Ciara Charteris on Poldark, Period Dramas & Life in Clapham

Ciara Charteris has three films and a BAFTA award-winning TV show under her belt at just 22 years old. Here, the Clapham-based actor tells SW Resident how being cast in Poldark was a dream come true

Lead photo: Ciara Charteris, photographed by Montana Lowrey

If you had three films and a BAFTA award-winning television show under your belt at just 22 years of age, you’d be forgiven for displaying the slightest hints of arrogance, but for someone on the cusp of stardom, it’s slightly disarming how realistic Ciara Charteris is about her industry.

‘It’s really exciting and it gives me hope for it to continue the way it’s been going,’ she tells me of her success so far. ‘I’m extremely lucky and who knows what will happen in the future? In this type of industry you just have to go with the flow of everything and see what happens.’

Perhaps this wisdom beyond her years comes from growing up in a family who were heavily involved in the arts – both of her parents used to be actors and have worked in the business in a variety of ways for all her life.

She tells me that such an environment showed her the good and the bad of the sometimes fickle world of showbusiness.

‘It presented the challenges,’ she admits. ‘I always say if I didn’t want to do it, then I had every excuse not to because I’d seen it happen around me, but all those things spurred me on even more to give it my best shot and see what I could do, and at the same time fall in love with it.’

And if her success so far is anything to go by, it’s clearly worth the risk. In fact, Charteris’s career has been progressing nicely since before she even finished studying at drama school.

[Emma Tregirls] has been so much fun to play because she’s so gregarious and ballsy and outgoing

After two years at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, she left early to take her first professional role in Stephen Poliakoff’s Close to the Enemy. Since then she’s been on the screen in Mum’s List with Rafe Spall and Emilia Fox, and Grantchester with James Norton.

Now, this summer marks the reprisal of her role on the outrageously popular Poldark. In the BBC show she stars as Emma Tregirls, the love interest of Demelza’s brother Sam Carne. Headstrong and opinionated, it’s a role which she is excited to see back on the screen.

‘She’s been so much fun to play because she’s so gregarious and ballsy and outgoing,’ she enthuses. ‘It’s been really fun to play a character like that, especially in a period drama, and come out of my own shell a little bit.’

Charteris began appearing in the third series of the show that has made international stars of Aidan Turner and Eleanor Tomlinson: ‘It was a dream come true to be cast, and almost very overwhelming,’ she explains.

‘It was daunting, as it was obviously a very high profile show, with lots amazing people in it and I was aware that it had been going for a while already, so how do you navigate that coming in as a newbie? But as soon as I arrived it was made so easy because everyone is just so lovely and amazing to work with.’

And one thing Charteris had to get her head around pretty fast was the fans. Whether they’re retracing the filming locations in Cornwall or eagerly awaiting a glimpse of Aidan Turner’s Poldark sans shirt, they are certainly a dedicated bunch.

[Period dramas] are just wonderful, and it’s great to go and be in a different world. I’m clocking up the certain centuries

‘Even when we were filming or on set in certain locations in the country, there would be fans there waiting and supporting and all sorts,’ Charteris enthuses. ‘The fact that so many people watch and love the show is just fantastic.’

This year also marks the release of Mary Shelley, the movie, which traces the life of the writer of Frankenstein. She plays Harriet Shelley, Percy Shelley’s first wife, alongside Elle Fanning as Mary and Douglas Booth as Percy.

With Poldark and Mary Shelley, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Charteris has something of a penchant for period dramas.

‘They’re just wonderful, and it’s great to go and be in a different world to what you live in now,’ she laughs. ‘I’m clocking up the certain centuries that I’ve been in and just trying to see how many I can get under my hat.’

Originally born in South Africa, her family moved to England when she was just three. They’ve lived in and around Clapham for the last 17 years, with Charteris now living by herself in a basement flat in the area, which she fondly dubs her ‘tiny little rabbithole’.

‘It really is my home and my base. I didn’t move very far when I left home because of that. I’m very much biased to the south west and Clapham as well,’ she tells me.

Her favourite local spots include Venn Street (where she visits the Clapham Picturehouse and works out with her personal trainer), her local pub, The Abbeville (‘a really cosy sweet place with great food’) and Clapham Common on a summer’s day.

‘I went to primary school around here, I went to secondary school around here,’ she enthuses. ‘It’s like a little village. I can walk down my local high street and I know everybody in the deli and the pharmacy to the pub. It certainly feels like a little village environment I live in except I’m almost in the hub of London itself.

‘So it’s just a wonderful balance of both worlds I suppose.’

Poldark returns to BBC One in June. Mary Shelley is out on 6 July