Cornwall Life meets Poldark, better known as Robin Ellis

PUBLISHED: 11:36 11 December 2012 | UPDATED: 12:15 28 February 2013

Robin at home with his cooking

Robin at home with his cooking

Robin Ellis will forever be known as one of the most famous Cornishman to grace our TV screens, but as Bruna Zanelli discovers, there is so much more to his life these days

Poldarkmemorieson the menu


memories

on the menu

Robin Ellis will forever be known as one of the most famous Cornishman to grace our TV screens, but as BRUNA ZANELLI discovers, there is so much more to his life these days

Today its Downton Abbey, but 35 years ago, we were obsessed with Poldark, a saga of unbridled passions, heaving bosoms and men in skin tight breeches. Filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Cornwall, the drama was addictive.

Forget Matthew Crawley. Ross Poldark, with his darkly handsome looks and rebellious nature, was sex on legs and the nations women lusted after him.

Poldark became so popular that some vicars rescheduled Sunday services so as not to compete.

But Robin Ellis, until then relatively unknown to television audiences, was a talented actor with a list of acting credits ranging from Fawlty Towers to Shakespeare, when suddenly he was an international sex symbol.

Speaking to him at his home in France, I wondered how he had coped with all that adulation. I wasnt used to it, he admits. After all, at that time I was a serious actor. Any seeming pomposity is swiftly dispelled by his laughter. But I think I handled it okay. I was just a bit embarrassed by it. I remember one time I was visiting the Aldwych Theatre, in London, and there was a crowd of Irish schoolgirls with their two nuns, and they chased me around the theatre, with the nuns trying to catch up. I hid up in the upper circle because I couldnt really deal with it!

He laughs at the memory. Im not sure I saw the second half of the play! But its lovely to think of those girls now because they will all be in their forties with several children each.

Such was the life of a reluctant sex symbol in the 70s - but Robin Ellis would reinvent himself.

Having met and fallen in love with Meredith Wheeler, writer and news producer for ABC News in New York, he remembers how poor Meredith had to put up with three or four on/off starts until we finally got married in 1990.

Meredith wanted Robin to meet her friend and ex-colleague, Hughes Rudd, who had retired to the Tarn, so one weekend they flew to France.

I usually flew over France en-route for Italy but when I got there, I thought the area was beautiful. It reminded me of Tuscany, he marvels. He was so smitten, over lunch he asked if they knew of any houses for sale. By chance, some friends of Hughes knew of this house. Its a Presbytere, where the priest would have lived, and I think it was built about 1715.

We looked at it at 2pm on the Monday and fell in love. By 5pm, Id agreed to pay the asking price.

For the next nine years, they travelled back and forth at weekends and on the big holidays but each time it became increasingly more difficult to leave until in 1999 they moved permanently.

It was the right thing to do, he says reflectively. Our parents were dead, we had no children, no responsibilities.

Then thirteen years ago, following a routine blood test, he was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2. He knew all about the disease because his mother had type 1 and she had died at 68 from a heart attack related to diabetes.

So I knew how serious it was. Ive always loved food, and have always cooked so weve always eaten well. I didnt want that to change so I began to adapt a bit. White bread and rice had to go. I read a book by Michel Montignac, a very clever man, who said you should never diet. You just need to develop a new way of eating. In my case, I paid particular attention to the Glycemic Index and all foods that affect our blood sugar levels.

By diet and exercising a bit more - walking and gentle yoga, Robin managed to control his diabetes for years without medication. These days he takes a pill each day but I am so glad I avoided medication for six years.

Robin makes daily early morning visits to his local market to stock up on provisions for his tasty recipes: fresh tomatoes, garlic, rocket, parsley, strawberries, poultry reared locally, and fresh anchovies, sardines for lunch. These things taste so much better than when bought in the supermarkets.

Perhaps thinking to help other diabetics, he decided to publish a cook book called Delicious Dishes for Diabetics A Mediterranean Way of Eating, which became a bestseller, and he has just been commissioned to write a follow-up book, to be published in January, 2014.

This all seems a long way from acting so has Robin Ellis, the actor, retired? Actors never retire! he exclaims, reminding me that his last job had been as an American murderer in an episode of the Swedish thriller Wallander. I enjoyed that. So no, Ive not retired. Living in France makes it more difficult because I am not on the spot but should the right script arrive, Ill be there!

Not surprisingly, his favourite role remains Ross Poldark, a character he feels shared many of his own qualities.

Of course its difficult to compare us because he lived over 200 years ago but his spirit, and to a certain extent his bloody mindedness, could be me.

Looking back, he remembers the Poldark years with fondness. It was a wonderfully happy time!

I wondered how he felt when the series ended?

Well, at the time, in 1977, we were ready to finish. Wed done 29 episodes all the books, and thought Right, thats it. Great while it lasted. Good stories, great locations and the public loved it. Now, time to move on. Thirty five years on and Poldark remains a global success. It is repeated on television channels worldwide, a re-mastered DVD box set of the complete series is on sale, ready to capture a new generation of fans, while Robin has rewritten his book Making Poldark, a memoir of his time in Cornwall while filming the series.

