‘Down­ton’ and out

Michelle Dock­ery takes on a darker char­ac­ter in new role

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FEATURES - By Rob Low­man South­ern Cal­i­for­nia News Group

For “Down­ton Abbey” fans, it might be dis­con­cert­ing to see Lady Mary clean­ing toi­lets in a dingy road­side café.

For six sea­sons, Michelle Dock­ery was known to TV au­di­ences as the el­e­gant but icy el­dest daugh­ter of the Craw­ley fam­ily, own­ers of a vast coun­try es­tate dur­ing the early part of the 20th cen­tury on the hit PBS soap.

On TNT’s “Good Be­hav­ior,” the Bri­tish ac­tress moves into the modern South to play Letty Dobesh, an ex-junkie and thief just out of prison. She lives in low-rent con­di­tions, re­port­ing to a pa­role of­fi­cer and work­ing as a wait­ress.

Part of her wants to go straight. She is al­ways lis­ten­ing to self-help lec­tures, but she’s still tempted by drugs and steals to feed her habit.

“I’ve had the op­por­tu­nity to play two very strong fe­male char­ac­ters, and there are some par­al­lels with them,” says Dock­ery, whose real-life mid­dle-class ac­cent isn’t as posh as Lady Mary’s.

“It’s just very dif­fer­ent pe­ri­ods, you know. One hap­pens to be in ‘20s and one in modern day. But Letty’s an ex­traor­di­nary char­ac­ter, so col­or­ful and raw, and she’s fas­ci­nat­ing to play, and I’m lov­ing ev­ery minute.”

Based on a col­lec­tion of novel­las by au­thor Blake Crouch (“Way­ward Pines,” “Dark Mat­ter”), the se­ries gives the ac­tress a chance to slip into a num­ber of dif­fer­ent char­ac­ters, have a lot of cos­tume changes and be rough and rowdy in ways Lady Mary wouldn’t dream of.

Letty isn’t just a com­mon thief, but uses her good looks and in­tel­li­gence to con her way into up­scale ho­tels to rob rooms. In one episode Dock­ery, a vo­cal­ist who has per­formed at jazz fes­ti­vals, even gets a chance to sing karaoke.

“It’s char­ac­ter within char­ac­ter,” says Dock­ery. “I have four dif­fer­ent wigs. They all have dif­fer­ent names.”

As the se­ries un­folds, we find out more about the char­ac­ter’s dark past. Her mother, Estelle (Lu­sia Strus), who had Letty as a teen, left her to run wild grow­ing up, Now, she is try­ing to make amends by rais­ing her daugh­ter’s son but won’t let Letty any­where near him, though.

After be­ing fired from the diner and de­nied a chance to see her child, Letty falls back into her old ways and em­barks on a crime spree.

Just as she thinks she is get­ting away with her rob­beries, Letty over­hears a mur­der plot be­ing hatched by Javier (Juan Diego Botto), an Ar­gen­tine as­sas­sin, and man who wants to kill his wife. De­cid­ing mur­der is be­yond her moral bound­aries, Letty tries to stop the mur­der, but also steal the money the hit­man is be­ing paid.

Things go awry, and sud­denly Letty finds her­self in a devil’s bar­gain with Javier, who has other peo­ple to kill. Why he spares her is the ques­tion. Javier tells her

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