Downton Abbey is back and has returned to former glory.
Whilst the show has been critically acclaimed since its inception, there were a lot of complaints that the recent two seasons were focusing too much on the love affairs of Lady Mary and her various suitors. I’d be inclined to agree – the show is at its best when balancing romantic drama with historical context such as the tragic sinking of the Titanic or World War One.
CultBox were invited to the recent Season 6 launch in London and watched the first episode, as well as getting to chat to Dame Maggie Smith (Dowager Countess), Joanne Froggatt (Anna Bates) and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley).
It’s a shame the show is ending, but it’s a smart idea to go out on a high. Downton fans will be glad to hear that events really pick up speed in the first episode and it feels like more happens in this hour than the entire previous season.
The humour is on top form with the Dowager Countess (as ever) getting the best lines. The opening episode also does a good job of bringing in issues that stay relevant both in 1925 and 2015 such as fox hunting and gender equality.
It’s a strong opener that won’t disappoint, but what else did we learn about the final season?
The show was almost going to finish last year
Creator Julian Fellowes: “We had all decided that the sixth series would be the last. We had actually thought of ending it at the end of five but then it just seemed a bit cramped and we thought we needed one series that really was essentially all about resolution of the whole thing.”
Hugh Bonneville: “This is an extension. We haven’t been cancelled, we were extended. We were all contracted to do five series and then Julian and the creative team all got together and said they’d like to do one more.”
But they’ve not quite wrapped everything up
Fellowes: “I think you always leave slightly open ended stories because life is a slightly open ended story until you die and you can’t kill the entire cast! We haven’t completely plugged everything. We sort of show what the next chunk of everyone’s life would be. I think it’s satisfactory.”
Expect some familiar faces to appear in the final season
Hugh Bonneville: “It’s delicious when historical characters pop in or are referred to. We have a minister of the government coming in to this series who the audience will recognise when he does appear. He has a significant part to play in the future of the country.” (Our bet is on Winston Churchill!)
Emotions were high on the final days of filming
Joanne Froggatt: “It just developed into everybody in tears by the end of the day so I think I’d have been in absolute pieces if I’d been there for that very last moment. It was a wonderful final day actually, it was everything you’d hope it would be. It was happy, sad and it felt like a good time to finish this and we were all doing it together.”
Hugh Bonneville’s favourite line from all six seasons?
It’s Lady Mary’s infamous “I’m going upstairs to take off my hat.”
The Dowager Countess doesn’t improvise her lines
Maggie Smith: “That’s Julian. They’re wonderful put downs but believe me they are all Julian’s. I get accused of making things up myself and I absolutely don’t.”
Everyone was pretty shy when talking about a possible film
Maggie Smith: “I’m not sure if the wig will be around, but hopefully I will be – I think the wig is certainly more tired than I am. But no, it would be fun.”
Dame Maggie Smith is as witty as the Dowager
“I’m just surprised that I got to the end because just before this, I’d done about 10 years with Harry Potter so I felt very, very old indeed by the time I got to the Dowager. I’m honestly just surprised that I got through and that I’m still here.”
The legendary actress will be having a well-deserved break after filming
“I’ll be doing some lying down. The other thing I will be doing is watching it, I will get the boxsets and have a good look.”
Joanne Froggatt will be embracing her villainous side
“I start a new job on Monday. I’m doing a two-part drama for ITV called Dark Angel and it’s a true story about a woman called Mary Ann Cotton who was the first female serial killer in the Victorian era.”
Are you looking forward to the final season of Downton Abbey? Let us know below…