Why I’m leaving DOWNTON
Most actors would give their right arm for a part on the biggest show on television. But Samantha Bond reveals she’s had enough of Lady Rosamund...
Samantha Bond has had it with Downton Abbey. The actress, who plays Lord Grantham’s sister, Lady Rosamund, says she’s fed up with ‘popping in and out’. Given that the show has been sold all over the world and made millions for ITV, you could be forgiven for thinking its stars are playing hardball over their contracts — there are rumours Samantha’s good friend Maggie Smith is threatening to leave. What is certain is that when the third series airs this autumn, Lady Rosamund will definitely not be popping in anywhere.
‘I didn’t want to do the fluttering in and out,’ she says. ‘The Christmas episode [in which Lady Rosamund, pursued by Nigel Havers’ Lord Hepworth, stayed long enough to have a waltz] was lovely. If something happened to change the circumstances of the family and she was there more… But, because of the nature of the part, you just pop in and pop out so I’d have been unable to come to the West End and play the female lead in this play.’
‘This play’ is Joe Orton’s farce What The Butler Saw, with Blackadder’s Tim Mcinnerny. She’s been rehearsing for most of the day when we meet and is exhausted. ‘Tim and I were talking about plans for the weekend. I said, “Do you know what I’m excited about? Lying in the bath.” Every muscle I have hurts. No one can pretend the ageing process is charming because it isn’t,’ she says, adding that today she feels ‘every one of my 50 years’.
Not that she tries to fight it. When we meet she’s not wearing a scrap of make-up. ‘This whole face thing,’ she sighs, ‘I can’t pretend I don’t sit there doing this...’ she pulls her face back. ‘But I’m really trying to go with it. If I pop off and do something drastic, everyone’s going to realise because they know I’m 50.’
The actress, who also appears as Auntie Angela in the BBC family sitcom Outnumbered, has been married for 23 years to actor Alex Hanson with whom she has two children, Molly, 20, and Tom, 19. She is probably best known as Moneypenny from the 007 films — or, specifically, the Moneypenny who ‘snogged’ Pierce Brosnan’s James Bond in Die Another Day. ‘Oh Pierce was fun,’ she says. ‘The kiss was great. It took all morning. Because it was cinematic history — no one ever expected James Bond to kiss Moneypenny — the whole of Pinewood stopped filming and came to watch.’
Samantha says she’ll miss working with Maggie Smith on Downton. ‘I love her evil humour. If you were having to play scenes in Downton with Mags and didn’t know her previously, it would be terrifying because there’s no time to get to know her. I keep trying to channel her for this play because she’d be hilarious in my part.’
Below: Samantha with Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey