Downtown Abbey fans were desperate for happiness when the series ended in March, and they got it, along with lots of loose ends tied up. Now they might get even more: At Deadline’s The Contenders Emmys event today cast members indicated creator Julian Fellowes really is scripting a movie. Or so they hear.
Sharing secrets just like the Downton staff, Leslie Nicol (Mrs. Patmore) and Allen Leech (Tom Branson) both indicated that the Abbey faithful have reason for optimism. “The last I heard,” said Leech, “there were possible negotiations with Julian.”
Not firm enough? Here’s what Nicol had to say: “What I heard from Phyllis Logan (Mrs. Hughes) was that maybe he was possibly writing a script, which is what we need to happen to go on with the conversation.”
Ok, not exactly confirmation, but certainly reason to keep hope alive.
And speaking of hope, Leech revealed that in an early point in the show’s development, fans of the late Matthew & Sybil had a reason to dream. “Matthew Crawley was supposed to end up with Sybil,” Leech said, then added that little from Fellowes’ original Downton “bible” — which he and fellow cast members got ahold of one day — ended up on screen.
Also not envisioned as a long-term player at first — Leech’s Tom character who was supposed to last a mere 3 episodes but ended up central to the series. Tom left for America at the end of Season 5 but always was supposed to come back, Leech said.
And what of fan speculation that the bereaved Tom Branson could have ended up with his sister-in-law, widow Lady Mary? Leech, who said he enjoyed his scenes with Michelle Dockery’s Mary the most, thought that a bit too convenient. “I think it was always just a friendship,” he said, “and people saw it as more. Branson would want to cast the net a little further than the next sister. If something happens to her, [would it be] Edith, how you doing?”
Nicol, who had uproarious scenes in the Season 6 opening episode, serving in her words as “sex therapist” for newlyweds Mrs. Hughes (Logan) and Mr. Carson (Jim Carter), said her character was not originally supposed to be funny. “I think part of it is, I have a great chemistry with Sophie McShera (Daisy), so it was always that in the end. “
Golden Globe winner Joanne Froggatt, who played the intrepid maid Anna, said that there was no plan to throw another curveball at her character and Bates in the finale after everything they had been through. “Everyone was on the same page – Julian, myself and the viewers — that it was time for Anna and Bates to have some happiness and bit of joy,” she said. As for the no-frills, plain appearance of the downstairs women, it didn’t come as easy as it might seem. “It actually takes a very long time to make me look that bad,” Froggatt quipped.
Leech got to experience a dual acting experience on Downton, starting downstairs as a chauffeur before moving upstairs as a member of the Crawley clan. Which was more fun? “They are very different filming environments, genuinely, I feel a larger pressure when you’re upstairs due to time constraints and also the location; when you’re shooting within the house there tends to be a more serious air and then when you go to Eden Studios for a lot of the kitchen scenes it’s chaos,” he joked. “I did miss the memory of Eden Studios when we moved upstairs.”
Director Engler, the only American helmer to work on the show, said that a few things in the finale were tweaked from Fellowes’ original script to the screen. For instance, Branson (Leech) and Henry (Matthew Goode)’s stories were initially separate, but they came together.
At the panel, moderated by Nellie Andreeva, Engler also said that Fellowes struggled with the final line for awhile but Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess “always was supposed to have the last word” because she embodied the end of an era. As for that final shot of the Downton exterior, it wasn’t planned: The original ending was to have been an interior shot.
“The original script had them all singing Auld Lang Syne at midnight,” said Engler. But the choice of a last glimpse of Downton from outside solidified the series’ focus: Downton Abbey was about the entire household, not any one dowager.