August 11, 2015

Downton Abbey Becomes Downturn Abbey: Secrets Of Series 6 Revealed

It is a scene that would no doubt horrify the Dowager Countess: Lord and Lady Grantham venturing below stairs to prepare a snack, without the aid of a single servant.
But that is just what viewers will see in the final series of Downton Abbey, as austerity bites and the aristocracy face up to a very different future. 

Britain’s best-loved period drama will bow out this autumn after six seasons in which it has faithfully recreated life in a grand country house. When the show began, in pre-war England, the delineation between the upper and lower orders was marked. The Crawleys lived in splendour, with vast numbers of staff and an unshaken belief that they would forever by at the top of society. 

Now, however, Downton is downsizing. Staff will receive redundancy notices and the family must learn, for the first time, to look after themselves - from getting dressed to making their own meals. 
The driver of that change is the family patriarch, played by Hugh Bonneville, who comes to the realisation that fading fortunes and the prohibitive cost of maintaining a crumbling stately home mean the Crawleys can no longer live in the manner to which they once were accustomed. 

Discussing storylines from the new ITV series, which begins next month and is set in 1925, Bonneville said: “We visit a neighbour in the county who literally has to sell the [family] silver. This once great estate is being fragmented. 

“Robert, the dinosaur that he has been all this time, does adapt. He wants to conserve the best of the past but absolutely understands that the future beckons. 

“The final season very much has a flavour of the end of an era.” 

The character most resistant to change is not a member of the Crawley family, but Carson the butler. In a trailer for the sixth season, shown to US critics, the Earl tells him that Downton must shrink its workforce. 

Carson (Jim Carter) protests, pointing out that the household cannot get much leaner - the house has just two footmen, where it once had six. But the Earl replies: “I don’t like to feel out of step with my fellow man. Who has an under butler these days?” 

Another scene sums up the enormous changes undergone since series one was broadcast in 2010. The Earl and his wife (Elizabeth McGovern) are shown visiting the kitchen to view their new refrigerator – a modern appliance installed to the horror of the cook, Mrs Patmore – and to make themselves a snack. The days of being waited on hand and foot are coming to an end. 

Speaking to Vanity Fair magazine at the season launch in Los Angeles, the executive producer, Gareth Neame, said the show would illustrate the decline of the aristocracy in the 1920s. 

“That concept comes in really sharply in the final season. It is just accelerating the idea that Downton Abbey can’t continue the way it has, so the idea of scaling down and downsizing becomes more and more clear,” he said. 

Some of the faithful staff will be forced to leave Downton as a result. “Sometimes people lose their jobs and have to go out and find another job. It doesn’t come across as sad in the show but it will hopefully make it feel like an ending. 

“We will get to the final episode and the camera will drift away and that is the last time we will ever see them.” 

In previous years, the cast were sworn to secrecy over even the tiniest plot point. But with the end of the show in sight, they have given away a few tantalising details. 

A homesick Branson (Allen Leech) returns from Boston with Sybbie, his daughter by Lady Sybil. Carson and Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) prepare to wed, although he refuses to call her by her first name while at work. 

And there is an “epic catfight” between Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery), who is playing a greater role in the running of Downton, and her sister, Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael), now quite the career woman as the head of a London publishing company. 


Fellow cast member Joanne Froggatt, who plays Anna the maid, disclosed: “There’s a great argument between the sisters. They’ve sort of mellowed a bit over the years, but this is a reminder of how things were. I can’t say what it’s about, but it’s great. Everyone’s going to be, ‘I can’t believe she actually said that!’” 


Previous series have featured cameos from the likes of Paul Giamatti and Richard E Grant, but producers said the final season will have “fewer guest stars, because the focus is on the household.” 

Filming at Highclere Castle in Berkshire, the setting for Downton, ended last month. Cast and crew posed for a “team photo” in the dining room, Bonneville said, on a final day “full of memories and emotions”. 

Dockery said: “We didn’t want to leave. Laura and I wandered around for the last time and suddenly we didn’t want to go home.” Carmichael said the pair “had a good cry” as they took a last stroll in the grounds, adding: “It was very strange saying goodbye to the castle because it felt like in a split second it wasn’t our home any more. And, of course, it was never our home. It was Highclere Castle. And the second they yelled ‘cut’ that day, you realised it was just pretend.” 

The cast and crew also held a party for residents in Bampton, the village which doubles as Downton. 

Final studio scenes will be shot on August 15, and after that the cast will go their separate ways. 

Bonneville leaves for India the following day to begin work on The Viceroy’s House, a film about Indian partition in which he plays Lord Mountbatten with Gillian Anderson as his wife. 

Dockery will star opposite Dominic West in a production of Les Liaisons Dangereuses at the Donmar Warehouse, and has just been cast in a BBC Films adaptation of The Sense of an Ending, the Booker Prize-winning novel by Julian Barnes. 

McGovern joked that the thing she will miss most about Downton is “being in a hit show”, and cheerfully admitted she is now “looking for a job”. 

This may not be the last we see of the characters, however. Julian Fellowes, the show’s creator, has said he is open to the idea of a feature film

By Anita Singh

With many thanks to The Telegraph UK

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