Skip to main content

Dear 'Abbey': Downton Comes to Midtown

Fun event Tuesday night with the Downton Abbey braintrust and cast. We screened the season 4 premiere--well, 40 minutes of the season premiere--before the cast and creators took the stage for a Q&A with Bill Carter of the New York Times.

Whether it's the pages of US Weekly or a Broadway theater, it's always fun to see the Downton cast in their stylish modern garb, as opposed to their Edwardian get-ups on PBS. As I'm too lazy to look up the actors' names, I'll just say which characters were represented: Mrs. Patmore, Mrs. Hughes, evil Thomas, Lady Mary, Lady Edith, Lord Crawley and Tom Branson, along with creator Julian Fellowes and exec producer Gareth Neame.

The episode, and the discussion, focused on the death of Matthew Crawley in the season 3 finale (or, as the cast members say, "series 3" finale).

"You're the one who killed him," said Carter to Fellowes.

With actor Dan Stevens moving on to films, Fellowes said his hands were tied when it came to Matthew. "I'm afraid he had to die," he said.

Lord Crawley, played by Hugh Bonneville, spoke of Fellowes' ability to keep the characters interesting. "Just when you think you understand them, there's a new angle of the prism that Julian reveals," he said.

Fellowes divulged how he came up with the name "Grantham" for the family. It's a town in England, he said, and it's the station where he was booted off a train by police one day after running away from school at age 11. He also said there's an actual Downton Park estate, but after his success with the film Gosford Park, a series called Downton Park was out. "I was afraid of becoming the Park-keeper," he quipped.

Michelle Dockery, who plays Lady Mary, said she relishes Mary's return to dark and gloomy moods this season, after a joyful, but short-lived, marriage showed her brighter side.  "I like to play it when she's a bit nasty," she said.

Indeed, Mary's nastiness in the premier got even bigger laughs than the Dowager Countess's quips.

(I realize that, if you don't watch the show and you've read this far, this will all seem like complete nonsense.)

The crowd at the Hudson Theater was eager to hear from the serpentine Thomas, played by Rob James-Collier.

"I just think the guy's not had a boyfriend in four series," said James-Collier of his closeted character. "He needs love. Give him love, Julian, and he'll be nice."