Eleanor Tomlinson from ‘Poldark’ Lost Out on a Part in This Popular TV Show Because She Couldn’t Nail the Accent

These days, British actress Eleanor Tomlinson is best known for her role as Demelza, the spunky kitchen maid turned wife of Ross Poldark on the PBS series Poldark. But she could have landed a role on a different historical drama if her failed attempt at an accent hadn’t gotten in the way. 

Tomlinson auditioned for ‘Peaky Blinders’ 

Eleanor Tomlinson
Eleanor Tomlinson | Jeff Spicer/Getty Images

Several years before she won a spot on Poldark, Tomlinson, 27, auditioned for the first season of the BBC drama Peaky Blinders, she said during an appearance on The Jonathan Ross Show that aired November 9. The actress didn’t reveal which part she was reading for on the 1920s-set show about the Shelby crime family, but she did say that it didn’t go well, mostly because she couldn’t master the distinctive Brummie accent. 

“I auditioned for Peaky Blinders when it was first starting, but they said ‘You need to be able to do a Birmingham accent,’” she explained. “I tried and they said, ‘You just can’t do it can you love?’ I was like, ‘Oh, okay!'” 

Another mishap as she was leaving the audition pretty much doomed Tomlinson’s chances of being cast. 

“As I was leaving, I put my hand out to say goodbye, and then I had an enormous nose bleed all over my hand, all over their hand,” she recounted. 

Mastering the Birmingham accent is a challenge

Tomlinson’s struggle to master the distinctive dialect native to the West Midlands city wasn’t all that surprising. In 2015, the show’s writer Steven Knight told Birmingham Live that the challenging accent was one reason there weren’t more TV shows set in the U.K.’s second-largest city.

“I’ve been banging on about doing stuff in Birmingham for years and years, and everyone says ‘We can’t, it’s the accent thing,’ he said. “For some reason it’s a very difficult accent to get right, harder even than Geordie,” he added, referring to the accent heard in Newcastle upon Tyne.  

“It’s considered too difficult so we won’t do anything in Birmingham,” he went on to say. “There’s been a big black hole in the middle of the country as far as TV production goes.”

Moving on from ‘Poldark’ 

With Poldark wrapping up for good on November 17, Tomlinson is moving on to new projects. She’ll soon be seen in a new adaptation of H.G. Wells The War of the Worlds on BBC. (No U.S. release date has been announced.) And she’s been cast in The Nevers, a sci-fi drama from Joss Whedon that will air on HBO. Plus, she has a role in the upcoming Netflix rom-com Love, Wedding, Repeat with Sam Claflin and Olivia Munn. 

While she’s leaving the character of Demelza behind, she says she feels fortunate to have had the chance to work on the show. 

“I see it as such a privilege to be part of Poldark,” Tomlinson told Town & Country. “I still feel extremely lucky to be working, and it has opened up so many doors for me. Without sounding too corny, it’s taught me about the kind of actress I want to be; and playing Demelza has shown me how to be fearless and follow my heart.”