So much for the stiff upper lip
There’s plenty in store for the residents of Downton Abbey, write Darren Devlyn and Colin Vickery
BENEDICT Cumberbatch, the star of period drama Parade’s End, is renowned for his colourful language. But how dare he speak ill of rival series Downton Abbey.
What he was quoted as saying about Downton is simply not in keeping with accepted standards of what is right or proper in polite society.
Cumberbatch insists he was misquoted when describing Downton as ‘‘ f------ atrocious’’ and saying season two traded too heavily on sentiment.
Cumberbatch was attacked by Downton fans on social media. Even Dan Stevens, who plays Matthew Crawley in Downton, jumped to his show’s defence and suggested Cumberbatch’s ribaldry was uncalled for.
‘‘ Hasn’t he got better stuff to think about? ... Downton Abbey is fantastic,’’ Stevens said. ‘‘ We’ve made a period drama that feels timeless. It’s character-led and the storylines are coming back to the household.’’
Said by some to be more costume soap than period drama, Downton has this season rattled the emotions of fans.
The world’s most popular historical drama has already served up a wedding, a birth, and a death.
Just when you thought it was safe to put away the tissues, there’s more heartache on the way.
When filming began on season four two weeks ago, two regular characters were missing.
One is missing because the actor in question suddenly wanted out. The show’s creator Julian Fellowes reacted by killing off the character.
The death episode screened in Britain at the end of last year, with fans venting outrage on Twitter and Facebook. Some claimed the episode ‘‘ ruined their Christmas’’.
Fellowes reminded viewers that killing off characters in Christmas episodes is a British tradition.
‘‘ Most of the soap operas use the Christmas special to kill huge quantities of their characters. So they have trams coming off their rails, or cars slamming into each other or burning buildings. It’s a general clear-out,’’ Fellowes said.
One of the show’s great challenges has been protecting fans from story leaks. There are plot spoilers galore on Facebook and Twitter and cast and crew have strict instructions on keeping sensitive information in-house.
Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary Crawley, wife of Matthew, says she had a lot more to worry about than the weather in shooting her screen wedding.
‘‘ We were quite lucky with the weather, but the thing I remember the most is the security that we had to have on that day,’’ Dockery says.
‘‘ There were paparazzi try-
It does not all become rosy and easy. It was never going to be happy ever after
ing to catch a glimpse of the dress and anything to do with the wedding and that was what I felt the most nervous about during the day, rather than the actual wedding. I had to wear something over my head when we were driving up in the carriage. Between takes they had to cover up the carriage with umbrellas. I actually wore a big blanket over my head.’’
The stars of Downton have also been told to destroy scripts after memorising their lines to avoid leaks.
Amy Nuttall (housemaid Ethel Parks) adds: ‘‘ We’re all under very strict instructions to keep the scripts safe. We have to shred or burn them as soon as we have memorised them. We can’t just throw them in the bin in case they end up in the wrong hands.’’
Friends pester Dockery for coming plot detail, but not her parents.
‘‘ It has been a long time since people have had the ritual of settling down once a week to watch (a show such as Downton),’’ she says. ‘‘ They like to see it happen without knowing what’s next. My mum and dad have to watch Downton on a Sunday at 9pm (British timeslot) so that they can talk about it with everyone the next day. I think there is that kind of feeling with the show that people want to see it as it airs. I did that last year, I watched it every single week with the rest of the world.’’
Dockery is open in her enthusiasm for the show and feels blessed its writers have kept finding new avenues of acting for her to explore.
‘‘ It does not all become rosy and easy (for Mary and Matthew). They still come up against issues, things that they don’t agree on. It was never going to be happy ever after. It is great for me and Dan to play those moments where they disagree on things.
‘‘ What drives Mary is continuing family traditions. Ultimately, she wants to have a family and to save the house. There is financial trouble and she knows that Matthew is the one who can save them. She wants to stay in the house.’’
Downton is filmed at Highclere Castle, a grand estate in Newbury. Filming of the Crawleys’ home life primarily takes place in five rooms— the library, dining room, music room, saloon, and drawing room. Scenes of the downstairs life at Downton, such as the kitchens and staff quarters, are filmed on sets at Ealing Studios in London.
Apart from Downton, Dockery is shooting the TV adaptation of the William Boyd novel, Restless. It also stars Charlotte Rampling and Rufus Sewell.
‘‘ I’mreally excited. I play Charlotte’s daughter and she is an actress that I look up to — she has had such an amazing career.’’ Downton Abbey, Channel 7, Sunday, 8.40pm
Married life: for Michelle Dockery and (above) with co-star Dan Stevens.