I had to get in shape to do shirtless scenes in Poldark but I didn’t feel objectified, says Aidan Turner | The Sun
Aidan Turner’s topless scything scene in Poldark turned him into a sex symbol – and he has been trying to shrug off the hunky image ever since.
His upcoming role as a dodgy doctor in ITV thriller The Suspect is a far cry from the look in the period drama that made him famous.
But Aidan, 39, has only himself to blame for the lingering image of his honed body, admitting he hit the gym in preparation for his Army captain character stripping off.
He said: “I figured in my preparation that, given Ross Poldark was a very active guy, and the sort of diet he’d be on, it just felt right to get myself into that.
“He’s a farmer, he’s working, he’s riding a horse all the time, he’s a soldier. So it made sense to be in shape, but it wasn’t something I focused on.”
Aidan insists the famous image of him scything was never set up to gratuitously attract viewers — it was actually a behind-the-scenes photo which was caught on camera by chance.
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Either way, it wasn’t his acting skills that attracted viewers to the steamy scene, voted TV Moment of the Year at the 2016 National Television Awards. Not that Aidan minds too much.
He said in an interview for the Radio Times: “Was it safer to make a big deal of this photograph because it was a young man? Would it have been handled the same way in the Press if it was a young woman?
“I“I don’t know. Possibly not. But I didn’t feel objectified.” It wasn’t the last time the BBC treated viewers to scenes of superfit Aidan without his clothes on, either.
In 2015 he also starred in a racy adaptation of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, where he was seen topless once more as the dashing Philip Lombard.
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In a later series of Poldark, show bosses got him stripping off again. This time he took a topless swim off the coast of Cornwall, where the drama was set.
But if the image of his physique lingers among fans of the show, which ended in 2019 after five series, we shouldn’t feel too guilty. Despite it being filmed seven years ago, it still sticks vividly in Aidan’s mind too.
He said: “I do remember the day. The first thing I think of when I see the photograph is that they airbrushed out the make-up artist who was covering a tattoo, a small, silly symbol I got on holiday about 25 years ago. It’s been lasered off now.”
Removing his inking could all be part of Aidan entering a whole new chapter of his life. As the Irishman prepares to turn 40 next year, he’s now married — and probably a father.
The first thing I think of when I see the photograph is that they airbrushed out the make-up artist who was covering a tattoo — a small, silly symbol I got on holiday about 25 years ago.
The Sun exclusively revealed last March how one of the world’s most eligible bachelors was now officially off the market after marrying American actress Caitlin FitzGerald.
She is best known for APPEARING in US TV drama Masters Of Sex from 2013 to 2016, and she starred with Aidan in adventure movie The Man Who Killed Hitler And Then The Bigfoot in 2018 — the same year they started dating.
The couple married in secret in Rome in 2020 and refuse to publicly acknowledge whether they have started a family. That’s despite the fact they’ve been seen in public together several times pushing the same pram around London.
The big change has been reflected in the very different choice of roles since he hung up Poldark’s tricorn hat for the last time.
Last year he played Leonardo da Vinci in a biopic on the bisexual Renaissance master which streamed on Prime Video. Just as news broke that Aidan had tied the knot with Caitlin, he was on our screens in Leonardo kissing someone else — in this case, a young man.
Next year Prime Video subscribers will see him as an elite tennis coach in new drama Fifteen-Love. But first comes The Suspect, a five-parter in which he plays a successful clinical psychologist with a devoted wife and daughter.
The life of his character Joe O’Loughlin is suddenly turned upside down when he gets entangled in the death of a young woman. It is made by World productions, the same team who gave us gritty modern thrillers Line Of Duty and Vigil.
A lot of the jobs I’ve had in recent years have been either fantasy or period or not contemporary.
Aidan, who was just glad to be starring in a show set in the 21st century again, said: “A lot of the jobs I’ve had in recent years have been either fantasy or period or not contemporary. This felt different — and pretty refreshing, actually.”
The twist in the adaptation of Michael Robotham’s crime novel is that Joe has early-onset Parkinson’s disease and may know the victim far more than he is admitting.
Aidan said: “The story has an eerie feel to it from the beginning and as an audience we’re not sure what part Joe has to play in it.
“This was thrilling for me when I first read the scripts.
“I thought, is he the orchestrator of something dark and sinister here or has he just stepped into a world of paranoia and mystery and needs to figure out his role in it before it’s too late?
“Joe is definitely a flawed character, which is interesting to play. He regularly makes impulsive and risky decisions knowing there could be consequences for this later.
"Sometimes this behaviour pays off for Joe and other times it just seems to make things more complicated for him.
‘Never trust a man with a beard’
“This makes Joe unpredictable and sometimes unreliable, which is refreshing to play in a protagonist.”
As well as his mysterious side, the role also required Aidan to delve into the world of Parkinson’s, and as part of that process he met musician Drew Hallam, who was diagnosed five years ago, aged 35.
They discussed how to deal with the disease and also to get some insight into how to portray the tremors caused by the condition.
Aidan said: “We talked about the side-effects of the medication, how he deals with the physical side of things. When it’s better, when it’s worse, under stress or duress.
“Every day is a different challenge, he said, with some better than others. To speak with somebody so open about his experience was very beneficial. I’m grateful to Drew for that.
“After sitting down for an hour or so talking about things, Drew showed me this piece of technology which he moderates with a dial. It’s a pulse generator under his skin and is connected to fine wires that are inserted into specific areas of his brain.
"When he moves the dial it slows the movement down and dissipates the tremors. And when he knocks it off, the tremors come back. Then we started to talk about how I would play the tremors in a scene. Like anything, you do as much research as you can — reading, watching videos, speaking with people and so on.
We wanted to keep the tremor subtle, because Joe has been recently diagnosed, but enough for it to read on camera. Getting it right was important.
“We wanted to keep the tremor subtle, because Joe has been recently diagnosed, but enough for it to read on camera. Getting it right was important.
“Parkinson’s affects different people in different ways. We don’t often see a leading character who has Parkinson’s, so it was interesting to tackle that.”
Yet the biggest difference viewers will probably notice when they tune into The Suspect is Aidan’s substantial beard — a far cry from his subtle stubble when he was playing Captain Poldark.
He said: “I had a beard during lockdown, and it was one of those things: Do you shave it off or not?
“I just thought it might be interesting for the character.
“There’s an element of mystery to this piece — tonally it’s kind of eerie, and one of the lines in the show is, ‘Never trust a man with a beard’.
“We were talking about how people can hide behind facial hair.”
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It seems there’s nothing Aidan won’t do to cover up these days.
- The Suspect airs on Bank Holiday Monday at 9pm on ITV and ITV Hub.
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