Downton Abbey is back for one last hurrah on the 13 September – and we couldn’t be more excited.
After six series and almost four years on from the final episode’s airing, viewers have the opportunity to return to the grand rooms and bustling kitchens of Downton Abbey one last time for the feature length film.
Ahead of the film’s release, which sees Downton receive a royal visit that throws the corridors and kitchens into turmoil, we sat down with Michelle Dockery who plays Lady Mary Talbot to talk returning to set, what 1927 brings to Downton, and some of her favourite moments from filming…
Where did we leave Lady Mary at the end of the last series?
After going through a difficult time and being quite unhappy and angry at the world, Mary finally found happiness with Henry Talbot [played by Matthew Goode]. We left her in a good place, moving on with her life and embracing her position within the house as Estate Manager alongside Branson.
How is Mary doing in the film?
She’s in a place where she’s very unsure of where everything is going with Downton. In 1927, the houses were becoming vulnerable, and the future of Downton is uncertain. Mary’s in this place where she’s wondering, should we sell up and move to a smaller place and live a humbler life. She’s not really sure of the future.
And, of course, the news that the King and Queen are coming to visit throws everything into turmoil. She’s stressed about everything involved and takes it upon herself to take that position as chief organiser.
What is it like playing a woman in this time period who is so independent and strong?
As we know, Mary is fiercely independent, and I think the audience like seeing her do things for herself. She’s never relied on a man to fix things for her, and that makes her very modern for this period. Edith [Pelham, Mary’s younger sister played by Laura Carmichael] is very much the same - they’re very modern girls for that time.
Nonetheless, Mary is missing Henry; in the midst of all the turmoil, it would be nice to have a bit of comfort from him. So it’s lovely when he comes back, because there’s a real change in Mary when he arrives. It’s like she’s got her sidekick there supporting her.
What has been the best part of returning to Downton?
Being with everyone again and coming back together as this big family has been amazing. It hasn’t really felt like work for me. Usually, you’re going into something that’s brand new - new cast, new crew - and you have all those nerves beforehand. It wasn’t like that on this, and it is quite rare to be going into something where you feel so at ease.
It’s been a lot of fun and really lovely for us to reminisce about the show. Being three years on, it’s given us a good amount of breathing space in-between wrapping on the series and starting the film. The timing was perfect.
How have you found stepping back into the shoes of Lady Mary?
At my first costume fitting, I felt quite emotional. We’ve lived with these characters for seven years, and you’re going on your own journey in your own life, but at the same time you’re playing this character and you sort of grow together in a way. It’s like I’ve grown up with Mary.
And the costumes are just incredible, in the film. I mean, I never thought that Anna, our amazingly talented costume designer, could surpass herself because the last season was extraordinary, but she’s just cranked it up another notch for the film and everybody looks incredible.
The movie revolves around a royal visit to Downton Abbey. How does that shake up the upstairs/downstairs model?
Even for the Crawleys, it’s a huge deal. They live in this beautiful home which for many people would feel like a royal household, but even for them it’s a huge deal that they’re coming to visit.
There’s this brilliant line where Princess Mary [played by Kate Phillips] says, “Please don’t paint anything, they’re getting sick of the smell of the paint.” Because this is what people would do - they would redecorate for the family; it was so important that every detail was perfect, and Mary feels that pressure. And so she goes to her best mate, Carson [Downton’s former butler, played by Jim Cater], and asks him to come back.
That’s such a lovely moment in the film, the return of Carson as he’s walking up the drive, and he saves the day. For me, those scenes with Jim are some of my favourites because that relationship between Mary and Carson is really special.
What are you most excited about fans seeing?
The ball will be a beautiful thing to watch. The way that it’s shot is really impressive, and everything that’s going on during those scenes.
There’s one scene that I think people will really love, with the baker, played by Mark Addy, and Mrs Patmore and Daisy [played by Lesley Nicol and Sophie McShera] that’s hilarious. I think people are going to love that scene.
But there are so many great moments in it. Maggie [Smith, who plays Lady Violet Grantham] and I have a really lovely scene together which was wonderful to do.
The film is just more of what people love about Downton, which I think Julian [Fellowes] has done such a brilliant job at - at making it an extension of the show, but just raising the stakes.
Downton Abbey the film is available to watch in cinemas exclusively from the 13 September.