Friends in need

Lady Mary and Tom Bran­son be­come al­lies as Down­ton grap­ples with grief, Allen Leech tells DEB­BIE SCHIPP

The Sunday Mail (Queensland) - TV Guide - - NEWS -

THERE’S a dark cloud over

Down­tonAbbey as sea­son four dawns.

It’s six months since sea­son three left view­ers reel­ing with the shock death of Matthew (Dan Stevens), hard on the heels of Lady Sy­bil (Jes­sica Brown Fin­lay) dy­ing in child­birth.

Be­hind the pall of loss, a widow and wid­ower left as sin­gle par­ents strug­gle with the grief, try­ing to find a new path and pur­pose.

That’s the chal­lenge fac­ing Allen Leech’s Tom Bran­son – the cheeky up­start Ir­ish chauf­feur who de­fied class con­ven­tions to marry Lady Sy­bil, as he tries to con­sole his sis­ter-in-law Mary (Michelle Dock­ery) in the midst of his own be­reave­ment.

“Tom’s very cen­tral to try­ing to get Mary out of this slump,” Leech says.

“He’s knows what she’s go­ing through. They are both wid­owed, with a child. They be­come friends through that bond of grief and tragedy.

“He tries to get her to have an in­ter­est in Down­ton, and life, and the life of the house.

“He says: ‘Let’s do what your hus­band planned and what we were try­ing to do to keep Down­ton safe for the sake of your son, who is now the next heir’.” It’s dark stuff, even for

Down­ton, ad­mits Leech, who in real life is ir­re­press­ible, cheeky, care­free and con­fesses he hates the dog that stars on the hit pe­riod drama.

Lord Craw­ley’s (Hugh Bon­neville) faith­ful Labrador, Isis, Leech re­veals, is not a “gen­er­ous” ac­tor.

“She’s the worst an­i­mal in the world, I don’t know why she gets hired,” Leech laughs.

“Her name is Abby. She won’t sit and she humps so­fas. She gets bored and wan­ders into scenes.”

“You’ll be on take 27 and it’s all be­cause Abby won’t stay where she’s told.”

Be­reave­ment and fa­ther­hood have brought out a softer, but no less con­flicted Tom, Leech says.

“He is still com­ing to terms with who he is, what he’s be­come,” he says.

“He’s the chauf­feur who is now liv­ing up­stairs, sit­ting there go­ing, ‘Why am I here? They don’t re­ally want me here, and down­stairs doesn’t want me’.

“I think he lit­er­ally is the first mid­dle-class man.”

Tom also strug­gles with sin­gle par­ent­hood in un­fa­mil­iar 1920s up­per-class sur­round­ings.

“He has the sup­port of the Craw­ley fam­ily in that re­gard, but you find him strug­gling to fig­ure out, ‘Is this my fam­ily? Is this my place?’ and won­der­ing about the up­bring­ing of his daugh­ter,” Leech says.

“The chil­dren have nan­nies. It’s dif­fer­ent to the way Tom was raised.

“I do like the way Ju­lian (Fel­lowes, Down­tonAbbey cre­ator) has writ­ten some nice scenes re­flect­ing that, with Tom as a very hands-on dad.

“His re­la­tion­ship with Sy­bil was such a pas­sion­ate and ro­man­tic story – the fact they didn’t let any­thing get in the way of that love – I think it will take a long time to fill that gap. His love story at the mo­ment is his daugh­ter.”

DOWN­TON ABBEY

SUN­DAY, 8.40PM, SEVEN

In it to­gether: Michelle Dock­ery and Allen Leech form a spe­cial bond in sea­son four of Down­tonAbbey.

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