“Downton Abbey” was the capper of PBS’ second day at the Television Critics Assn. press tour. Here are the most memorable moments – sans spoilers – from the panel with actresses Phyllis Logan, Sophie McShera, Laura Carmichael, Michelle Dockery and Joanne Froggatt, exec producer Gareth Neame and PBS Masterpiece exec producer Rebecca Eaton.
Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary) on the departure of Dan Stevens: “My first reaction was, ‘Oh, crap. What is going to happen?’ Because I thought, ‘Where can this story go now?’ We spent all this time on this will-they-or-won’t they relationships. But as much as it was sad to see Dan go, same as it was sad to see Jessica go, it opens it up for Julian (Fellowes) to write a new chapter.”
Laura Carmichael (Lady Edith): “(Edith) is the Carrie Bradshaw of the ’20s.”
Carmichael: “Julian has this take that some people in life are lucky, and some people aren’t – and Edith (has been) definitely one of those unlucky people.”
Gareth Neame: “It is a really different season for Edith this year, a really active story for her.”
Joanna Froggatt (Anna) on the passage of time – season four begins in February 1922: “I don’t think it is that different down the line. Even if time wise we jump forward, the stories always kind of start off from the same place we left them. So I think they always make sense.”
Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) on the interest in her relationship with Carson: “I suppose middle-aged love is interesting for middle-aged people.”
Froggatt: “The P Diddy video was certainly quite popular on the ‘Downton’ set.”
Neame: “There’s great social unrest going on, (and) it’s very much part of the show.”
Carmichael, on the grieving that begins season four: “”In amongst the mourning there are these sort of escapes for a couple of characters.”
Logan: “My grandfather had been killed in the first World War when his own son, my dad, was a baby. Just knowing through family folklore that whole villages were wiped out … I thought that whole war story was done very well.”
Logan, on whether the show might go to World War II: “I’d certainly be dead by then – I hope not!”
Logan: “I think she’s a bit of a busybody really, masquerading as this nice woman. But she does show her compassion for the underdog, I suppose.”
Neame: “Anna is the beating heart of the show … she is the character I’d most like to have as a friend.”
Dockery, on the prospects of future seasons (beyond 2014-15): “So long as the core cast remain … as long as it remains an ensemble.”
Neame: “I think the show is so popular around the world now. It’s beloved, and it’s in fine form. We’re shooting the final episode at the moment of season four. The fourth season is in extremely good health. Our minds are on the fifth season and what those potential stories will be. I think the show has a while to go. … If people love the show want to keep making it. If people around the world feel it has had it’s time, and (perhaps) we’ll know that before you do, we’ll call it a day.”
Eaton: “It is a mystery. I don’t think anybody knows for sure how many there will be. Even Julian.”
Eaton preceded the panel by noting that Masterpiece’s ratings from September to July are up 33% compared to the previous year, exec producer Rebecca Eaton said.
Oct. 6 will bring the premiere of a co-production with BBC, “The Paradise,” based on the Emile Zola novel “The Ladies’ Paradise,” set at a French department store (a world apart from PBS’ “Mr. Selfridge.”)
“Death Comes to Pemberley,” based on the P.D. James book about what might have happened after Elizabeth Bennet marries Mr. Darcy, will star Anna Maxwell Martin and Matthew Rhys. It will also air in 2013-14.