Buck up, the end is in sight for Downton Abbey! So the cast came together to express their bittersweet feelings about the last season of the phenomenal Masterpiece series. But PBS made the occasion as cheery as possible at the Television Critics Association’s final press conference with the show’s stars and producers during the current TCA press tour. The TV journalists were teased with clips from the upcoming sixth season (downsizing and a wedding, …maybe), followed by an emotional interview session, capped off with a cocktail party and everyone chatting about how much the Abbey’s Crawley family and staff will be missed.
At the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills the press mingled with Hugh Bonneville who plays the “Lord of the Manor, Robert Crawley”; stunning Elizabeth McGovern, “Cora, the Countess of Grantham”; Laura Carmichael, “Lady Edith”; Michelle Dockery, “Lady Mary”; Joanne Froggatt, “Anna Bates”; Penelope Wilton, “Isobel Crawley”; and Downton Abbey’s inexhaustible executive producer Gareth Neame.
Rebecca Eaton, executive producer and at the helm of the PBS series Masterpiece Theatre and Mystery for 30 years, started the farewell forum with: “Oh, dear. I never thought this day would come, our final time together to talk about Downton Abbey. It is of course the highest rated drama in PBS history, nominated for eight Emmys. Saying good bye is going to be very hard, but we are very proud. So let’s just buck up and remember where we left off.”
The upcoming season is set in 1925, and Eaton reported, “We are at the Abbey. Mary is taking a firmer grip on the running of the estate. Edith, you may remember, has gone on to own her own company, left to her by Mr. Gregson. Anna and Mr. Bates are not out of the woods. As usual, things are not going well for Anna and Mr. Bates. Of course, Carson and Mrs. Hughes seem to be engaged, but you never know there. Mr. Branson is off to Boston, and Thomas is up to no good.”
During the last two weeks of filming later this month in England, Neame revealed that Julian Fellowes, the creator-writer of Downton Abbey, will be on the set to say thank you to the cast and send them on their way. The cast is grateful for Fellowes too. Froggatt told this reporter, “Julian obviously created these amazing characters. But after the show was cast and he started to see the rushes and started to see people’s performances, he started to write for people’s strengths and how he felt they were playing that role. That’s quite nice to think that that happened.”
Bonneville summed up Fellowes impact with the show stating, “I think as a man and as a writer, his view on life is that people have tried to be fundamentally good. They may do bad things, but he writes from a position that human nature tries to do good. And I think that comes across in all the characters, actually. Even Thomas who you may love to hate, you begin to understand him and you understand why he’s up to mischief. I think that characterizes all of the writing and the spirit of him as a man as well. He sees the best in people.”
Unanimously the stars expressed that they would miss the people most, cast and crew, when the production wraps. And they would like a few souvenirs from the set before they go.
Fun-loving Bonneville said, “I’d like to take one of the mustard pots from the dining room, because it’s where we stored our Wink Murder bits of paper. Between tapes, we’d hand bits of paper around, and one of them had a cross on it, and that meant you were the murderer, and you had to murder someone around the table. At the end of the scene, after the cameras stopped rolling, then you then died. So that mustard pot has a lot of memories.”
Laura Carmichael said, “I want to take most of the set home from the newspaper office, just because it’s really cool and sort of nerdy.”
Penelope Wilton had flowery praise for the show and asked if she could arrange “to have someone come and do all the flower arrangements that we have in all the rooms in my house. I would be absolutely thrilled.”
The thrilling final season of PBS’ beloved Downton Abbey, with its intimately interlaced stories focused on the English country estate, premieres Jan. 3, 2016. #