The cast of DOWNTON ABBEY recently took part in a press day for the new movie, and we were there to ask them about the experience of reviving the beloved television series.
In six seasons, the "Downton Abbey" television series explored the lives of its expansive cast of characters in granular detail. While that may have presented the storytellers a real challenge when time came to write a new adventure for the DOWNTON ABBEY movie, the actors thrilled at the opportunity to revisit their characters, no matter what material they were given. “It’s a real pleasure to, first of all, play a character for so many years, and then to revisit a character you thought you’d finished with, said Sophie McShera. “That’s really unusual, so I was excited to get back and play Daisy.”
Hugh Bonneville, who plays Robert Crawley, similarly was just excited for the on screen reunion to occur. “I was just keen for it to happen - we all were,” Bonneville said. “We just wanted to be a sense of the family coming back together in more ways than one, and for it to be entertaining for an audience.”
DOWNTON ABBEY features a tremendous wealth of talent on screen in every scene, whether the actors are playing footmen or the Queen herself. McShera said she learned a tremendous amount from working alongside heavyweights like Maggie Smith and Penelope Wilton. “I feel like I’m being taught the most and mentored the most by the people I’m around - that’s just natural,” she said. “But if you’re around Penelope and Maggie, you’re like, this has got to be getting into my body somehow.” Michael C. Fox said that in scenes where he’s meant to be invisible to his “upstairs” counterparts, he finds himself observing his co-stars as much for acting inspiration as in character playing Andrew Parker. “As footman watching the upstairs scenes, you’re very much on the outside,” Parker observed. “So you’re watching and hoping that some acting experience is going on outside, by osmosis.”
Two of the recurring themes of DOWNTON ABBEY are the passage of time, and the change in customs from one generation to the next. Bonneville said that the Downton-era tradition he misses most is simple politeness. “This is a world in which people have respect for one another, whether you’re a lord or a lady’s maid,” he said. “People may know their place, but they know how this fictional system works, and it only works if there is mutual respect.”
Wilton suggested that the restrictions of the time period - at least in comparison to today - produce a different, more highly-charged kind of energy when it comes to small movements and gestures. “It’s that restraint, and having to not give very much away - and give clues,” Wilton said. “Nowadays everyone takes their clothes off, whereas [then] you could take your glove off very slowly and it would have the same effect.”
All images courtesy of Focus Features.