In one week the award-winning, zany American recap/chat-show hosts, Marlise Boland & Elyse Ashton – known affectionately to many Poldark fans as “The Cornwall Cougars” – will be arriving Bristol, England to visit the set of the hit BBC/Masterpiece series, Poldark. To visit the set – and perhaps engage in some other exciting activity not normally afforded the average visitor. So, what is PoldarkDish, who are the Cornwall Cougars and how did this visit to Poldark come to be? The Anglophile Channel gives you an inside peek…
To Dish or Not to Dish!
Who knew when The Anglophile Channel decided to produce PoldarkDish, a recap show dishing on the popular Mammoth Screen produced series – adapted from the Winston Graham novel, Poldark – that we would one day wind up being invited to the actual set in England – and not only that, but invited to appear on the show as well? Certainly not the Los Angeles-based Cornwall Cougars.
So, how did it all begin? Well, to start with, Poldarkdish nearly didn’t happen. TAC had just finished a rather challenging run of producing OutlandDish, our weekly web-series recapping the Starz original series, Outlander. Our team was rather burned-out from the frenetic pace of producing a weekly show recapping episodes which we did not get in advance, but still managed to upload within a day of each Outlander airing. It took dedication by our team, to say the least – along with some very creative producing. One episode was actually filmed while our hosts were in Los Angeles and director, Paul Boland, was on a cruise ship in the middle of the Caribbean directing via Skype! Our young Timey Wimey Show host, Juliette, (only 12 yrs old at the time and luckily a whiz at Final Cut Pro!), was given the task of editing the episode-which was STILL uploaded on time! With great fan support but no major sponsors, and little to no acknowledgement from the team at Starz, it seemed highly unlikely we’d go down the Dish road again.
Creative producing – Directing OutlandDish via Skype!
Our US Fans began asking if we were going to “Dish” on Poldark, the hit BBC One series taking the UK by storm thanks, in no small part, to a brilliant cast, the great writing of Debbie Horsfield and some sexy shirtless scenes by its star, Aidan Turner (The Hobbit, Desperate Romantics). The show was scheduled to air on PBS/Masterpiece as a summer series. However, the thought of putting on another period frock and committing to another 8-week dish show, that may or may not find an audience, did not have us jumping for our corsets. We had hit the wall – to say the least. If it wasn’t for our trusty director-cameraman-editor, urging us to do a dish on Poldark saying, “I’ve seen it. This one is really up your alley and it’s British!”, we would have never looked up from our scones. With no pressing invitations from Buckingham Palace requesting our presence for tea with The Queen – our schedules were wide open for the whole of the 8-week run. We finally acquiesced and thus began the summer of PoldarkDish in June 2015.
What’s In A Dish
The Dish shows began as a fun way to review and chat about our favorite British shows. Our first show, The Downton Dish, was a straight forward chat show dishing about Downton Abbey. Over tea and scones – and donning our best Downton-esque fashions – Marlise and Elyse would talk about the previous night’s episode.
We would read Tweets and Comments from fans, do some fun giveaways and share red carpet interviews we’d gotten with various Downton Abbey cast members. Our biggest support came from Downton Abbey Executive Producer, Gareth Neame and Creator/Writer Julian Fellowes – who loved what we were doing.
Because DowntonDish didn’t come on to the scene until Downton Abbey’s 5th Season – we never really found an audience. But the few viewers – outside our immediate family – that did watch, were extremely loyal. The occasional ‘vignettes’ we did became our favorite part of doing the show. We started brainstorming on how we could make our recaps more creative. By the time we figured it out – the series was coming to an end!
Still, our work on DowntonDish was recognized by the Los Angeles Press Club with nominations as Best Anchor/Hosts.
We were actually excited about dishing on Poldark because the new series featured a slew of familiar British faces including some of our favorites: Ruby Bentall (Lark Rise to Candleford, The Paradise), Beatie Edney (The Coroner, In the Name of the Father), Phil Davis (Bleak House, Sherlock) and the star of the original 1975 Poldark series, Robin Ellis.
We always like to film an opening title sequence that parodies the series we’re covering. With OutlandDish, Marlise & Elyse ran around looking for stones to touch so that we would get transported into arms of our very own 18th century Scottish hottie. For PoldarkDish we found our “Cornwall” just down the road from TAC Studios, on the lovely coastline of Southern California. Because it’s LA- the sunbathers on the beach that day didn’t even look twice when we showed up wearing our period frocks and capes! We enlisted the help of Elyse’s husband, Robert, to act as our Ross Poldark. Add our new original theme music, composed by Richard Allen, and we had our opening sequence.
Build It and They Will Come!
We worried that without our usual bonus features of cast interviews and lots of giveaways, we wouldn’t have much to offer our viewers. But we figured, even if we didn’t have a huge audience – we were going to have fun creatively. When you think nobody is watching, it’s easy to go balls out. So we went for it: silly cheers, song parodies, melodrama re-enactments and naughty nicknames for our favorite characters – and The Cornwall Cougars were born.
To our surprise, PoldarkDish found an audience! The comments and Tweets started rolling in almost immediately, and from all over the world. South America, New Zealand, Far East, Europe…we couldn’t believe it! An even bigger surprise was finding out that our audience included members of the cast…and the producers! We began seeing Tweets from cast members that literally blew us away, and also fueled our enthusiasm!
We even had a visit from British comedian, Micky Flanagan, who brought his film crew to our set and, donning a tricorn hat and cape, talked about all things PoldarkDish with us!
The first season of PoldarkDish could not have gone better. When Poldark Season 2 was announced we knew we’d be all in – 100%.
They Like Us! They Really, Really Like Us!
