Tue 10 Nov 2015, 14:00
What the actors of Downton Abbey experience off the clock.
We all adore being caught up in the whimsical world of the Crawleys in Grantham Manor and we get to do just that every Sunday with Downton Abbey at 19:30 on BBC First (119). And with Downton Abbey on DStv Catch Up, you'll never be left out of the loop.
Out in the real world, the actors and actresses of the British sensation often get boggled at the public’s response to them:
Laura Carmichael, or Lady Edith Crawley as we know her, went to America for the Downton press tour and a number of awards ceremonies.
“I’m still not used to it. It is still an enormous surprise to go over there and experience that. But we’re having so much fun, and we’re so conscious that we’ve got to keep to a level, because it’s what’s expected. No one is going, ‘This is normal’, or ‘This is what we thought would happen.’ It’s still a surprise, particularly because on set it’s still completely the same – we’re in this little tiny corner of the British countryside, just doodling along. And then you have some time off where you go to LA and get off the plane and it’s mayhem.”
She adds that the Americans find it a little hard to deal with Lady Edith sans costume and wig.
“The wig and costume can make you look a hundred years old. So when you take it off people go, ‘Oh my god! You’re pretty!’ Which I find hilarious. That’s the advantage of playing Edith, I think – anything is a step up when you’re not in your Edith gear. They’re very surprised to see you in jeans.”
Penelope Wilton, who plays Isobel Crawley, notes that in the main, the public seem to like her character.
“Some people - especially lovers of the aristocracy - think she’s a busybody and she should keep her mouth shut. I have met people in the street who’ve said, ‘Oh, you’re that ghastly one who keeps asking awkward questions.’ But I think that’s part of the cleverness of Julian’s writing. If you don’t have someone questioning things, sticking up for the underdog and questioning the new order; somebody who has been independent and not had that cocoon of privilege all her life, you lose a perspective on the world outside the house. It’s like constructive criticism.”
Jim Carter as Charles Carson, however, finds himself in the unlikely position of playing the world’s most famous butler, and is constantly in demand.
“I get strange offers,” he says. “I’ve been asked to go on cruises with a butler and to write about it. Maybe when this show’s over and long gone, maybe that’s the time for that, but not at the moment.”
Carter says his research tells him that the actuality of a butler’s life, at least in the period in which Downton is set, might not have been quite so appealing.
“You know, I think the reality of the life was desperately lonely and rather sad – he is pathetically tied to the family because he has no independent life at all. What does he do on the day off? He’s got no friends. He can’t socialise, he hasn’t got anyone.”
No he hasn’t - unless that little paddle with Mrs Hughes meant something. Stay intruiged with Downton Abbey, Sundays at 19:30 on BBC First (119).
If you’ve let life get ahead of you, you can always catch up on Downton Abbey here.