Wednesday 13 November 2019

Downton Abbey star says it would be fun to do hit show live

The Downton Abbey Series 6 cast (ITV/PA)
The Downton Abbey Series 6 cast (ITV/PA)

One of the stars of hit ITV show Downton Abbey has joked about following in the footsteps of EastEnders, Coronation Street and Emmerdale and doing a live TV episode.

Kevin Doyle, who plays the Earl of Grantham's servant Mr Molesley in the award-winning drama, described one of the dinner scenes of which Downton is famous for as "absolute carnage" if it aired live.

He told the Cheltenham Literature Festival: "I was thinking about this the other day. Wouldn't it be remarkable if we were to try and achieve what they sometimes do in other TV shows and do a live episode and do a live Downton Abbey?"

Downton's executive producer Gareth Neame chipped in: "I somehow feel Molesley would have an important part to play..."

And to laughter from the audience, Doyle replied: "Can you imagine one of the dinner scenes? It would be absolute carnage."

They were among a panel discussing costume drama's worldwide popularity, which has seen it win critical acclaim and numerous accolades since it first aired in 2010. Also on the panel was Jessica Fellowes, author of Downton Abbey: A Celebration, and niece of show writer Lord Julian Fellowes, costume designer Anna Robbins, and actors Raquel Cassidy, who plays Lady Grantham's maid Mrs Baxter, and Michael Fox, who is footman Andrew Parker.

The sixth and final series began last month and has become must-see viewing for millions of viewers at 9pm on Sunday nights.

The series - set in the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey - depicts the lives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants in the post-Edwardian era.

Neame explained that Downton had become a massive global phenomena because "there is something expressly British" about a large country house and masters and servants but also giving it a modern twist.

"Audiences all around the world identify that as being part of our culture," he said. "If you put a spin on that and do it as a very modern show, very fast paced and let's not forget that right at the beginning a lot of audiences found it too fast paced... there was too much going on.

"Some people still hold that as an accusation against the show now that it is too packed with stories and there is too much going on.

"But that is the way we consume media now. I think it is the combination of old and the much tried and tested with the brand new up to date show.

"I think it is the mixture and this is almost unique with Julian's writing is the way a scene can start off being incredibly sad and dramatic and it can turn on one line and become comedic and make you laugh out loud. It is that mixture of drama, comedy and also romance."

Neame said that the romantic side to the show was the thing that took him most by surprise, citing the relationship between Matthew Crawley and Lady Mary, and suggesting that TV drama did not always have to be about sex.

"That Mary-Matthew relationship was so galvanised as a central story in the show and we had a show where it isn't straight away about sex," he said.

"It was a slow burner, a will they-won't they that happened between Mary and Matthew that absolutely captured people's imaginations.

"That sense of a family which you can come to the show and watch, whether its the family above stairs or the family below stairs, they are all family and we can associate with them.

"We all have our favourite characters and that's why people were so devastated when Matthew died at Christmas - it was like 10 million households had a ring on the doorbell."

PA Media

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