Life is the same in ‘Downton Abbey’ | Culture

The Crawley family – with their mansion in the English countryside, their army of servants, their perfectly polished cutlery, their lavish jewelry and dresses, and their vital and sentimental ups and downs – are back. For six seasons, a worldwide audience estimated at 120 million viewers connected with the plots and characters of Downton Abbey, a carefully crafted drama created by Julian Fellowes (Oscar for Best Original Screenplay for Gosford Park) and set in the early years of the 20th century. Exported to more than 220 territories, the series became a worldwide phenomenon, winning three Golden Globes, a BAFTA special, and 15 Emmys (out of 69 nominations). The Obamas saw it. The Clintons saw her. The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge saw her. And although the series ended in 2015 with a closed ending, the public did not seem willing to turn the page. “In these years, the enthusiasm of the fans never waned. Both they and the media kept asking if there was going to be a movie, and I think in the end the producers and the writer must have thought, ‘We better do it, because people haven’t forgotten about Downton, ”explains Jim Carter, the actor who plays the butler Carson, to EL PAÍS. “The movie is a gift for the fans,” agrees Penelope Wilton, who plays Isobel Crawley. “I don’t think it will bring huge surprises; it focuses on everything the public loved Downton for, but on a much larger scale. “

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Downton Abbey, the movie –or Downton Plus, as Julian Fellowes has described it for its ambitious production design – it opens in Spain today and is directed by Michael Engler. Fellowes re-signs the script, which takes place a year after the end of the series, and whose common thread is a visit to Downton by kings George V and María (the grandparents of the current sovereign), and the tensions and intrigues that this it will generate both upstairs and downstairs. With the exception of Lily James, all the original interpreters return to their characters, including Maggie Smith (Violet Crawley), for whom Fellowes always seems to reserve the best lines. His dialectical rallies with Isobel Crawley are the best of this adaptation. “We have already made the films of The exotic Marigold Hotel, and I really enjoy working with her, ”says Wilton. “My character and hers have become very fond of each other, but they have a very quarreling relationship and different political positions: Lady Grantham wants to maintain the old hierarchy and Isobel believes in a more egalitarian future.” Veteran Imelda Staunton, who is married to Jim Carter in real life, was also added to this sort of reunion of old friends that the filming became.

Penelope Wilton, on the set.

The movie continues to keep the Crawleys in a bubble; a “little kingdom”, in Wilton’s words, which functions thanks to a system of hierarchies as rigid as it is effective, and in which social movements such as the general strike of 1926 are mentioned only glancingly. “It’s not a realistic look,” Jim Carter admits. “Lord Grantham is incredibly kind to servants, but working as a servant in those days must have been a very hard life. But this is a romantic drama, not a documentary. It’s about relationships, about people looking for love ”. “It’s escapism, entertainment,” Wilton counters. “A very polished view of what the world was like at that time.” A vision of the past so polished and idealized that means like The Independent have branded the film “pro-Brexit propaganda” (Julian Fellowes himself is team Leave). Jim Carter doesn’t shy away from the debate: “Nostalgia for a perfect past can fuel the kind of thinking that says we have to make America great again, for example. Because when was America so great? When was it white? Or the idea that you have to leave Europe … Why do you have to leave, because we are a proud seafaring nation? … ”. The actor outlines a smile and concludes: “That said, I don’t think Downton Abbey is necessarily responsible for Brexit ”.

The guardian of protocol

A key piece of the team Downton Abbey is his etiquette and historical advisor, Alastair Bruce, who from the start of the series instructed the actors on their diction, posture, or table manners. “For example, women could not cross their legs, the corset did not allow it,” says Penelope Wilton. “They are details that add authenticity, and a certain flair.”

In the film, Bruce has also seen to it that the cast knew how to behave in the presence of royalty, although neither Wilton nor Jim Carter were new to those struggles: she was made a Lady in 2016 and he was made an Officer of the Order of the Empire. British (OBE) last March by Prince Charles. “I jokingly complained about how bad the Buckingham Palace staff had put us through in the movie, and he apologized. That’s why we come out laughing in the photos, ”recalls Carter.

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Life is the same in ‘Downton Abbey’ | Culture