It is Christmas 1919 all over again. Like the Season 2 finale of British drama Downton Abbey, which culminated with Matthew’s proposal to Lady Mary, last night’s Season 5 closer ended with another long-awaited proposal, between downstairs favorites Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
Romance dominated the episode, which aired as a standalone Christmas special in the U.K., with love chapters closing for Lady Violet and Isobel and potential new ones opening for Lady Mary and Lady Edith. Also closing the Downton chapters of their lives for now were Tom and Lady Rose, both set out for new lives in America, while Maggie Smith, who plays the deliciously cantankerous Lady Violet, hinted in an interview that Season 6 would be he last.
I spoke with Downton Abbey executive producer Gareth Neame about the developments in the finale and what to expect from Season 6. With Lily James and Allen Leech’s feature careers taking off and their characters heading to America, will we see them next season? And will the show and its creator Julian Fellowes carry on, or Season 6 be Downton‘s last? (Hint: Neame’s answer involves Mad Men creator Matt Weiner.)
Deadline: America has been a recurring theme on Downton Abbey, mostly through Cora’s origins. The Season 5 finale took that to a new level, with two main characters, Tom and Lady Rose, headed to the New World. You have cautioned that filming in the U.S. is too expensive but in Season 6, will the Crawleys finally come to America?
Neame: I would absolutely love to bring the Crawleys to America. A couple of episodes in Newport or Boston or New York. It would be a complete thrill. But production costs associated with such a visit would be prohibitive to our partners, plus we have so much more story to tell in England.
Deadline: Will we see Allen Leech and Lily James in Season 6?
Neame: Both their characters have travelled to America to make new lives, but they are members of this family so a visit home may well happen at some time.
Deadline: Will Season 6 pick up where Season 5 or the show will jump forward?
Neame: We have always allowed a few months to pass so that the audience has some catching up to do with what’s been going on at The Abbey while it has been away from our screens.
Deadline: The season finale introduced potential new love interests for Lady Mary and Lady Edith in car enthusiast Henry Talbot (Matthew Goode) and Brancaster’s land agent, respectively. Will any of the two gentlemen be back, and what is in store for the two surviving Crawley sisters in Season 6?
Neame: We must look forward to finding out.
Deadline: The finale also ended budding romances for both Lady Violet and Isobel. Did we witness as the Contess put it, the duo’s final “immoral propositions” with no love on the horizon?
Neame: Again, that remains to be seen, but I do think that these two autumn romances have been an absolute highspot of season five – romance for older characters is practically never depicted on television and I’m delighted that we’ve shown these two remarkable characters are very much alive.
Deadline: Speaking of love in the twilight years, what is next for newly engaged Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes?
Neame: We thought the world was ready for this partnership to take a step forward and I’m delighted with the excitement about their engagement. No doubt married life – with all that entails – is on the horizon, although with the twists and turns of the events of life in Downton we don’t yet know if they’ll even make it down the aisle!!
Deadline: The Bates don’t seem to be able to stay away from tragedy and out of prison. How much more will they suffer?
Neame: Without doubt, they are the star-crossed lovers of television. As life is simply a concoction of good and bad luck, let us hope that they begin to see a little more of the former.
Deadline: Will Thomas’ sexuality and the theme of what it means to be gay in the 1920s be revisited in Season 6?
Neame: It has been a theme since season one. It is hard to believe that in those days – and until the 1960s in Britain – Thomas would have broken the law to make a sexual and romantic life for himself.
Deadline: And the biggest question – will Season 6 be Downton’s last? Will Julian Fellowes continue on the show beyond Season 6?
Neame: The question I am asked a dozen times a day. I don’t think I have ever known such speculation! Three years ago I was told that season three was the last! We’ll call time when we think the time is right. Julian and I cooked up this idea over dinner 7 or 8 years ago and have worked together on it ever since, I don’t think it is likely I will see if Matt Weiner wants to take over…