×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmys: ‘Downton Abbey’ Faces Paparazzi, Cast Challenges

Series had to confront several major issues

Approaching its third season, the creators of PBS Masterpiece’s “Downton Abbey” had to confront several major issues: Two lead characters were set to depart, weddings were planned, and trespassing photographers were becoming a nuisance coming out of the bushes of real-life location Highclere Castle.

“The show became harder to make because of its popularity, ironically,” says exec producer Gareth Neame. “We’d have paparazzi in the undergrowth for hours trying to get a great shot.”

That meant constructing fake leaks and fake screens around location sets and releasing misleading photographs so that audiences wouldn’t be tipped off to some of the key moments: namely, how Matthew was departing (once it got out that Dan Stevens was not re-upping) or that Sybil (Jessica Brown Findlay) died in childbirth. Mary’s dress in her wedding to Matthew was also a top-secret priority, as was the fact that poor Edith was left at the altar. And the show was clever: Since Sybil didn’t die in childbirth but shortly after, producers could let out a photo of her holding her child to make her actual death in the episode that much more surprising.

“We had a bit of fun,” chuckles Neame.

But Neame admits it would have been good to have Stevens around for a few episodes in season four: “Exits like those give you real dramatic rocket fuel,” he says, “but we were hoping Dan would stay on the show. And when we couldn’t keep him in multiple seasons, we tried for extra episodes, but he didn’t want to do that.”

The show didn’t hit every high note: The much-touted appearance of Shirley MacLaine proved to be all too brief (though she’ll be back next season) and the odd financial insolvency of Downton, and deus ex machina “solution” of a sudden inheritance by Matthew, who was then oddly reluctant to use it to save Downton, felt strained. Bates left prison and wed Anna, but the prolonged separation arguably sapped some air from that romance.

Overall, however, “Downton” had all of the rocket fuel it could handle, and will now have to spend part of its next season dealing with the fallout of those foundation-rocking changes.

As for a possible Emmy win, Neame says they aren’t counting chickens, but it would certainly be a stamp of approval. “To be in the mainstream and considered by American audiences as their own, to be in that category as one of the top shows in what is probably the most competitive time in television history, is a really special feeling,” he says. “It would be amazing.”

More TV

  • Baby Yoda The Mandalorian

    The Star of 'The Mandalorian:' Baby Yoda

    SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers for the first two episodes of “The Mandalorian,” if wish to be surprised you do, only annoyance will you find.  BB-8 and the Ewoks can step aside with the latest expansion of the “Star Wars” universe with Disney Plus’s “The Mandalorian.” There’s a new addition to the long list [...]

  • Vikings S4 Finale

    'Vikings' Sequel Series Set at Netflix From Michael Hirst, Jeb Stuart

    Fans of the History series “Vikings” rejoice! Netflix has ordered the follow up series titled “Vikings: Valhalla,” which will be set 100 years after the conclusion of the original show. The sixth and final season of “Vikings” on History is set to debut on Dec. 4. “Valhalla” will be executive produced by “Vikings” creator Michael [...]

  • Olympics

    NBCUniversal Sets Molly Solomon to Oversee Olympics Production, Replacing Jim Bell

    NBC’s Tokyo Olympics has a new contestant. Molly Solomon, a veteran sports producer who has been with NBC since 1990, has been tapped as the new executive producer of NBCUniversal’s Olympics broadcast, one of the most important production jobs at the Comcast-owned media conglomerate. She begins her new role immediately, with just months to go [...]

  • Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime

    Juliette Lewis, Christina Ricci Join Showtime 'Yellowjackets' Pilot

    Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” pilot is rounding out its cast. The network has announced that “Camping” star Juliette Lewis and original “Addams Family” actor Christina Ricci have boarded the project as series regulars, joining already announced cast members Melanie Lynskey, Tawny Cypress and Jasmin Savoy Brown. “Yellowjackets” tells the story of a team of talented high school [...]

  • Kevin Hart Fatherhood

    Kevin Hart Sets Netflix Docu-Series 'Don't F--k This Up'

    Kevin Hart is expanding his partnership with Netflix with a new six-part documentary series named “Don’t F–k This Up.” Hart’s Hartbeat Productions will produce alongside Lionsgate, Makemake, 3 Arts Entertainment, and Magical Elves, with the show set to debut on Netflix on Dec. 27.  It will follow the comedian’s day-to-day lifestyle as he tackles what [...]

  • Little Mermaid Live

    Live+7 Ratings for Week of Nov. 4: 'The Little Mermaid Live' Outswims the Competition

    “The Little Mermaid Live” continues to perform swimmingly in the TV ratings. The ABC musical topped all non-football shows for the week of Nov. 4, growing 34% from its Live+Same Day rating and 30% in total viewership to finish with a 3.4 and 11.7 million total viewers. That represents pretty substantial growth for a live [...]

  • Top Female Directors

    Record Number of TV Episodes Directed by Women or Directors of Color (Study)

    According to the Directors Guild of America, the TV industry has made major gains in terms of diversity. Half of all TV episodes in the 2018-19 season were directed by women or directors of color for the first time, according to a DGA report released on Tuesday. The DGA’s episodic television director inclusion report noted [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content