Ever so gen­try does it

The much-ac­claimed English se­ries be­gins its sec­ond sea­son

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

JU­LIAN Fel­lowes knows how to make him­self at home in English coun­try es­tates, both up­stairs and down. The writer won an Academy Award for the Robert Alt­man-di­rected Gos­ford Park (2001), about mur­der and se­crets among the gen­try and ser­vants at a stately home.

His TV se­ries Down­ton Abbey, star­ring an­other mag­nif­i­cent man­sion and its in­hab­i­tants, has been a hit in his na­tive UK as well as the US and Australia.

The sec­ond sea­son of Down­ton Abbey de­buts on the Seven Net­work on Sun­day.

The im­pos­ing High­clere Cas­tle in Berk­shire, Eng­land, is the stand-in for Down­ton Abbey.

World War I, which de­scended at the end of the first sea­son, will fig­ure promi­nently in the se­quel and may move the drama off the es­tate at times, said Fel­lowes, the se­ries writer and an ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer.

‘‘We will go away from Down­ton a lit­tle but I never be­lieve a se­ries should lose touch with its base,’’ he says. ‘‘It (the new sea­son) will be how the war af­fects Down­ton, how Down­ton can con­trib­ute to the war and pol­i­tics.’’

The se­ries stars Hugh Bon­neville as good-hearted Lord Gran­tham, who is de­ter­mined to keep his vast es­tate and fam­ily legacy in­tact for fu­ture gen­er­a­tions. El­iz­a­beth Mcgovern plays his Amer­i­can wife, who brought her for­tune to the mar­riage, with Dame Mag­gie Smith as her im­pe­ri­ous moth­erin-law. Ro­man­tic sparks are pro­vided by the es­tate’s three daugh­ters and by the ser­vants. Bon­neville, Mcgovern and Smith are among the cast mem­bers re­turn­ing for the next sea­son.

Fel­lowes says the drama has an in­her­ently con­tem­po­rary sen­si­bil­ity.

‘‘Quite de­lib­er­ately, ac­tu­ally, we chose to place it in a pe­riod that is recog­nis­ably part of the mod­ern world. It’s not Jane Austen – peo­ple don’t get into car­riages and light can­dles,’’ he says.

Bri­tish so­ci­ety ap­peared su­per­fi­cially serene but faced up­heaval, in­clud­ing the push for women’s suf­frage and po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion. The par­al­lel to mod­ern life res­onated with UK view­ers, Fel­lowes says.

‘‘Peo­ple are aware of a sense of liv­ing in a pe­riod of great change. Politi­cians over the last 20, 30 years have been telling us things that are not true, mak­ing wars we don’t be­lieve in, do­ing things that are dam­ag­ing eco­nom­i­cally,’’ he says.

Un­like the era of Down­ton Abbey, how­ever, Fel­lowes sees a wor­ri­some so­cial dis­con­nect to­day.

‘‘The dif­fer­ence be­tween the haves and have-nots then and now is that there was much more in­ter­de­pen­dence be­tween the classes. The dan­ger of our so­ci­ety is the haves have very lit­tle to do with the have-nots, and vice versa.’’

Sun­days, 8.30pm, Seven, Prime7

Michelle Dock­ery, Dan Stevens Zoe Boyle star in

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