He is obviously a happy, contented man, but I was curious. Was there anything he would change ?

He pondered for a moment,

My trousers?

Robin Ellis will forever be known as one of the most famous Cornishman to grace our TV screens, but as Bruna Zanelli discovers, there is so much more to his life these days

Today its Downton Abbey, but 35 years ago, we were obsessed with Poldark, a saga of unbridled passions, heaving bosoms and men in skin tight breeches. Filmed against the beautiful backdrop of Cornwall, the drama was addictive.
Forget Matthew Crawley. Ross Poldark, with his darkly handsome looks and rebellious nature, was sex on legs and the nations women lusted after him.
Poldark became so popular that some vicars rescheduled Sunday services so as not to compete.
But Robin Ellis, until then relatively unknown to television audiences, was a talented actor with a list of acting credits ranging from Fawlty Towers to Shakespeare, when suddenly he was an international sex symbol.
Speaking to him at his home in France, I wondered how he had coped with all that adulation. I wasnt used to it, he admits. After all, at that time I was a serious actor. Any seeming pomposity is swiftly dispelled by his laughter. But I think I handled it okay. I was just a bit embarrassed by it. I remember one time I was visiting the Aldwych Theatre, in London, and there was a crowd of Irish schoolgirls with their two nuns, and they chased me around the theatre, with the nuns trying to catch up. I hid up in the upper circle because I couldnt really deal with it!
He laughs at the memory. Im not sure I saw the second half of the play! But its lovely to think of those girls now because they will all be in their forties with several children each.
Such was the life of a reluctant sex symbol in the 70s - but Robin Ellis would reinvent himself.
Having met and fallen in love with Meredith Wheeler, writer and news producer for ABC News in New York, he remembers how poor Meredith had to put up with three or four on/off starts until we finally got married in 1990.
Meredith wanted Robin to meet her friend and ex-colleague, Hughes Rudd, who had retired to the Tarn, so one weekend they flew to France.
I usually flew over France en-route for Italy but when I got there, I thought the area was beautiful. It reminded me of Tuscany, he marvels. He was so smitten, over lunch he asked if they knew of any houses for sale. By chance, some friends of Hughes knew of this house. Its a Presbytere, where the priest would have lived, and I think it was built about 1715.We looked at it at 2pm on the Monday and fell in love. By 5pm, Id agreed to pay the asking price.For the next nine years, they travelled back and forth at weekends and on the big holidays but each time it became increasingly more difficult to leave until in 1999 they moved permanently.


I remember one time a crowd of Irish schoolgirls were with their two nuns and they chased me around the theatre

It was the right thing to do, he says reflectively. Our parents were dead, we had no children, no responsibilities.Then thirteen years ago, following a routine blood test, he was diagnosed with Diabetes type 2. He knew all about the disease because his mother had type 1 and she had died at 68 from a heart attack related to diabetes.
So I knew how serious it was. Ive always loved food, and have always cooked so weve always eaten well. I didnt want that to change so I began to adapt a bit. White bread and rice had to go. I read a book by Michel Montignac, a very clever man, who said you should never diet. You just need to develop a new way of eating. In my case, I paid particular attention to the Glycemic Index and all foods that affect our blood sugar levels.
By diet and exercising a bit more - walking and gentle yoga, Robin managed to control his diabetes for years without medication. These days he takes a pill each day but I am so glad I avoided medication for six years.
Robin makes daily early morning visits to his local market to stock up on provisions for his tasty recipes: fresh tomatoes, garlic, rocket, parsley, strawberries, poultry reared locally, and fresh anchovies, sardines for lunch. These things taste so much better than when bought in the supermarkets.
Perhaps thinking to help other diabetics, he decided to publish a cook book called Delicious Dishes for Diabetics A Mediterranean Way of Eating, which became a bestseller, and he has just been commissioned to write a follow-up book, to be published in January, 2014.
This all seems a long way from acting so has Robin Ellis, the actor, retired? Actors never retire! he exclaims, reminding me that his last job had been as an American murderer in an episode of the Swedish thriller Wallander. I enjoyed that. So no, Ive not retired. Living in France makes it more difficult because I am not on the spot but should the right script arrive, Ill be there!
Not surprisingly, his favourite role remains Ross Poldark, a character he feels shared many of his own qualities.Of course its difficult to compare us because he lived over 200 years ago but his spirit, and to a certain extent his bloody mindedness, could be me.
Looking back, he remembers the Poldark years with fondness. It was a wonderfully happy time!
I wondered how he felt when the series ended?
Well, at the time, in 1977, we were ready to finish. Wed done 29 episodes all the books, and thought Right, thats it. Great while it lasted. Good stories, great locations and the public loved it. Now, time to move on. Thirty five years on and Poldark remains a global success. It is repeated on television channels worldwide, a re-mastered DVD box set of the complete series is on sale, ready to capture a new generation of fans, while Robin has rewritten his book Making Poldark, a memoir of his time in Cornwall while filming the series.
He is obviously a happy, contented man, but I was curious. Was there anything he would change ?
He pondered for a moment,
My trousers?

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