Heads Up On Downton Abbey

ITV will be broadcasing a new costume drama series, Downton Abbey, written and created by Oscar-winning writer Julian Fellowes and starring Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville as Robert, Earl of Grantham and Elizabeth McGovern as Robert’s wife, Cora, Countess of Grantham. By the way, there was a real-life Earl of Grantham, a cousin of William III, but the title became extinct when he died in 1754.

The new series, very much a la Upstairs, Downstairs, is set in an Edwardian country house in 1912 and follows the Crawley family and the servants who work for them. The Earl is married to an American and they have three daughters - a fact which presents all manner of problems when it comes to the vexed question of who will continue the Crawley line.

The fictional Crawleys have  been the Earls of Grantham since 1772 and occupy the upstairs rooms, whilst below stairs are other residents, the servants, as fiercely possessive of their ranks as anyone above. Some of them are loyal to the family and are committed to Downton as a way of life, others are moving through, on the look out for new opportunities or love or just adventure. The difference being that they know so many of the secrets of the family, while the family knows so few of theirs.

Downton Abbey’s writer and creator is Julian Fellowes (at left), who also wrote Gosford Park and The Young Victoria, recently said: “It is no secret that I am fascinated by the extraordinary variety of people that occupied the great country houses. Where men and women worked alongside each other and lived in close proximity, but were separated in their dreams and aspirations by a distance that makes the moon seem close. Television drama often relies on a structure that will involve characters of different backgrounds, any hospital soap opera or detective series can give you that, but there is no narrative base that can provide members of every level of society, sleeping under a single roof, more believably than a great house before the First War. “

Downton Abbey itself will be played by Highclere Castle. Executive Producer and Managing Director of Carnival Films, Gareth Neame said: "Highclere Castle is the perfect location for the family home in our drama. The estate is absolutely breathtaking and the house itself is splendid beyond belief. Julian had Highclere in mind when he was writing the script and we are thrilled that Lord and Lady Carnarvon have agreed to allow us to invade their beautiful home and grounds for the duration of our shoot."

The village locations were shot in Bampton, Oxfordshire. Producer Nigel Marchant said: “Downton Abbey is supposed to be set in Yorkshire, and we needed to be able to create a fictional village nearer London. Bampton is perfect because it is so well preserved, and you hardly need to do anything in terms of alterations.  There are three big manor houses which make perfect locations and we will be using different parts of the village."

The series has been airing in seven installments in Britain, which means we probably won't have the pleasure of seeing it for about a year. It has proved popular across the pond and a second series has been commissioned. However, not all is rosey with the production, as recently Julian Fellowes has been accused of lifting certain plotlines and devices straight from Little Women and other works. In addition, viewers have written to complain about historical inaccuracies, including seeing t.v. aerials on roofs and double yellow lines on the roads. You can read the full story in The Telegraph.

Labels: ,