LONDON — The cast and production team of “Downton Abbey,” including actors Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville and Joanne Froggatt, and writer-creator Julian Fellowes, looked back at the show’s achievements with mixed emotions at Friday’s London press launch of the hit show’s sixth and last season.
Fellowes said: “The characters have been so real to me for six years. So I do think you have a little sadness. You do feel rather sorry to say goodbye to these people because I’ve enjoyed the creation. I’m sorry to see them go. I’m very unlikely to be involved in anything that is as successful again and so, of course, I say goodbye to these golden years with a slight pang. But it seems the right time to go while we’re still firing.”
The drama is the most nominated British show in Emmy history with 59 nominations, collecting 11 wins including best writing for a miniseries or a movie, directing for a miniseries or a movie, and best miniseries or a movie. It has won three Golden Globes; three Screen Actors Guild awards, of which two were for ensemble cast in a drama series; a Producers Guild of America award; and three BAFTA awards.
Smith, who plays the Dowager Countess Violet, expressed surprise that she’d made it this far. “I’m just surprised that I got to the end because just before this I’d done about 10 years with ‘Harry Potter.’ So I felt very old indeed by the time I got to the Dowager. I’m honestly just surprised that I got through it and I’m still here.”
Smith paid tribute to the crew and production team. “It was extraordinary and incredibly reassuring to see these people day after day and know that they were the first people there and they were the last people to go,” she said. “You’ve no idea how incredibly exhausting that must be. I do not know how it’s done, quite honestly. And there they are, all of them, and always in a very good mood, which I can’t say for myself.”
Asked what she would be doing next, she replied: “I’m going to be lying down. I believe for quite some time. The other thing I will be doing is watching it. I will get the box set and have a good look. I certainly haven’t watched anything that I’ve done. I have seen some of it. But I want to sit down and look at it all.”
Gareth Neame, the show’s executive producer, said: “Last night at 7 p.m. we wrapped all of the servants. They shot their last scene. It’s an incredibly emotional, moving scene in the very last episode. It was very cleverly scheduled that they had that scene to do and then we clapped them all off the stage. I can tell you that quite a few tears were shed by grown men in the form of butlers and footmen that I never expected to see.
“I think the final season is very strong and I believe the fans of the show around the world will be happy and satisfied with what happens to our characters.”
It was announced that Patricia Hodge, who plays Miranda, would be joining the cast for the last-ever episode, the Christmas episode due to air on Christmas Day 2015.
“Downton Abbey,” which airs on ITV in the U.K., is the highest-rating U.K. drama of the past decade across any U.K. channel, with an average of 11 million viewers over the course of the last five seasons, including Christmas specials.
In the U.S., season 5 had a weekly average audience of 12.9 million viewers over its nine-week run and concluded in March this year having been watched by 25.5 million people.
The show, which is aired in more than 250 territories worldwide, is a Carnival Films/Masterpiece co-production, and distributed by NBCUniversal International Distribution. Carnival is part of NBCUniversal International Studios.
DOWNTON ABBEY FACTS
Filming days across all six seasons – 790
Seasons 1-6 Cast – 255
Seasons 1-6 Crew – 900
Seasons 1-6 Sets – 350 sets designed
Drawings – 1,000 plus
Seasons 5 and 6 – 1,000 plus wigs used
Seasons 5 and 6 – 400 original costumes designed and made