Interview – The cast and creators of ‘Downton Abbey: A New Era’

From award-winning creator Julian Fellowes comes the motion picture event Downton Abbey: A New Era. The much-anticipated cinematic return of the global phenomenon reunites the beloved cast as they go on a grand journey to the South of France to uncover the mystery of the Dowager Countess’ newly inherited villa.

Leading up to the Australian release of the film, Universal Pictures invited me to the global press junket, where for a lovely few hours, the charming cast and talented filmmakers behind this new film spoke candidly about making this new film and touched on why Downton Abbey is so beloved, even all these years later!

After 6 successful seasons and a beloved first feature film, the core cast of Downton Abbey gave us some insight on what it felt like coming back for another film, and to film during the pandemic.

Penelope Wilton (Isobel Merton): It was wonderful to come back! Especially after being in lockdown, we felt so lucky to be working, but also to see other people! We got a bit hysterical when we all saw each other. It was highly enjoyable

Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley): And to add to that, we felt so privileged to be working when so many others couldn’t. I genuinely appreciated every day that we got to work, and work on something that we instinctively felt the audience would relate to. Seeing everyone again was like wearing a pair of warm slippers.

Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley): It’s something you can only appreciate when you’ve done something as long as we’ve done Downton Abbey. It’s something we’ve all done together for so long, and you can’t buy a bond like that!

Jim Carter (Mr. Carson): I can only echo what the others have said! I hope it brings people a lot of pleasure and fun when they see it.

Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley)It always feels like coming home, we’re all a big family. It’s been 12 years since we started the show, so we’re all so close. But we’re so excited to welcome the newcomers too!

Creator of the show, Julian Fellows, and director, Simon Curtis, spoke about how it feels to finally have the movie hitting cinemas and how England almost had to double for France due to the pandemic!

Julian Fellowes (Writer/Creator): It was quite bumpy with the difficulties of COVID. We didn’t know if we could go and film in France! But I was quite optimistic because we were getting everyone together again. We wanted them all to leave England – even though they have been to Scotland, but we don’t count that (laughs). We wanted to bring the Crawley’s more into the 20th century, so we have the film crew come to make a movie in the Abbey. Now it’s all come together, I’m quite bouncy about it!

Simon Curtis (Director): It’s very simple – I hope this film is a 2-hour escape for audiences all around the world! I hope they laugh and cry with a group of characters that they have come to love!

Newcomers to the franchise, Hugh Dancy and Laura Haddock, also touched on how they were embraced by the tight-knit cast.

Hugh Dancy (Jack Barber)The experience was great from start to finish! I was just welcomed in with open arms and it was very easy.

Laura Haddock (Myrna Dalgleish): Hugh Bonneville told me that this was one of the nicest, most relaxed groups of people to work with and we fit right in straight away.

Alongside Haddock, the other newcomer, Dominic West, and seasoned Downton actress Joanne Froggatt, discussed the experience of filming a movie… about filming a movie!

Laura Haddock (Myrna Dalgleish): It was a bit silly wasn’t it! Having 2 directors, really.

Dominic West (Guy Dexter): It was really fascinating to see that older technology. The whole meta, self-referential stuff, all the divas – it’s Julian’s chance to vent about working with those he didn’t like (laughs).

Laura Haddock (Myrna Dalgleish): Maggie Smith’s character says that line like: “Why would you work on a film set? I’d rather work in the mines!”

Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates): Maggie has so many of those great lines that make fun of what we do! It’s great hearing award-winning Dame Maggie Smith make these comments on the film industry!

Reflecting back on their characters, more of the core cast from the show touched on whether they ever expected their characters to be in the positions they’re in during A New Era!

Robert James Collier (Thomas Barrow): When I took the role on, I was told Thomas was either getting sacked or arrested by the end of season one! So, it’s a great part, but you’ll be going at the end of the season. But Julian liked what I was doing and asked me if I wanted to stay on. And now, here we are 10 years later!

Michael Fox (Andy): Mine was away from the series itself – I was surprised I did two seasons and two movies! But I am very happy with the way my character has been developed, even from the previous film. He has a bit of edge now as he moves up the hierarchy.

Sophie McShera (Daisy): No! My character was just trying to get through the day and not get punched by Mrs. Patmore! It was so scary everyday for Daisy, so it’s amazing to see Daisy where she is now!

Downton Abbey isn’t shy of a drama-filled scandal, and I had to know what the cast thought some of the juiciest scandals from the show and movies were!

Tuppence Middleton (Lucy Smith): I don’t know how much I can say spoiler-wise for this movie… (whispers to the others). I’ll just say the scandal involving Thomas in this movie was a bit of fun!

Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Pelham): I feel like the original scandal with of Mr. Pamuk!

Allen Leech (Tom Branson): Oh yes!

Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Pelham): A man being found in Lady Mary’s bed, dead! That was a great way to open the show!

Sophie McShera (Daisy): Oh! I’m going with Lady Mary and the dead guy! Love that, such a classic scandal. Daisy got to look through the door and see the body!

Michael Fox (Andy): It’s not really a scandal, but when Hugh puked up the blood! That feels like the most shocking this that has happened!

And finally, why had the beloved series of Downton Abbey been one of the most admired shows on television for so many years!

Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith Pelham): Its true escapism. It’s so warm and comforting to spend time with so many different characters, who aren’t perfect, but we love them still.

Allen Leech (Tom Branson): What Julian does great is make a world with characters you can love or loathe. They’re all characters with such unique voices. I’ve heard so many stories of men whose wives or girlfriends have watched it and then they fall in love with it too.

Thanks again to the awesome team at Universal Pictures for giving me a chance to chat with the Downton Abbey gang! You can check out Downton Abbey: A New Era in cinemas April 28.

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Nick L'Barrow
Nick L'Barrow
Nick is a Brisbane-based film/TV reviewer. He gained his following starting with his 60 second video reviews of all the latest releases on Instagram (@nicksflicksfix), before launching a monthly podcast with Peter Gray called Monthly Movie Marathon. Nick contributes to Novastream with interviews and reviews for the latest blockbusters.

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