From Lady Mary’s Maid to serial killer
THE RED BULLETIN: How was it going into the series, knowing it is the final season?
JOANNE FROGGATT: We started filming in February 2015 and you go: “Well we have a lot to do.” You don’t sort of feel like: “Oh, we are at the end.” You have six months of work ahead of you. It doesn’t feel like the end until you start doing the final things.
What’s up next for you?
JF: I start a new job on Monday, so to say. I am doing a two-part drama for ITV called Dark Angel. I am playing Mary Ann Cotton, who is a real woman who lived in the Victorian era. She was the first female serial killer in Britain. She poisoned 17 people. So I am going on to be a poisoner next. I am going to change direction and do something completely different.
You are going from someone who was accused of murder to someone who commits murder.
JF: Yes, again and again. She is quite a complex character, so it is going to be challenging and a nice change.
Is it easier to play evil? Or just more fun?
JF: I think what is fun, is doing something different constantly and being able to change. I found playing Anna really fun because I had never played a character that was so good and emotionally secure and decent before.
Raquel Cassidy: Yes, it is nice to play real people who exist for a reason. And very often as women you can get cast as a function and the real drama and the real people are the men. I think that is one of the great things that Julian (Fellowes) does. He writes spectacularly for women - and all the people are real, whether they have a small or large part.
Especially your character as well Raquel - Baxter - who kind of comes in with quite a lot of baggage and has to find her place.
RC: Yes, absolutely. And also she has to wrestle with the fact that she doesn’t really believe she deserves to have that place there. Essentially as a person she is very decent – as is Anna – and you know she wants to do the best that she can. But ultimately, if anyone goes anywhere near her baggage, then she goes: “I don’t deserve any of this. I deserve to live with the consequences of that act, even if it is an isolated act.” She betrayed someone. She hurt someone deeply and she can never take that back.
With which Downton Abbey character would you like to hang out at a bar with the most?
RC: I suppose any of the downstairs crew.
JF: Mr. Molesley. It would be good to have a quick drink at the bar with him. It would be great fun. He would bombard you with stories. (Laughs.)
If you had to choose a very special moment from the set over the last six years, what would it be …
JF: It is very difficult to sum up six years into one moment. My final moment on set, maybe? My final Goodbye.
RC: The first moment I stepped on set because I was a big fan of the show before I joined the cast. I was excited and terrified and so was my character. That was a really great moment. And, as you said, the final moment was horribly beautiful and beautifully horrible. To have something that charged is unforgettable.
You have developed a quite close relationship with Mary, especially in the last season. You shared secrets. I could see the both of you going out as characters as well.
JF: Oh yes, absolutely. I am sure Lady Mary could take Anna to the Ritz for tea one day and maybe a glass of champagne. I am sure they would have a lovely afternoon – a little bit of shopping, yes I can see that. They have got a great friendship, really. It has been lovely playing those scenes. And the lady’s maid would spent a great deal of time with the lady she looked after. Hours and hours during the day so naturally you would hope that they have built quite a good relationship. And Anna’s and Mary’s is particularly strong.
RC: Because the characters are constrained so much by the period, it would be interesting to take any one of them out because it would be nice to get beneath the surface. That’s part of the succes of the show, every character and his story would be worth a drink in the bar at least.
If you could be a historical figure (dead or alive) for one day, which one would you chose?
JF: Good question. I have never been asked that before. It is hard because a lot of historical figures haven’t had the easiest life, so I am not sure if I actually want to be them. (Laughs.)
RC: I think it would be amazing to be in the mind of Einstein or Galilei. Especially Galilei – someone who was kind of an outsider and stood up against everyone. So to be inside the mind of somebody who is a genius would probably be torturous and hideous, but it would be very interesting and nothing like any day I ever had.
JF: It would be someone like Marie Curie I think. Not only had a spectacular mind, she gave so much to the world. She was also the first woman to win the nobel prize jointly with her husband.
RC: I am getting quite into this now. I wouldn’t mind being Boudicca (Hint: Ancient warrior queen who led a rebellion against the Romans) “Yeah! Come on!” Things like that. Any Amazonian woman. Bonnie and Clyde. (Laughs.)
Downton Abbey is set in a period of social change, especially in the working class.
JF: Downton obviously touches on the social changes of the time. We are moving from before the First World War through to the Roaring Twenties. It certainly brings home the choices we have now and the opportunities we have now, at least in this part of the world. It is very interesting - especially with characters like Daisy - who are thinking about a life after Downton and educating themselves. It is not just service for them. That is not the only option now. And we saw it with Gwen (Dawson - played by Rose Leslie) in the first series. She went off to be a secretary and bettered herself. I really enjoyed watching these storylines with these characters.
RC: Like Mr Bates, like Anna Bates, like Phyllis Baxter - we all look after our people. And even Carson with Lady Mary. We really love them and we really look out for them. So in a way our characters don’t think about moving on. Because it is a relationship and a life and a caring and a love that you don’t want to move away from. So it is as much of a relationship as maybe the Bates’s have together in a different way - or as Baxter and Molesley might have together. So yes, it was lovely as to see that some characters want to move and do something different, or maybe have to and can. And other characters go: “No, this is what I want to do. This is the most noble job that I can do! And I will do it to the best of my ability until I no longer can.” You know, for that reason.
Joanne, is Hollywood an option after your Golden Globe success?
JF: Yes, it would be nice. I would love to work there. But you know, we go where the work is. If something comes up, then I would love it! It would be gorgeous. Yes, please! Someone offer me a job and I will be there. (Laughs.)