Seven years after the end of the series, the adventures of English aristocrats and their servants continue on the big screen Downton Abbey: A New Era† Meeting with two of its leading actresses.
Did you miss the Crawley family’s violins, lace, tea and labrador? They are back in Downton Abbey: A New Eranew film in theaters on April 27 (na Downton Abbeyby Michael Engler, released in 2019) continuing the adventures of the family of aristocrats so british and their servants, seven years after the end of the series (1). With a change of scenery: After an unexpected inheritance from the venerable widow Lady Violet (still like bugloss Maggie Smith), some of the protagonists head to the south of France to face a suspicious Nathalie Baye and a Jonathan Zaccai (for once) clean-shaven. While the sun, sea and palm trees undermine their emotional defenses (but never the good behavior of their crossed jackets), Lady Mary, the eldest daughter who has remained in England, has to deal with a film crew coming to shoot a film. in the family castle.
So many upheavals that shake the Crawleys and their entourage, leaving them with the dilemma underlying many episodes of the series: what attitude should you take in the face of a changing or even disappearing world? Holding on to habits and traditions, even if it means getting broken? Or do you accept yourself to metamorphose? So many questions answered in the company of Laura Carmichael (Edith Crawley, youngest of the family’s daughters) and Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley, her mother), who toured Paris.
on video, Downton Abbey: A New Erathe teaser
Grow with your character
Madame Figaro.- How did you feel when you found your characters and the other actors?
Laura Carmichael.- It was like coming home, being reunited with his family.
Elizabeth McGovern.- Everything was very easy, very natural. I wish I had more stories to tell, but we’ve been working together for so long… It’s very easy, very fluid to slip back into the adventure.
How does it feel to play a character for 12 years?
EMG.- Television is the only way to accompany a character in this way, to watch him grow old with you. It is the only medium through which you can deepen and develop your relationship with others, as is the case in life. It is a very special experience, which had never happened to me before in my career.
LC.- We took a break after the show ended, and it was good not to be Edith for a while. By the end of filming, we had all felt this need for freedom, to be someone else, to embody other characters. Finding them was a real pleasure. It’s strange, but this way things seemed newer and different.
You talk about growing with your characters. Have they ever changed you, or taught you something about yourself?
EMG.-I don’t know if I learned anything from Cora. Because as soon as I stop interpreting, I forget. And that if I was in his situation (wealthy American, Cora married a British aristocrat for her title when he needed his money, editor’s note), I would have gone completely mad. She accepts her situation so quickly, for which she has never been able to make a personal choice… I would find it difficult. Anyway, interpreting it didn’t calm me down…
LC.- Edith has gained more freedom and ambition with the seasons. And it’s worth remembering every now and then that I can rely on this strength that I don’t have every day. The sense of security that comes with being a Crawley and walking into a room has kind of become a part of me too.
EMG.-I know what you mean. The Crawleys all have that confidence because they were born with it.
LC.- Precisely. I don’t, but it’s good to know what it does. And sometimes, to use that feeling to bluff a little…
“My daughters would never agree to what I agreed to.”
The way we view the Womenin fiction and elsewhere, much has evolved since the series’ launch in 2010. Has this changed the way you approach your characters?
EMG.- Above all, what has changed is the way I look at my past and my life. I opened my eyes to what I could accept as a young actress in Hollywood (Elizabeth McGovern began her career in 1980, aged 19, in People love the others by Robert Redford, for filming with Milos Forman in ragtime in 1980, and Sergio Leone in Once upon a time in Americain 1984, Ed.† I am amazed at the idea that women now have the right to say ‘no’. I’m one of those people who had to accept things without even questioning them. The world was the world, you had to navigate through it and interact with it. My daughters would never accept what I accepted. It’s a huge change and I feel good about it. The state of the world is very depressing right now, but it is something to be happy about.
Edith, a journalist, takes advantage of her trip to France to make a report. His character says something about working women more and more these days…
LC.- It’s my favorite thing to play. At the end of the series Edith married a rich man, one could have feared that she would stop everything. It would have been such a betrayal of everything his character has built throughout the series! It’s a relief to find her like this: yes, she’s in love, married, mother again. But the happy ending doesn’t stop there. She continues to work and her husband supports her. It is awesome.
Elizabeth, Cora is like you an American immersed in a very English context. It gives her a different perspective on what she’s going through. Is this also the case with you?
EMG.- Yeah, she’s a bit on the sidelines. She’s not so corseted by all these traditions. Also in life it sometimes had this effect on me (Elizabeth McGovern has been married to Brit Simon Curtis, the film’s director, since 1992): English people are so obsessed with details, it’s a mystery to me. Especially their titles of nobility: I don’t care, while they are very strict about it. It makes no sense to me.
LC.- It also shows in the way Cora supports her daughters, against all odds. An English girl might not have done it the same way. Even Mary, the eldest, said to him in one of her cruel moments, “You don’t understand, you’re American!”
More than entertainment
Julian Fellowes, creator of Downton Abbey, believes that the primary function of this series is to entertain† But doesn’t it go a little further?
LC.-I think what he means is that he never forced himself to give the series an overly documentary side. Julian has his own world, his own tone, which makes Downton Abbey so different from shows of the same genre. And he has a lot of resources: he can write scenes of pure comedy, and others where the emotion is very deep, subtle. This is why the series has always excited me: we’re on the register of drama, it’s obvious, but I’ve always loved the fact that I could also hold back.
EMG.- Precisely because Julian’s priority is to entertain, to make sure the plot is perpetually in motion, interesting, the messages manage to get through. About history, about the state of our society as it was not so long ago, about the psychological resources we have inherited. We learn something, but without the impression that we are being taught.
“Of Downton Abbeywe learn something, but without the impression that we are being lectured.”
The series and the film are also about our attitude to change. If we are ready to accept it, or if we categorically refuse it…
EMG.- Yes, and it really puts us in this tension between what’s good about change and the benefits of keeping things the same. We are confronted with it every day. Especially in our rapidly changing society: The internet was only invented 50 years ago and has changed the world in ways that I’m not sure you can really support emotionally. It is too much for ordinary people to keep up with such technological advancements. Going back to the past, remembering where we came from, is very comforting.
Downton Abbey, is it really over?
EMG.- We will see! What is certain is that we will always be happy to meet again.
(1) Downton Abbey: A New Erathe Simon Curtis (2h06)