‘Down­ton Abbey’ alum Dock­ery great at be­ing bad in ‘Good Be­hav­ior’

Daily Freeman (Kingston, NY) - - LIFE - By Fra­zier Moore AP Tele­vi­sion Writer

“Good Be­hav­ior” is re­plete with bad be­hav­ior.

This new TNT drama se­ries stars Michelle Dock­ery as a con artist and petty thief who, after gain­ing early re­lease from prison (for good be­hav­ior, iron­i­cally) re­sumes her life of chaos and flim­flam­mery on the out­side. In Letty Raines’ fu­ture are newly brazen scams, more drug and al­co­hol abuse, and a des­per­ate cam­paign to win back cus­tody of her 10-year-old son (raised by her mother, who has lodged a re­strain­ing or­der against her).

And all this, be­fore Letty’s life be­comes en­snared with Javier Pereira, a charis­matic hit man who con­scripts her to as­sist him in his con­tract-killing busi­ness. Played by sexy costar Juan Diego Botto, Javier could sig­nal Letty’s ul­ti­mate down­fall, or, in­stead, he with his no-non­sense style could maybe save her from her grifter, junkie ways.

“He kind of res­cues her but he also holds her cap­tive.” Dock­ery laughs. “It’s just so messed up!”

Air­ing Tues­days at 9 p.m. EST, the se­ries is as sly at draw­ing view­ers into this com­bustible ar­range­ment as Javier and Letty are in tar­get­ing the vic­tims he’s been hired to kill.

In the process, two things be­come clear:

• In her por­trayal of Letty, Dock­ery in­stantly ab­ro­gates any ties to the role for which she now is best known: the proper, prissy Lady Mary Craw­ley of the Bri­tish cos­tume drama “Down­ton Abbey.”

• As Letty, whose scams call for end­less ac­cents and dis­guises, Dock­ery demon­strates she is an ac­tress of rare ver­sa­til­ity.

“Act­ing within the act­ing, the roles within the role, is re­ally fun,” she says. “And we have fun with wigs. There’s a lot of wigs on this show!”

In­ter­viewed at a Bev­erly Hills, Cal­i­for­nia, ho­tel, Dock­ery as her­self is wispy and fetch­ing in a pas­tel sun­dress — quite a con­trast to the wounded sur­vivor in a se­ries she de­scribes as “po­etic noir.

This isn’t a pro­ce­dural. Each episode (there will be 10 this sea­son) is like a film in it­self.

“It’s lib­er­at­ing,” she adds, “that I’ve been able to break free from Lady Mary and do some­thing dif­fer­ent.”

But that wasn’t the point in sign­ing up for “Good Be­hav­ior.”

“I never think it’s a good idea to do some­thing dif­fer­ent just be­cause you want to im­press peo­ple that you can do it,” she says. “And I would never dis­re­spect Mary and ‘Down­ton Abbey’ in that sense. I loved play­ing her. Then this role came out of nowhere. It was the per­fect move.”

“Down­ton,” of course, was the global TV sen­sa­tion that trans­ported view­ers to the lush es­tate of the aris­to­cratic Craw­leys dur­ing a span be­tween 1912 and 1925. Its sixth sea­son ended last win­ter with Mary, trag­i­cally wid­owed years be­fore as a new mother, find­ing hap­pi­ness in a sec­ond mar­riage and learn­ing she is preg­nant again.

Fine. But as Dock­ery gath­ered ador­ers, crit­i­cal praise and three Emmy nom­i­na­tions for “Down­ton,” did she worry she would be for­ever type­cast as Mary?

No, she de­clares: “I’m a great be­liever that if you fix­ate and worry about things, then maybe you’ll cre­ate them.”

She says dur­ing her “Down­ton” run she had op­tions to take her leave, but de­cided each time to re­main.

“I thought, if I was go­ing to be stereo­typed, it was al­ready done. It wouldn’t have mat­tered how much longer I had gone on. Peo­ple were in­vested in those char­ac­ters, and we be­came them. So I was like, ‘Well, I may as well do a few more glo­ri­ous years on this show. What’s the dif­fer­ence?’”

Clearly, it was no trap. Along with “Good Be­hav­ior,” Dock­ery, 34, has a film com­ing out next year: “The Sense of an End­ing,” also star­ring Emily Mor­timer, Jim Broad­bent and Char­lotte Ram­pling. She also has the forth­com­ing lim­ited se­ries “God­less,” a Net­flix west­ern whose ensem­ble also in­cludes Jeff Daniels and Sam Water­ston.

But she never wants to leave “Down­ton Abbey” be­hind.

“I hope it’s some­thing that will al­ways stay in peo­ple’s minds, like ‘The Forsyte Saga’ was to me when I was younger. Those shows go on for­ever, re­ally.”

Good­ness knows, it’s all the bet­ter to high­light her bad be­hav­ior as raw, defiant Letty Raines.

“It might up­set you peo­ple,” Dock­ery warns her “Down­ton” fol­low­ers, then mock-apol­o­gizes: “Sorry.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

An image re­leased by TNT shows Michelle Dock­ery in a scene from the “Good Be­hav­ior.”

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