope with the stress of her thesis and would not have graduated without the series.

“‘Poldark’ helped me graduate grad school,” said Prescott, who graduated from Columbia University’s journalism school in 2015.

Linda Smith, a fan who came to the event from Arlington Heights, Illinois, said discovering “Poldark” and connecting with other fans helped her get through her mother’s death.

“Last year my mom died, and I was looking to escape, so I escaped into ‘Poldark’,” Smith said.
“It’s the strangest thing because if my mom was alive, she’d be watching it as well.”

Smith said numerous Facebook groups dedicated to “Poldark” became a source of support after her mother died. She became friends with many other fans online — meeting them for the first time in person at Wednesday’s event.

Prescott said she is also involved in “Poldark’s” online fan base and collaborated with other fans to form their own group, the Poldark Appreciation Society of North America.

She added that “Poldark” fandom is unique in that it brings people of different generations together: those who watched the original show in the 1970s and those who have recently discovered it.

Nina Barrett (Medill ’87), a co-owner of Bookends and Beginnings, said events like Wednesday’s increase the visibility of literature and the arts in Evanston.

Barrett said she had never heard of “Poldark” before beginning to organize the event, aside from one “Poldark”-themed coloring book sold at the bookstore. Once she began watching, however, she said she began to see why it attracts such a loyal fan base.

“We thought we should find out what (“Poldark”) is, and after one episode we were just hopelessly hooked and addicted,” Barrett said.

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Twitter: @allymauch