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Television PopWrapped | Television

PopWrapped "Meets the Cast" of Downton Abbey At The Apple Store London v2

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PopWrapped

10/09/2013 4:30 pm
PopWrapped | Television
PopWrapped
Media Courtesy of Kirsty Wallace
Kirsty Wallace

Content Editor 

Following the heartbreaking and traumatic scenes which we all witnessed on Sunday’s Downton Abbey I was even more excited to attend this now annual “Meet the Cast” event at The Apple Store in London.  The stars who were going to be in attendance were Ed Speleers - who plays Jimmy - and most excitingly Joanne Froggatt - who plays Anna Bates - and was phenomenal in this week’s episode. As the host (Heat journalist Boyd Hilton) did point out, if you have not yet watched this season of Downton so far, please be aware there are spoilers ahead. Froggatt was first asked whether the timing of her storyline and this event was purely coincidental or whether it was a planned thing.  She answered this by saying that this is not the first time she has participated in these Apple Store events, so there was no planning on the part of the show for the event to take place in the week following Anna’s horrific attack. Hilton asked the question of whether the controversy that has arisen around the rape storyline was expected, or has Joanne been surprised by the complaints.  Froggatt did say she expected the storyline to attract some controversy, however she was not expecting this level of shock - since the episode was broadcast ITV has received 60 complaints regarding the episode.  Froggatt said she was immensely proud of her storyline, and is looking forward to seeing the journey that Anna and Mr Bates will go on for the rest of the season. Interestingly, she did say that both episodes three and four were directed by Catherine Morshead, the first woman to direct on the show, and both of them wanted to give a taste of what the impact a rape would have had on a woman in that time. Froggatt said it very much a team effort and that the crew was very supportive of her during the filming of the scenes. Froggatt also wanted to remind the crowd that, ultimately, Downton Abbey is a drama and was shown after the watershed. She was also keen to point out that the actual attack was not shown, something that creator Julian Fellowes felt very strongly about. Speleers was asked whether the criticism that Downton Abbey is “cosy viewing” and shouldn’t have done the rape story line is correct.  He replied that it was brave of the show to pursue this storyline, and that it is still relevant for women today. Speleers also said that the perfect execution of the scenes helped with the gravity of it. Froggatt revealed that she did a lot of research regarding why women do not report rape and sexual abuse, even in today’s society.  She said that women don’t want to report it as many times their recollection of the events is vague, or she is scared of not being believed. Alistair Bruce, the show’s historical advisor, helped Joanne get an idea of why Anna would have to hide the rape.  In the 1920’s a woman’s reputation was all she had.  The attack could be seen as bringing shame on the house and family they worked in and for, in Anna’s case Downton and the Crawleys.  She could be disowned by Mr Bates or he could end up back in prison if he tried to seek revenge. Froggatt said that it was important to remember that in the 20’s women had very few rights, and that even other women in the village would think she had done something to deserve it.  All of these things mean that Anna feels she can’t tell anyone else about Mr Green’s attack on her. Froggatt did say that the rape will impact Anna and Mr Bates through the rest of the season, as he doesn’t know why she is pulling away from him, and he is hurt by this. Hilton then took the conversation to a lighter area: Jimmy’s love quadrangle, or love rhombus as Speleers called it.  Speleers thinks that the reason Jimmy is pursuing Ivy is partly out of boredom and also to annoy Alfred. So glad I am not the only one who thinks that is the reason he is doing what he is doing.  Speleers did say that Ivy and Alfred can bond over their shared love of cooking and that Jimmy is jealous of Alfred because he knows what he wants to do with his life. Speleers was asked whether we will see any interaction between Jimmy and Barrow, following the storyline of Barrow trying to seduce Jimmy when he first arrived at Downton.  Ed acknowledged that the storyline of Barrow’s sexuality is and was a challenging one, again due to the social repercussions of that being discovered. Homosexuality was a criminal act in the 1920’s so even to report someone’s misjudged advances could have had a massive impact on all parties involved. Speleers is one of the new cast members in the show, especially down in the servant’s hall.  Hilton asked him whether he was intimidated by joining a show that had become a worldwide sensation.  