Behind the scenes: war comes to Downton Abbey
Julian Fellowes’ hit drama Downton Abbey is back for a second series this autumn with the regular cast including Dame Maggie Smith, Hugh Bonneville, Elizabeth McGovern, Brendan Coyle, Joanne Froggatt and Dan Stevens.
Returning to Downton Abbey in 1916, we see the effects of The First World War on the lives of the Crawley family and the servants who work for them.
And when the storms of war have finally cleared, will the way of life known by all the inhabitants of Downton have changed forever?
Since the start of the first series in 2010, Downton Abbey has become a worldwide phenomenon and a hit with viewers right around the globe.
Secret of its success
The show’s creator, Julian Fellowes, has attempted to understand why the series has struck such a global chord. He says:
“I think one of the reasons for the success of Downton Abbey is that although it is set in the past, it has a modern structure. It is very fast paced and has lots of different stories running simultaneously, and you have to keep alert. In the old days, it didn’t matter if a viewer went out in the middle of a show to make a cup of tea. But you can’t do that with Downton Abbey – you might miss the whole reason why Daisy bought a hat! The show has an energy that makes it very watchable.”
Julian goes on to explain the First World War setting of the second series of Downton Abbey.
“The heart of this series is how everyone from Daisy to Robert copes with the country being at war. Roberts says, ‘War is now reaching its long fingers into Downton, scattering our chicks.’ None of them is unaffected by the war. All of them change. And death does not entirely pass Downton Abbey by…”
The effects of the war
Hugh Bonneville explains how the well-ordered world of Downton Abbey is changed by the conflict in France, as the house is turned into a convalescent home for wounded servicemen.
“As the estate’s role begins to shift, to help the war effort, so Robert’s place within it begins to alter; all the certainties of Robert’s life, so clear cut before the war, are challenged. As the pride of the nation’s youth, once in full bloom now cruelly cut down by injury, come to convalesce in the house, Robert begins to question his view of the world and his place within it.”
Dame Maggie Smith – aka Dowager Countess of Grantham – reveals the cast find Downton Abbey just as addictive as the audience do. She says:
“You become absolutely obsessed and riveted by it. We don’t get all the scripts together in one batch because Julian is still writing them clearly. But I will be reading the script, then be desperate for the next one, desperate to know what’s going to happen next!”
The imperious character of Violet has really struck a chord with audiences. Maggie explains why her alter ego has proved so popular.
“She’s always been imperious from the age of two, and I think she’s just about got the hang of it now. I also like to think that she’s got this sort of façade and underneath she’s got a heart of pure custard. That’s my theory anyway.”
Behind the scenes images
Downton Abbey returns to ITV1 in the autumn
Are you looking forward to the new series of Downton Abbey? How do you think the war will affect the lives of the family and the servants? Let us know below.
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