Hugh Bonneville & Elizabeth McGovern on leaving Downton AbbeyWith the final season of Downton Abbey over, The Red Bulletin met Lord and Lady Grantham
THE RED BULLETIN: How did it feel working on the final season?
HUGH BONNEVILLE: Well, it was sort of a relief because we had to keep it under wraps every year. But it was also quite reassuring, because we knew that this is what Julian (Fellowes) really wanted.
What did the show’s mastermind, Julian Fellowes, want?
HB: He wanted to do an extra season to bring all the characters into land in a way that was appropriate and satisfying for him and hopefully for the audience. Each series has had a sense of jeopardy and threat over the estate in some way. But this is really brought home in that first episode of the neighbouring estate being sold up. The economics don’t make sense any more. So the Crawleys have got to adapt or die. Robert and Mary also have got to step up to the plate and do their best, otherwise they too could be having an auction very soon.
ELIZABETH MCGOVERN: It gave an added energy to the last season. There is this machine, which is the destruction of life as they know it. So that history is bringing their way of life to a close, and at the same time we are bringing the series to a close. So that gives it a kind of bittersweet depth that I think really adds to the show.
Did you have a favourite room at Downton estate that you will miss a bit?
EMcG: The drawing room.
HB: Oh, really? I always found it a nightmare to shoot in. I tried to love it, but I hated it. I love the library, because it has so many compartments and it was easy to shoot in.
Let’s have a walk down memory lane. Do you remember a special day or scene when shooting Downton Abbey?
EMcG: I will always remember the early morning walks from the trailer to the front door of the house. The sun was just coming up as it was very very early, and there was a certain kind of stillness in the air. We would all walk up to start the day; that was always a really special moment for me.
HB: I think I enjoyed a lot of moments when were together as a proper ensemble: be it the announcement of the First World War at the end of the first season, or the end of the First World War, when we were all together in the ball. It is those group-shared moments that I really enjoyed. But they are also a pain in the neck for the make-up and costumes department, because they have to get 20 actors through the chair. And it is a pain for the director because he has to work out how to shoot 20 people.
There is a line, everybody is saying: “You can’t stop history in its tracks!” The last couple of seasons has seen a lot of social changes. Is the house in danger?
HB: It is, yes. And it is very graphically illustrated by the selling of our neighbouring estate. It could be us next, if we don’t rationalize and change things.
Things are changing …
HB: They are indeed. The social shift of things changing is subtly indicated. There is a little bit at the end of episode one, where we go and get a snack in the kitchen. We simply wouldn’t have done that a couple of years ago. But there is that beginning, the sense of blurring of the social structures. The social mobility is changing. The idea of a career in service isn’t necessarily what it was five years ago. So Downton is forever changing. We said it every year: “Downton is changing. Downton is under threat!” And this is no different. It is the end of the series and the end of an era.
Elizabeth, can you tell us a bit about your music project Sadie & The Hotheads?
EMcG: Well, it predates Downton Abbey. It is a band that I have been involved in for many years. I write the songs and the musicians make them good. It is something that I really have a big passion for doing. Hopefully I will be getting back in the recording studio when Downton is done. We got some new songs to do and we are just really keen on recording them.
Will you be going on tour?
EMcG: Well, we have a few gigs lined up They are yet to be confirmed. But we have to pick up the momentum. We have been in retreat for the shooting of Downton this year. So there is only one or two gigs planned in a very wonderful venue.
Will you have Michelle Dockery on board as a guest singer?
EMcG: I guess not. But she was really kind and she sang on our second CD. You can hear her voice on our album “How Not To Lose Things”.