Lesley Nicol & Sophie McShera

The End of an era at Downton Abbey 

Interview: Holger Potye
Photo: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

With the final season of Downton Abbey over, The Red Bulletin met Sophie McShera and Lesley Nicol, better know as Daisy Mason and Mrs Pattmore, who spilled the beans on leaving Downton Abbey for good

THE RED BULLETIN: What will you miss most about Downton Abbey?

LESLEY NICOL: The people.

SOPHIE MCSHERA: Yes. Those friendships we’ve made over the years have been the  best result of the show for us personally.

LN: It is a brilliant job. Our younger actors on the set all understand that this is not normal. They could be forgiven for thinking: “Next year I’ll be in the next Downton Abbey, because I am doing really well now.” And the fact is: There won’t be another Downton Abbey and they really get it. They always treasured it and respected it. Nobody is taking it for granted. This is a precious thing. It really has been a precious thing for us.

SM: We have really enjoyed all of it and been excited about it until the very last day. And we will miss getting a Downton Abbey script in the post. That was quite cool. You were definitely not allowed to lose it though or you would probably get sacked!

Why do people love it so much? 

SM: We don’t know. I guess it is because the storytelling is so good. 

LN: Good stories. We live in a world of reality television, which is generally considered to be cheap television, right? It all comes back to what people have always loved. And people love stories. When we were in caves, we loved stories. That hasn’t changed. So I guess that is what it is. But why people around the world love it, why people in China love it, I don’t know.  


Downton Abbey

The relationship between your characters has shifted quite a lot during the seasons … 

LN: That is really great to play for us. When we started I was full on “bossy boss” and she was a girl with no voice. And now she has got her voice and some. 

“He let’s you be funny and he let’s you do your sensitive moments as well, which is just heaven for us”

SM: You know what is so weird: I spent the whole of the first series saying: “Yes, Mrs Patmore.” I haven’t said that for years. 

LN: No, you haven’t! It is like the relationship just shifted big time, because there is an affection there. Clearly there is and that informs how I treat her for sure. But I am still her boss. But now that her brain is blossoming, and it does cause friction, it certainly does …

SM: It kind of started last series, she suddenly had this moment of awakening where she went: “There has got to be more” It was happening socially and she kind of switches on quite quickly, which is so exciting for the character, that there is a world outside Downton and there is more to life and maybe she is entitled to more than she has got in terms of her horizon and her education. That is the biggest thing that I love, that Julian (Fellowes) has written this storyline about finding her voice and finding all this information.

LN: Confidence.    

SM: Yeah, she really blossoms. I love this scene where she has been so brave in a way – you could say brave or stupid - when she marches across that big auction house and shouts to everyone. That was so cool. That has been such a joy to read and play. And I have got to do such a variety of stuff – and the same goes for Lesley – because of Julian’s scripts.

LN: He lets you be funny and he let’s you do your sensitive moments as well, which is just heaven for us.

You two spent a lot of time in the kitchen. Have your cooking abilities improved throughout the show? 

NL: Absolutely not! 

SM: We have this amazing lady, Lisa (Heathcote), who creates the food.

NL: She makes the dishes. We don’t do anything. 

Oh, it's a Daisy! Sophie McShera in costume drama mode

You didn’t learn anything from her?​ 

LN: Actually, we did. You (points at Sophie) had a little lecture on mashed potatoes and I got egg mayonnaise explained to me. She is great. She knows we are a bit useless. She was going to come round to my house and teach me to cook, did you know that?

SM: No!

LN: She did. She said: “When things get quiet, come around and I will teach you a few things.” 

SM: She is so patient and brilliant. And our team is very good at coming over and going: “Yeah, that is probably not how you would roll that.” 

LN: So we try to avoid anything technical. You’ll see that we don’t actually cook. I do a lot of garnishing, I do tasting maybe and I do presenting, checking and shouting. And I am sure that is what cooks do – I do the Gordon Ramsay kind of system. (Laughs.)

So what are your post Downton plans? 

SM: I am going back to this job I did in between, which is Galavant, a tv series for ABC. It is really different to Downton. After that I don’t know.

LN: Hugh (Bonneville) is in that series as well.

SM: Yes, he was a pirate!

LN: He is growing his beard just now. He has got a month to get some sort of beard together.

Downton Abbey

Were you very much in touch in between the seasons?

SM: Yes, that’s why it is not too much of a worry.

LN: We see each other, that is for sure. We do press things. We have been in New York four times. And we are grateful for it, because the Americans are so massively keen on the show and they are not afraid to tell you. (Laughs.) Which is very nice. 

You have a quite delicate scene with Jim Carter in the first episode. How did you manage to stay serious? Or did you burst into laughter a few times?

“The fact is: There won’t be another Downton Abbey!”
Lesley Nicol on how unique it was to be a part of the british costume drama

LN: No, we actually didn’t. But the crew did. Which is lovely actually. To be honest, I remember being told years and years ago, if you get any kind of compliment or tension – I mean it has to be genuine, not somebody smoothing you - that if a crew member bothers to say “God, that was funny!” It means the world because A.) They are very busy and B.) They have seen it all. It is a huge thing to happen. But for them to be laughing and finding it funny and to enjoy it, was a nice bonus. Those scenes are so well written. They are fantastic scenes. So all you had to do is sit down with Jim Carter, who is phenomenal, look him in the eye and do it, really. 

Any chance we will see you on Game of Thrones in the future? You have some free time now and you wouldn’t be the first actresses who switched from Downton to Westeros.

(Both laugh.)

LN: Rose Leslie, one of our girls, has done it. Do they have old ladies in there? Older! Older ladies …

SM: She left Downton earlier. It was so cool. We are so excited to see what we will do next, we have no idea, really. 

Can you tell us a bit about your new show Galavant, Sophie?

SM: It is a medieval comedy musical (Laughs.) The music is all by the famous Disney composer Alan Menken. The songs are hilarious. It is kind of Monty Python-esque and it is such good fun. I had a real good time doing it last year, getting to sing and dance and be silly.  

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