Aidan Turner speaks to Backstage about power dynamics and tennis in new drama Fifteen-Love

Poldark star Aidan Turner believes his new series will get audiences questioning why they choose to believe certain versions of events.

In Fifteen-Love, the actor plays a tennis coach accused of misconduct by a former player – and at first, it’s not clear who is telling the truth.

Turner told Sky News’ Backstage podcast it was something of a lesson in terms of reserving judgement.

“In our first couple of episodes we’re playing with that – where’s the truth in this relationship?” he said. “As an audience, who do we believe and on what grounds, and with no evidence who’s coming across as somebody who’s believable or not?

“Okay, just because somebody might be a little messy or chaotic in their life or whatever, and another person might have quite a subdued disposition, why is it that we go for that person as opposed to somebody else? And should we be more careful with our choices?

“Because that’s quite a dangerous thing, to make those initial judgements on somebody just because of the way they might hold themselves or conduct themselves that has actually nothing to do with the truth of what the situation is. And therein lies the trouble with this kind of situation, you know: who do we believe in, and on what basis?”

While the show is set in the world of tennis, it is really about exploring power and relationships rather than the sport itself. Turner says it reflects real-world issues, which until 2022 meant a sports coach was not bound by the same laws regarding positions of trust as, say, a teacher would have been.

“I remember the initial conversations with Hania [Elkington], our writer, and she was just explaining to me the Sexual Offences Act and how that worked, and how a person of trust with a relationship – like if you had a doctor and a patient, or a teacher and a student, that kind of thing – how that that didn’t correlate with coaches,” he said.

“So you could have a relationship with somebody you were coaching and this loophole has now been filled in but for so long this had been a huge problem that people were just not talking about for some reason, and that was really, really shocking to me.

“That’s something else I think our show does point to, is: what are the safeguards now? What are the parameters? How do we protect players? What should we expect with coaches and what isn’t right?”

Ella Lily Hyland and Aidan Turner in Fifteen-Love. Pic: Prime Video

Image: Turner on set with co-star Ella Lily Hyland. Pic: Prime Video

Turner’s co-star, Ella Lily Hyland, who plays his accuser, Justine, said that seeing the spaces where tennis stars train helped her to get in to character.

“I think when you’re in those environments, you can just see it and imagine it, I guess,” she said. “And maybe that’s because we were telling that particular story so sometimes it can kind of be in your head but [there were also] countless accounts of this kind of thing, like you could research for years, really sadly.”

While Turner is perhaps best known for his leading role in the period drama Poldark, other recent characters he’s taken on have included a clinical psychologist in police drama The Suspect and Leonardo Da Vinci in a biopic series about the artist.

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But Fifteen-Love presented an opportunity he’d not had before.

“I think he’s like no other character I’ve played before, off the bat I would say that. On reading the first couple of scripts, I thought they’re really smart. I think Hania is a brilliant writer, I think there’s lots of things that she’s saying in this story that need to be said, I think it feels important and I think it’s just beautifully well-balanced with great characters.”

Plus it gave Turner an opportunity to brush up on his tennis skills – something he admits he did need.

“I’d done a bit, played a lot of badminton and I thought that would correlate, stupidly – it doesn’t, it’s an entirely different sport. They both have handles and rackets, that’s it, there’s no other comparison!

“So yeah, it was tricky, it was hard. I didn’t do quite as much training as the other guys did, but I did a bit and I was all right, I think I’m convincing as a coach… I think!”

Fifteen-Love is out on Prime Video. Hear our review in the latest episode of Backstage, the film and TV podcast from Sky News

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