Article by Frances Cronin
For Downton Abbey fans the end is almost here with the sixth and final series starting on 20 September, and it seems the cast are struggling to cope with its demise.
“I thought, ‘I’ve done 200 jobs, they finish you go onto the next one’, so I’m not going to get sentimental about the job finishing.”
But Jim Carter, aka Carson the butler, found shooting his final scene on Downton Abbey was not like any other job.
“It came to an end and they said ‘that’s it for the servants thank you very much’ and I thought someone should say something to the crew.
“I looked up and saw all their knackered faces and they work so hard and I thought ‘oh my I’m really going to miss them’ and I went…I filled up completely and hopelessly.”
And he wasn’t the only one brought to tears.
“Phyllis Logan (Mrs Hughes) was on the floor sobbing, Lesley (Nicol – Mrs Patmore) and Sophie (McShera – Daisy) were hopeless,” he says.
“I turned round and Lee the rigger, a great big guy who carries scaffolding around for a living had tears pouring down, Duncan the sound guy, Bobby the grip were all crying.”
After six years of filming the cast and crew of the hit ITV show have become very close.
Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, and Laura Carmichael, who plays Lady Edith, even holiday together. They are planning on a girls’ holiday together now filming has ended.
“It would be nice to have a break together and it would be nice to watch the first one (episode) together,” says Dockery.
“I hope at some point we’ll all watch an episode together but it’s so difficult because everyone’s so busy,” says Carmichael.
‘It’s just been like a fairytale’
The worldwide success of the show means the job offers have flooded in for the cast.
Joanne Froggatt, who plays ladies maid Anna Bates, only had a weekend off after the end of filming on Downton before starting work on a new ITV drama Dark Angel, where she plays the Victorian poisoner Mary Ann Cotton.
She jokes the cast are so fond of each other they’d be happy to spend their retirement on Downton Abbey-themed cruises.
“There was a Downton-themed cruise a few years ago – I don’t know if it was an official one but we’ll be like ‘we just want to hang out together again we’ll do a cruise’.”
Froggatt has won a Golden Globe for her performance and is nominated for an Emmy this year.
“It’s just been like a fairytale. But we are a true ensemble,” she says.
“The success in America has been a huge deal for all of us.”
“It’s all been mad,” says Sophie McShera, who plays kitchen maid Daisy. She recently won a role playing an ugly sister in Kenneth Branagh’s live action Cinderella.
“I would never have been in the position to even go up for that Disney film if I hadn’t been in Downton – it’s changed everything.”
Her “telly mummy” Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs Patmore, is very proud.
“I’ve said to her this means you are known by all the casting directors, and that’s without price for someone of her age.”
Nicol tears up when asked whether she’ll miss their on-screen partnership. She is debating her own offers – one is to sing at the Royal Albert Hall in a charity concert in December.
“I have done musicals but the idea of singing in a place like that when I’m not a singer… is a bit wonderful.
“I’ll be so nervous I’ll be upside down in the toilet but I think I’ve got to do it.”
“It certainly opened up opportunities for all of us,” says Hugh Bonneville, who plays the Earl of Grantham and who starred in the Paddington film.
“I obviously just play the same character whatever I’m doing I just wear different clothes. But I wouldn’t have had the opportunity to meet Paddington without Downton.
“I’m going to try not to do something pre-war for 18 months so I can get away from these stiff collars and the rash they bring.
“I’m not going to miss our lovely sound man Duncan grappling with my chest hair every morning with his microphone. I’m not going to miss his hand up my shirt.”
Elizabeth McGovern who plays his wife Cora, Countess of Grantham, is planning a musical future – she is going into the recording studio with her band Sadie and the Hotheads.
‘I’d rather lose my left leg than do that’
But some of the offers have been a bit more unusual says Jim Carter.
“Some people have charmingly and bizarrely asked me if I’d like to go to the wedding of their son or daughter and be a butler and I’ve rather charmingly said I’d rather lose my left leg than do that.”
However, one offer he is happy to accept post Downton is to make a documentary for ITV where he gets to interview Sir Paul McCartney and Roger Daltry – something he says he would never have been offered in the past.
As for fans’ expectations for the final series?
“It resolves in a way that is very appropriate to the show,” says Bonneville.
“As with life some stories are finished and some are left open,” something that McGovern agrees with.
“I really felt satisfied by it and I think the audience that has been faithful to it for these number of years will feel satisfied,” she says.
As for Dame Maggie Smith, a fan favourite in her role of Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, she has her own plans now filming is over.
“I’m going to be lying down. I believe for quite some time,” she says. “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.”
Downton Abbey starts Sunday 20 September on ITV.