‘Downton Abbey’ Cast and Producers Discuss Secrets, Love Affairs, Season 5

Rob James-Collier, Sophie McShera, Julian Fellowes,
Jason Kempin/Getty Images

Among the revelations about “Downton Abbey,” producer Gareth Neame shared that a Hollywood exec “who shall remain very nameless,” predicted that the show would not find any takers in the U.S. when he was shopping it.

“It’s mind-boggling to me that now we have 16 million viewers in China,” chimed in cast member Joanne Froggatt (who plays the maid Anna) at a panel discussion Saturday on the Paramount lot hosted by the TV Academy.

Among their fans you can count Julia Roberts, who hugged showrunner Julian Fellowes at a party (“it’s the highlight of my life so far,” he joked); Mick Jagger, who told Laura Carmichael he loves the show, per Robert James-Collier (under-butler Thomas Barrow); and Jon Hamm, who thrilled Phyllis Logan (housekeeper Mrs. Hughes) by giving her a kiss.

Among the common folk, Fellowes related how a woman followed him at a Barnes and Noble and begged, “please make Lady Edith happy.”

“America was the beginning of me,” Fellowes said. “They gave me the Oscar (for writing ‘Gosford Park’) and this second wind is marvelous.”

Other points discussed were Anna’s shocking rape last season and how her husband, Mr. Bates, will take it.

Froggatt said she was told in advance that something big would happen to her character but not what it was. Her reason for keeping it quiet from the others and even her husband is rooted in the times. “It was an eye-opening experience,” she said. “But for a person of Anna’s status, her reputation is all she has and she wouldn’t want to lose her good name.”

Fellowes said of Bates, whose character he wrote with Brendan Coyle in mind, “We don’t know what he’s capable of, well I do, but you all don’t.”

Sophie McShera and Fellowes also discussed the unrequited love of her character Daisy, the kitchen maid, which she compared to an office romance. “The problem with a workplace romance is that it takes place in front of you,” Fellowes said. McShera, taking up on a suggestion from moderator Dave Karger, said she might lobby Fellowes for her own happy love affair. The problem, said James-Collier, both their characters fall for the wrong men.

And in answer to an audience member’s question about Michelle Dockery’s character dealing with a dead lover, Fellowes said, it was rooted in a real-life incident that was related to him long before he started writing “Downton.” “Unlike us, that generation kept its secrets.”

The event, which started with clips from season four, wrapped with a trailer from season five when wireless invades Downton.

(Pictured: Rob James-Collier, Sophie McShera, Julian Fellowes, Phyllis Logan, Gareth Neame and Joanne Froggatt at the TV Academy panel of “Downton Abbey”)

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  1. Connell Walker says:

    This morning, I’m remembering these beloved Downtonians who are pushing on to their next projects or returning home for a moment’s well deserved rest. You will be in my heart for a good, long time. Next week or next year, as I’m boarding the bus, I’ll wonder how Lady Edith is getting along & if she’s taken Marigold for ice cream lately; or noticing how beautiful the turnips are in the market, I’ll smile at how pleased Daisy & Mrs. Patmore will be. I will be wishing, too, for kind homes for Thomas, & Mrs. O’Brien. Thank you for sharing your special family with mine & for your knowledge, diligence, & dedication. I am taking Gareth Neame’s advice. I’ve asked my sister-Santa for a DVD player for Christmas so that, fortified with six seasons of episodes from our county library here, I will be set to enjoy the privilege of your company many times more. Blessings. Prayers are being said for you.

  2. Diana larson says:

    Thank you so very much for your offering entertainment that has every one engaged–all ages–all walks of life. It’s enriching such a large audience…

  3. Margo Rowder says:

    The panel can be seen in its entirety (minus the Season 5 trailer) here: http://bit.ly/TVAcadDownton

  4. I visited Highclere Castle because of Downton Abbey.

  5. RedRiver says:

    I’d love to know who that Hollywood exec is that predicted Downton Abbey wouldn’t be a hit in the US. Boy, that person is someone to steer clear of.

  6. PETER says:

    Fabulous! I love it all. Thank you, but I am sorry that I missed the Paramount Studio party! Why wasn’t I invited? Doesn’t Fellowes know that my family and I are huge DOWNTON fans.

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