One day, we received a message from Mammoth Screen inviting us to lunch during a trip to London. We assumed the meeting would be with the Poldark social media team to talk about “Tweeting” – since we Tweet about Poldark – a lot. As Executive Producer, Marlise attended the meeting solo. We had NO idea that lunch would actually be with Mammoth Screen Managing Director, Damien Timmer and Poldark Executive Producer Karen Thrussell. That’s like getting a lunch in Hollywood with Steven Spielberg and Tina Fey. Ain’t gonna happen. First thing Marlise thought was, “Oh crap. We’ve offended them by calling Karen Daniels a ho! They’re going to ask us to stop doing PoldarkDish!” But it was the exact opposite. They were fans. FANS of us! When it became clear that it was BOTH Cornwall Cougars they had hoped would be at the lunch, Marlise texted Elyse, (now at a museum 1.3 miles and 21 minutes away), and said, “How quickly can you get to SoHo?” Elyse, who has never made claim to any athletic ability whatsoever – suddenly became a track and field star as she bolted – in heels – making it to the restaurant in 13mins flat! Now, that’s Cornwall Cougar dedication!
I’m sure our mouths were on the floor through most of that first meeting as we listened to Damien and Karen (because, by now, we were on first name basis…) tell us how much they liked us – they really really liked us. We were having an honest-to-God-real-life Sally Field moment. They told us how they would stop working in order to watch the latest episode of PoldarkDish. WHA-WHAT? They quoted PoldarkDish nicknames back to us like “Maggie the Ho” and “Dr. Eye Candy” and even wanted to take a SELFIE ….with US~! We could NOT have been more stunned than if they said, “We’d like you to co-star in our next series…and you have to kiss Colin Firth….”
And, unlike many Hollywood meetings we’ve had (not with Spielberg or Fey of course…) they could NOT have been nicer or more supportive of our work. They were also curious about why we uploaded our recaps so much later than it aired in the UK. We explained that our recaps coincided with the US airing – usually months later. They suggested we do Season 2 to coincide with the UK airing. We loved that idea. Hopefully the British audience would love the idea to, and take to our crazy bawdy humor. We were invited to attend the Poldark Season 2 premiere in August, and we were also taken to their post-production facility to get a SNEAK PEEK of Poldark Season 2! As you all know by now, it looked glorious.
Just as we were about to ask our new BFF’s if they wanted to catch a movie or go get mani-pedis, Damien had to go do ADR with Jenna Coleman on Victoria. As one does. But we were on Cloud Nine leaving Mammoth and our first meeting with Damien and Karen.
Pop the Cork, A Cornwall Cougar Is Here!
A few months later we were back in London, covering The Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations at Windsor Castle. Marlise asked Damien if we could pop over and film some interviews with him and Poldark writer, Debbie Horsfield. And they agreed! We arrived at Mammoth Screen and were met with the most amazing hospitality of champagne and cake. Seriously, Spielberg would NEVER have pulled out the stops like this. Just saying.
We had a great chat about the process of making Poldark and the insights into Debbie’s process as a writer. At that time we ‘joked’ about the idea of the Cornwall Cougars appearing on the show. We NEVER actually believed it would happen…. We also asked Damien and Debbie to retell the story of how they discovered the PoldarkDish:
In August Elyse represented The Anglophile Channel and PoldarkDish at the London premiere of Poldark S2, getting to chat with many members of the cast and, she reported back, was treated like royalty. Can we just move to London and only work with Mammoth from here on out?
Hold On and Suck In!
Before you know it we were planning the trip to visit the set of Poldark, currently filming in Bristol at The Bottle Yard Studios. We brought up the ‘joked about’ idea of us appearing in a scene and Damien immediately answered back positively! (Perhaps this was a good time to ask about that new show and said kissing scene with Colin Firth?)
The wheels were set in motion. The Cornwall Cougars would be appearing on an episode of Poldark Season 3! Before you ask if we’re going to be cougars on the prowl for Ross or Dr. Eye Candy – we are not. It’s a secret as to which scene we’ll actually be in, but we can say that things got rather real when we had to send in our measurements to the costume department. Yikes! With Thanksgiving landing in-between the sending of the measurements and our arrival at The Bottle Yard Studios – perhaps we should have padded those numbers a bit. We shan’t be having scones until our Journey to Poldark is behind us….
Needless to say Elyse and Marlise have been giggling like schoolgirls for months. Mostly out of shock. You work for years in an industry that gives very little back in terms of validation or respect. For an artist and producer – it has to be about the work and the journey – not the reward. You learn that early on. So when acknowledgment comes in the form of amazing validation from people that you highly respect, it’s like an out of body experience. We’re rather used to hearing ‘no’ – or not hearing anything at all – but, hearing “we like you” is still – a shock. But, a welcome shock.
So here we go. Our Journey to Poldark begins! We will bring you all along for the ride via blog posts, Spot On videos, Tweets and FB post. So follow us everywhere!
Thank you to all the PoldarkDish fans that have supported our Journey to Poldark via our crowdfunding campaign. We’re not the BBC (yet) and do not have major sponsors on board (yet) and therefore, like a PBS, rely on the support of our audience and a few small businesses such as The Rose Tree Cottage, who recently hosted a PoldarkDish Afternoon Tea and helped us raise the funds needed to make our Journey to Poldark! To Mary and Edmund Fry – we love you and we thank you for always believing in our “little engine that could” over at The Anglophile Channel!
Thank You to our New BFF’s
We are forever grateful to Damien and the team over at Mammoth Screen for giving us this amazing opportunity – not only for us, The Cornwall Cougars, but for the Poldark fans that have supported us and are coming along for the ride. Thank you for believing in us and not thinking we’re just crazy American lunatics out to grope Aidan Turner!
Here we go….
The Cornwall Cougars! RWAR!
WATCH The PoldarkDish Recaps Here: