Downton Abbey new series: sneak preview
Posted by Gerry Kiernan
Online content editor
July 25th 2012 at 10:41
We’ve just seen the first episode of the new series of Downton and guess what?…
The first episode of the third series of Downton heralds a return to top form, thank goodness. After a much-commented upon downturn in Downton’s quality of its second series (a paralysed Matthew suddenly rising up from his wheelchair anyone?), we can confirm the first episode of this new series lives up to the glorious Christmas special.
At ITV’s launch of the new series yesterday, creator Julian Fellowes revealed a new historical theme, now that the Crawleys have lived through the First World War in series 2 and it’s now 1920.
“The Irish Question is important in this series. Funnily enough, at that time the Irish issue was much bigger than the Suffragettes and Ottoman Empire,” said Fellowes. “I’m rather interested in Irish politics and history. I was brought up on home rule and the Irish freedom side. So it’s a nice opportunity to exploit that here.”
Although producer Gareth Neame was keen to stress that Downton isn’t a political drama. It is, he said, a drama about people which is why they explain the Irish question through a character, Irish chauffeur Branson who eloped with the younger of the Crawley sisters, Sybil.
Which begs the question whether Branson and his wife Sybil are invited to Matthew and Lady Mary’s magnificent marriage, for which preparations are well underway in this episode. Well, you’ll have to wait and see. We can reveal that Julian Fellowes is a master of tease. In fact, does Matthew and Mary’s wedding actually go ahead?
“There comes a moment when you’ve teased long enough,’ said Fellowes referring to their will they/won’t they romance, which was finally sealed with a kiss in the Christmas special. As we’ve been sworn to secrecy about plot details (and threatened with a few steely put-downs from the formidable Violet aka Maggie Smith if we don’t comply), you’ll have to tune in to watch the wedding of the year, if it happens.
The future of Downton Abbey, in a sense the main character of the series, is also uncertain. “You’re beginning to see the cracks in the country house estate as a notion, what with the social changes brought about after the First World War,” said Hugh Bonneville who plays Robert, Earl of Grantham. “The big estates really did start to have to fight for survival.”
And according to actor Brendan Coyle who plays Bates, a ‘Free Bates’ campaign is being waged around the world with T-shirts and all sorts. “There was a Free Bates rally in San Francisco recently and Free Bates car stickers are quite a thing over there,” said Coyle. We want a Free Bates T-shirt!
Despite the public support, the new series begins with Bates no closer to freedom than when we left him, having been sentenced to life imprisonment for murdering his wife. Yet housemaid and wife Anna stoically stands by him, determined to prove his innocence.
While Bates languishes in jail, the larger-than-life American mother of Lady Grantham descends on Downton in the shape of Hollywood legend Shirley MacLaine. She plays Martha Levinson, the brash wealthy mother of Cora, Countess of Grantham (played by Elizabeth McGovern).
Apparently the producers have been inundated with requests for cameos by big Hollywood names wanting to get in on the Downton act.
“The thing about guest stars is they bring so much baggage that they rather dilute the… Downton-ness of the whole thing. And one must never do that,” commented Fellowes.
No, Downton must never be diluted. Not ever.
The show is now the most Emmy-nominated show in British history, having been nominated for 16 Emmys last week. You’ll have to wait until September for the start of the third series on ITV1.
Are you looking forward to the third series? What do you want to see happen? Let us know below
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