THE RED BULLETIN: How did it feel working on season 6, knowing that it would be the last season?
JIM CARTER: Well, we had known for about 18 months that we were going to finish. So it wasn’t a surprise. (Laughs.)
KEVIN DOYLE: It’s the what? It’s the end? Where is my agent!?! (Laughs.)
JC: We were lucky that we got to shoot the very last scene of the series as the very last scene we did. Which is not normally the case. You just shoot all out of sequence. So all the servents ended up in the servant’s hall with a candlelit scene. It was rather quiet and reflective. We didn’t think we would be emotional about it. You know, you do a job and then you move on. That’s the rhythm of our lives. You meet a hundred new people, you move on, you do something different. But we all got rather emotional.
KD: Yes, we did.
JC: And the crew got very emotional too. Very big guys in tears! I think it was probably the right time to say goodbye to the stories. You can’t go on forever.
KD: Well you could, but it wouldn’t be very good.
JC: No. We would just go on divorcing and marrying each other and falling ill. I think there is a right time to do it. But Julian Fellowes (creator & writer of Downton Abbey) has wrapped it up very well. You see people going forward into sort of a new life, a new era with a little bit of hope. So it is good.
What kind of person would you have been back in the 1920s? What kind of job would you have had?
KD: I can imagine I would have had something similar to what my character Mr Molesley has. I would have been in service. I am not a blue blood.
JC: We are not upstairs people. Neither of us. We are certain to be downstairs. I think I would have probably been a romantic highwayman.
JC: You laugh? I think I would have been on a horse with a mask, robbing from the rich and giving to the poor …
KD: Or keeping it to yourself?
JC: (Laughs.) Or keeping it for myself, actually. But certainly not upstairs. I don’t think I would have been a butler though. I would have gone mad and killed somebody if I had to serve. (In a playful Carson voice): “Oh, serve your own food! Pour your own drink! How old are you? Get dressed yourself!“
You can’t imagine yourself being upstairs but in a way it feels like your character is somewhat the father of the family upstairs and Hugh Bonneville’s character is someone who looks after the staff …
KD: Jim is the daddy downstairs.
JC: That is true. And there is one scene, which was one of my favourite scenes to film, which is when Lady Mary got married and came down the stairs in her wedding dress. And there is Lord Grantham and I looking at her. And she asks me: “Will I do, Carson?” And I say: “Yeah, very nicely my lady!” That was like her two fathers, the surrogate father, the downstairs dad and the real dad. We have sort of parity in status in a way, Lord Grantham and I.
Did you always imagine her as being your favourite of the three daughters?
JC: Yes, there was a scene in the first series that we didn’t get to film because we just kept running out of time. And I asked if it could be put into the second series and it was. The scene involved Mrs Hughes (Phyllis Logan) and myself remembering a time when Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) was about five and she wanted to run away. And she asked if she could take some of the family silver to sell? And I said: “No, your father will be upset.” And she went all the way to the village and then came back.
It felt like me talking about my daughter. She was the firstborn daughter. Butlers and housekeepers never got married, so they are our kids really by association. There was always that fondness there. I know people objected in the first season when I gave her a hug, when she was upset. Which would have never have happened. But it was a nice moment. And it was nice, just once or twice in the series, we got to have a little quiet private moment together, which I enjoyed. It is nice to see those little private moments. The staff spent a lot of time on duty, where you just see us being very formal. So you do actually see Mrs Hughes and I having a little drink together, having a quiet moment. Because we can’t relate really (pointing at fellow actor Kevin Doyle) because I’m higher status and you are lower status …
JC: So nothing personal happens between us. There are only little moments you get to be personal and private.
Do you think your character softens a bit over the years?
JC: Mrs Hughes helps him to soften. Carson always is very buttoned up, very very English. But underneath, there is a heart somewhere in there, buried deep.
Which Hollywood guest stars would you have loved to work for as the downstairs crew?
JC: I think having Shirley (Maclaine) was pretty good. Very good gossip with Shirley.
KD: Did you have to serve her dinner?
JC: Yes, endlessly. I was behind Shirley quite a lot. Here is a little thing: she used to wear her head down a bit, because she had so many earrings. She wouldn’t take them off, so she pulled her hair right over. But back to your question: I never wanted it to be sort of novelty casting. A lot of people were keen to be in it, but it would have been wrong. You know, imagine Tom Hanks at Downton? It’s like: “Just go away, mate. Please!” Angelina Jolie? “No, well those cheekbones aren’t period, love. We can’t have you.”
Which special moments from the show do you remember?
JC: Lady Mary coming down the stairs in her wedding dress was one. Going paddling with Mrs Hughes was one, holding hands with her at the end of series 4. That was a nice memory. Those moments are lovely to play. Without being disloyal, serving in the dining room is not the most exciting way to spend the day. I mean it is like you standing there and not being allowed to join in all day long. It is not the greatest fun, is it?
KD: No, it is not.
JC: (looking at Kevin Doyle) Although, for you working with me was probably your highlight, wasn’t it, Kevin?
KD: Yeah. (Laughs.)
JC: I am not putting words into his mouth. I think that is true. (Laughs.)