of Kirsty Wallace
So a couple of weeks ago I had the privilege of attending a Downton Abbey
event at London’s Apple Store on Regent Street with Anna Bates (Joanne Froggatt) and Jimmy (Ed Speleers).
When I saw that they were running another “Meet the Cast” session but this time with Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and everyone’s favourite chauffeur turned Land Manager, Tom Branson (Allen Leech) I knew I had to be here.
Just a warning to our US readers who are patiently waiting for Season 4 to premiere in January 2014, there will be spoilers coming up.
Photo courtesy of Kirsty Wallace
This event has the potential to be incredibly interesting as both characters are going through a turbulent time this season, Lady Mary is still coming to terms with the death of Matthew (but then hey so are most of the viewers), and Tom Branson is struggling to find his place at Downton following the death of Sybil. Both characters have difficult decisions to make, for example will Branson really decide to emigrate to America or will yet another Earl’s daughter take a chance on him?
The event was compered by Boyd Hilton again and it is obvious he is a true fan of the show. I also want to say that Michelle Dockery is simply stunning in the flesh, and Allen Leech is just dashing.
Boyd Hilton started by asking Michelle about how she has coped with the changes Mary has gone through following Matthew's death, and how these changes have influenced her choices as an actress. Michelle said that she found that finding the darker side of the character was difficult however she is glad that Mary has found her mojo again and she has had fun with the character. She was pleased to see the return of the more sarcastic Lady Mary.
Michelle also said that she definitely still missed Dan Stevens, and Allen agreed and he said that both Stevens and Jess (actress Jessica Brown Findlay who played Lady Sybil Crawley) were both missed by the cast.
Allen and Michelle both enjoy interacting with each other and it shows how the relationship between the pair of them have now and they are united by their grief. This is sharp contrast to the relationship in Season Two when Mary was definitely not Tom’s biggest fan.
The introduction of Blake has brought back Mary’s more bitchy side and Michelle thoroughly loves playing that side of Mary. She loves welcoming new actors to the show and that we have not seen the last of the dashing Lord Gillingham.
Branson showed his love for the Crawley family and Tom is now part of the family. Allen says Branson has gone through a big journey and will be interesting to see where Tom will end up.
Both of them admitted that they are still shocked by what they read in the script and Allen admitted that he always checks the end of the script to check he doesn’t die.
Michelle was shocked by the Anna storyline in Episode 3 however they were not expecting quite the reaction. People were genuinely shocked by the story line and Michelle says it shows the strength of Julian’s writing. They both agree that Downton has never been afraid to shy away from the controversial storylines (Lady Sybil’s marriage to Tom and her death, Mary’s run in with the Turkish diplomat). Allen was clear that all the cast were keen to be as gentle as possible.
The relationship between Lady Mary and Anna is a lovely one, and the relationship between upstairs and downstairs is important to the show. Anna and Mary know when the other is upset and Mary is relieved that that attack is now out in the open. Michelle loves working with Jo (Froggatt) and it is feels very intimate and contained.
Downton is full of strong female roles, and Michelle says that there is no longer a lack of good roles for women in dramas. Julian writes well for women and especially sisters (Edith, Mary and Sybil).
Allen has a great time working with all the cast members, and he is keen not to upset the viewers and therefore all the cast always bring their ‘A’ game for the fans. Rob Thomas Collier (Barrow) is a keen prankster and he provides welcome comic relief after filming especially when filming the dinner scenes which generally take all day. The food is real, however they are cautious how much they eat.
Allen loves breakfast scenes however he has to be careful as they could overeat because due to continuity they can end up eating multiple breakfasts.
There is a lovely relationship developing between Isobel Crawley and Tom Branson. Isobel is trying to bring Tom’s political side back to the fore. Allen admitted that whilst during filming a forthcoming scene Penelope Wilton complained her feet were “melting’ due to the designs of the authentic 1920’s car. There is also no speedometer on the old car and therefore filming scenes in the car was difficult. Branson may well return to his first love “politics”.
Would Allen like a romance for Branson? He says he doesn’t think Tom isn’t ready for another relationship and that it will take a while for him to get over Sybil. So it looks like a relationship between Lady Mary and Tom appears unlikely to happen.
Allen doesn’t know whether Tom will end up going to America although Allen would be open to a Branson US spinoff. They both trust Julian to do the right thing for the character.
Photo courtesy of Kirsty Wallace
Michelle finds the success of Downton brilliant and she finds that people do approach her and she loves to meet her fans. Allen finds that the British are more discreet however sometimes finds some fans behavior slightly odd.
Michelle really enjoys receiving letters from fans and has received a marriage proposal.
The stars did a Childline gala event last week, with Allen and Rob Thomas as the hosts and they call themselves “The Edwardian Ant and Dec”.
Paul Giamatti and Shirley McClaine are in the Christmas special and is quite a number according to Michelle. Acting with Paul Giamatti and Shirley McClaine was an honour.
Michelle has always had a passion for acting and it was where she felt most at home,
So I actually asked a question!!! I asked Allen whether he preferred acting with Upstairs or Downtairs – Allen said that couldn’t pick between the two and it has been an honour to able to act with both.
Acting with the children can be difficult and that it can mean that scenes do change for example the nursery scene on Sunday was meant to be totally different.
Someone went there with will there be a change in the relationship between Mary and Branson – Michele and Allen aren’t sure what Julian Fellowes (the creator and writer of Downton Abbey
) will do however Allen did point out that originally Mary didn’t want Tom in the family.
Michelle feels that Mary has stopped being as cold and heartless and Allen feels that Branson has totally changed and become softer and more open. Julian Fellowes is not afraid to write change for the characters.
Both find working on Downton
a great laugh and they are very protective of the show. It is a lovely feeling to be part of something special. Allen and Michelle love the fact that the fans support the show.
Michelle thinks American’s view it as “foreign” and it feeds into the US fascination with the Brits and the Royal Family.
The Abbey and the gardens are as much of a character as anyone. Allen wants to be let loose “behind the scenes” of Highclere.
Has playing the characters influenced their behavior off screen? – Michelle knows which fork to use at a posh dinner, and has learnt a lot about how the life of women changed over the time Downton is set.
Michelle loves wearing the clothes and the tiara and Allen loves driving the vintage cars.
The 1920’s is the new party era – “The Roaring 20’s” – it is a real period of change in views. London may be modern of the time, however Carson will keep Downton in the old time.
All in all it was a really enjoyable 45 minutes and Allen Leech is a total flirt and is incredibly cute.
Hope you enjoyed the rundown of the Q&A, and hopefully we will get more soon.