What was the Irish actor, star of the BBC’s And Then There Were None, doing before Poldark?
by Rachel Ward
He’s been the subject of many watercooler conversations since gracing our TV screens as the eponymous, brooding Cornish hero Poldark in the BBC’s remake of the Seventies drama, but Aidan Turner didn’t just appear from nowhere. The 31-year-old Irish actor has a surprising varied back catalogue, including starring roles as a dwarf, a vampire and a campaigner for eggs.
Irish TV advert (2001)
Yes, that’s right. Eggs. Here he is goggling at women’s bottoms and finding love in a supermarket aisle in an advert for Irish state agency Bord Bia, which was filmed when Turner was 18 years old. We must admit that we are mightily impressed with his spinach frittata.
And the boy can dance, too…
Before he went to acting school at the age of 19 (he was a pupil at Dublin’s Gaiety School of Acting, which is also the alma mater of his ex girlfriend Sarah Greene), Turner’s talent lay in ballroom dancing. He competed internationally in the ballroom and Latin American disciplines, representing Ireland, for 10 years, but had to give it up because his parents couldn’t afford the competition costs. But he certainly hasn’t lost any of his moves, as this video released by the BBC shows. As the cast of Poldark get ready to film a waltz scene, a member of the production crew switches the music to a the Brazilian funk song Mas Que Nada. The results are glorious.
Titus Andronicus (2005)
Although they went to the same drama school, it was on the set of the stage production of Titus Andronicus that Turner met Greene. He played the part of Demetrius, complete with black vest and snakeskin trousers. If you look closely (ahem!) you can see the tattoo that the make-up artists on Poldark had to cover up for his semi-naked scenes. Other theatre roles include Paris in a production of Romeo & Juliet at Dublin’s Abbey Theatre and Christian in Cyrano at the Project Arts Centre.
The Tudors (2007)
Oh dear. That accent. No wonder he is uncredited for his two lines in the opening episode of the cod-historical drama The Tudors. He played a character called Bedoli who wore a nice cloak and a funny hat.
The Sound of People (2007)
A small role as a father in a short art-house Irish film came next. The film, by writer-director Simon Fitzmaurice, was shown at Sundance and tells the story of an 18-year-old boy who contemplates life and death as he stands on a diving board.
Turner also starred in an even shorter short film, alongside Niamh Cusack. We won’t give away what happens but he plays a young doctor, Theodoro, whose female patient is undergoing a very particular treatment.
There was also this. A thriller in which life in the Dublin suburbs turns into a nightmare for a young girl who is sleeping next to the curly haired one.
The Clinic (2009)
Next came 18 episodes in the award-winning Irish prime-time medical drama series The Clinic. He starred as Ruairi McGowan, the clinic’s charming, energetic and gregarious receptionist by day and by night a charming, energetic and gregarious DJ. Check him out spinning the decks in this clip, although you will have to wait for nearly a minute and a half to hear him speak. “It’s like feeding time at the zoo out there,” he says.
Indeed, Aidan. Indeed.
Desperate Romantics (2009)
A more susbstantial part came with Peter Bowker’s BBC Two costume drama about the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, in which Turner starred in all six episodes. He played Dante Gabriel Rossetti, an English poet, illustrator, painter and translator and the a founder of the group. Our reviewer at the time said the whole thing had a “zest that’s hard to resist”.
Being Human (2009-2011)
In the Bafta-nominated supernatural drama, Turner played 116-year-old tormented vampire John Mitchell, alongside fellow bright-young-things Russell Tovey and Lenora Crichlow.
Choice quote: “Don’t you know who I am!? My name is John Mitchell and I’ve killed more people than you’ve met!”
The show proved to be a cult success and gave Turner his biggest break of all… in Peter Jackson’s Hobbit films.
This TV biopic of British comic actor Hattie Jacques saw Turner take on the role of her youthful lover John Schofield. He starred alongside Gavin & Stacey’s Ruth Jones, playing yet another handome, cocky and confident young man with his shirt off. But he played it well, with a blend of narcissism and animal heat, according to our review.
The Hobbit (2012-2014)
The Hobbit was Turner’s ticket to Hollywood and it was his role in Being Human that brought him to the attention of director Peter Jackson. He originally auditioned for the part of an elf in Jackson’s fantasy adventure films, but ended up playing a dwarf. Incidentally, the actor is 6ft tall. In order to portray the character of Kili, he had to take part in special movement classes to learn how to walk like a dwarf. He’s also “alright riding a horse, and [is] pretty decent with a sword”.
Mortal Instruments: City of Bones (2013)
Another supernatural role for Turner was in the action adventure film based on the books by Cassandra Clare. He played a shadowhunter/werewolf with relative ease although the film wasn’t a received well by critics.