Drama abounds at Down­ton

Never a dull mo­ment at the Abbey, writes

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - WEDNESDAY EXTRA -

SNEAK peek at Down­ton Abbey sea­son three has re­vealed that fire­works will fly be­tween ma­tri­archs played by Mag­gie Smith and new­comer Shirley MacLaine.

The aris­to­cratic Craw­ley fam­ily en­dures a fi­nan­cial cri­sis. And, de­spite the en­gage­ment of Matthew and Mary at the end of last sea­son, all is not well – gasp! – with the pair played by Dan Stevens and Michelle Dock­ery.

US net­work PBS showed brief clips from next sea­son to the Tele­vi­sion Crit­ics As­so­ci­a­tion be­fore a panel dis­cus­sion with cast mem­bers and pro­duc­ers of the in­ter­na­tional hit. They took a break from tap­ing in Lon­don to meet re­porters in Bev­erly Hills.

Their visit fol­lowed a strong show­ing by Down­ton Abbey in the Emmy nom­i­na­tions with 16 bids, in­clud­ing best drama se­ries.

In one scene, Hugh Bon­neville’s Robert Craw­ley, also known as Lord Gran­tham, is shown con­fess­ing to his wealthy Amer­i­can wife Cora (El­iz­a­beth McGovern) about an in­vest­ment gone wrong.

‘‘Has some of my for­tune been lost?’’ she asks. ‘‘Al­most all,’’ he replies, tear­fully. Matthew and Mary, who trav­elled a rocky road to what looked like bliss­ful mar­riage, are shown in an an­gry con­fronta­tion in which she ac­cuses him of dis­loy­alty to the fam­ily.

Tart di­a­logue in­volv­ing MacLaine’s Martha and Smith’s Vi­o­let, the dowa­ger count­ess, also looks to be a hall­mark of sea­son three. It be­gins air­ing in Septem­ber in the UK and next Jan­uary in the US.

‘‘When I’m with her, I’m re­minded of the virtues of the English,’’ Vi­o­let says of Martha.

‘‘But isn’t she Amer­i­can?’’ asks a puz­zled Matthew. ‘‘Ex­actly,’’ Vi­o­let replies. Se­ries cre­ator Ju­lian Fel­lowes says the next sea­son will en­com­pass about two years at the start of the 1920s. Among the plot points to be re­solved: What hap­pens to John Bates, Lord Gran­tham’s valet who was con­victed last sea­son of mur­der­ing his wife and barely es­caped the gal­lows.

Bon­neville made his sup­port for his loyal ser­vant clear. At the panel’s con­clu­sion, the ac­tor jumped up, turned his back to the room while open­ing his jacket and dress shirt, and then wheeled around to re­veal the mes­sage on the T-shirt he wore un­der­neath: ‘‘Free Bates.’’

‘‘T-shirts are avail­able in the foyer,’’ adds Bren­dan Coyle, who plays Bates.

MacLaine also proved a show­stop­per. The ac­tress, who be­lieves in rein­car­na­tion, was asked if she and Smith had met be­fore.

‘‘Well, we were lovers in an­other life,’’ she says, shar­ing Smith’s rec­ol­lec­tion of their meet­ing some 40 years ago back­stage at the Os­cars, near a cater­ing ta­ble, af­ter MacLaine failed to take home a tro­phy.

‘‘Do you know what you did, dear?’’ Smith re­minds her.

‘‘You tucked right into that choco­late cake and said, ‘(Ex­ple­tive), I don’t care if I’m thin ever again’.’’

Wed­nes­day, 8.30pm, Seven, Prime7.

stars Dan Stevens and Michelle Dock­ery.

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