Speleers agreed that he was slightly intimidated; however he saw it as his drama school, as he didn’t attend a drama school.  He also said that working with such a great group of people, especially those downstairs is a real honour. Froggatt joked that Speleers has the nickname “The James Dean of Downton”. Hilton asked both Froggatt and Speleers how they read the scripts when they get them, for example do they just read what is happening with their own characters, or do they read the script as a whole episode.  Froggatt said she does a mixture of both and Speleers agreed with that.  Joanne said that she likes to see how the upstairs storylines mesh together with downstairs and vice versa. Froggatt was asked if she told anyone about the rape storyline.  She said that her husband knew because he helps her learn her lines, however even he doesn’t like getting spoilers.  She didn’t tell any of her other family and spent much of Sunday night reassuring her family she was fine. Froggatt said that she tells as few people as possible because she doesn’t want to be responsible for spoilers getting out there. At this point, Hilton asked the assembled audience for any questions. The first question asked was: “How do they feel about being a part of the biggest show on TV?” Speleers said that he finds it overwhelming. He especially loves how engrossed the US audience is in the show and he said that people ask him questions about what the characters are doing and they don’t understand why he can’t answer those types of questions. Froggatt was then asked what the age difference was meant to be between Anna and Bates. She said that the original age difference was around 16 years, however she doesn’t know whether Anna is meant to have gained a few extra years since then. Froggatt was also asked about what impact Anna’s rape will have on her relationship with Mr Bates.  She replied that Anna feels totally disconnected from everyone following the attack and that she has lost that positive spirit she had previously.  Bates doesn’t understand what has happened to her, and will start to wonder what he did wrong. The next question was also directed at Froggatt, who received her first TV break in the soap opera Coronation Street.  She was asked how being in a soap opera helped her on Downton. She replied that Coronation Street was her drama school, it taught her how to work under pressure and get the job done.  She also said that without Coronation Street she would not have got her present agent and therefore her life could have been very different. We then discovered that Speleers spent time in North Yorkshire to get into the character of Jimmy, which is where Downton is set, in order to get a feel for the area and help with the accent.  Froggatt who is from Yorkshire, commented that Speleers’ Yorkshire accent is very accurate (and I have to say I totally agree also having lived in the area previously).  He also spent time developing a back story for Jimmy, the likelihood that he would have served in the First World War and the impact that would have on his behaviour. Froggatt said when she first got the role she did a lot of research on how life would have been for a housemaid like Anna. She said she read a particularly useful book called Keeping Their Place which is a book of letters from downstairs staff to their upstairs employers.  She also spent time learning what a woman’s place would have been. At the time Downton Abbey season one was set, women did not have the right to vote.  She also said that, ironically, she was sent for accent lessons even though she is from Yorkshire. Both Speleers and Froggatt agreed that one of the best things about working on Downton Abbey is the ability to watch actors and actresses such as Dame Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, and Shirley McClaine.  Speleers said that he really enjoys being in the background on scenes because it allows him to just watch all the talent on the show.  Froggatt said that, unfortunately, the Dowager Countess has only spoken to Anna once on the show, and Anna wasn’t even allowed to reply.  Speleers said that sometimes working on the show feels like an acting master class. All in all, the event was very informative and it is clear that both Speleers and Froggatt love being part of the Downton family.  It was great to get an insight on the characters they play, especially from Froggatt who is going to be an important person for the remainder of the season. Downton Abbey is on ITV at 9pm on Sundays. It will air on PBS from 5th January 2014. [gallery columns="4" ids="4384,4385,4386,4387"] http://www.Twitter.com/PopWrapped http://www.PopWrapped.Tumblr.com/ http://www.SoundCloud.com/PopWrapped http://www.Facebook.com/PopWrapped http://www.Instagram.com/PopWrapped http://www.Pinterest.com/PopWrapped http://www.YouTube.com/PopWrapped http://www.PopWrapped.wordpress.com/ http://www.PopWrapped.com

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