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Popcorn & Prejudice: A Movie Blog

Seattle Times writer Moira Macdonald muses on moviegoing. Email Moira: mmacdonald@seattletimes.com.

August 2, 2011 at 4:08 PM

A visit from the “Downton Abbey” cast — and more tidbits on Season 2

This appears to be “Downton Abbey” week on my blog, not by design, but because a kind soul at KCTS9 read my post yesterday and invited me to attend a member event today, featuring Masterpiece executive producer Rebecca Eaton and three cast members from “Downton Abbey”: Elizabeth McGovern (who plays Cora, Countess of Grantham), Michelle Dockery (Lady Mary Crawley) and Dan Stevens (Matthew Crawley). All four were interviewed on stage at the Seattle Rep for a half-hour or so; here are some highlights from my scribbled notes:
— A few announcements for “Masterpiece” fans in general: “Downton Abbey” returns Jan. 8, three new episodes of “Sherlock” are currently being shot and will air next May; six new episodes of “Upstairs/Downstairs” will soon begin production and will air later in 2012. More “Wallander,” with Kenneth Branagh, comes this fall; alas, no more “Zen” is in the works. Fans of “Bleak House” (that would be me) will be pleased to hear of a new adaptation in the works of “Great Expectations,” with Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham, coming in 2012, along with “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” both as tribute to the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.
— The best Maggie Smith story told by the panel, among several: McGovern explained that she and Dame Maggie both like to moan (“she is the queen of the moan”), and that Smith is constantly complaining about her costumes being uncomfortable. One costume featured a very high, elaborate collar of French lace, causing Dame Maggie to intone (and you know just how she would say it): “Now I understand why they invented the guillotine.”
— Fun facts: McGovern’s husband, British director Simon Curtis, discovered Daniel Radcliffe by casting him in his first role in “David Copperfield.” Dockery endearingly confessed that her favorite movie is “Sleepless in Seattle,” and that arriving at Sea-Tac today and seeing what she thought was the actual gate where Meg Ryan saw Tom Hanks made her all squealy. (She didn’t say “squealy,” but it’s a fair representation of how her voice got when telling the story.)
— All of the cast and crew revere writer/creator Julian Fellowes (“Gosford Park”) — but they agree that he can be a little . . . . much. “Remember the entail?” asked Eaton, referring to a famously confusing plot point in Season 1. “None of these guys [pointing at the cast members] know what an entail is either. Nobody in the entire production knew, but they were all afraid to ask Julian about it.”
— In the same vein, Stevens told us that a line delivered by Matthew Crawley in Season 2 (shown to us in a clip: “When I think about my life at Downton Abbey, it’s like another world”) was originally “something like ‘When I think about my life at Downton Abbey, I feel like Heinrich Schliemann excavating Troy.”
And finally, a few vague plot points for Season 2 (very minor spoiler alert), from viewing a brief clip reel: The season begins, Eaton said, in 1916, in the midst of World War I, with Matthew Crawley sent to the front in France. It will be “the story of the home front” during the war, she said. A character from last season will not return (we weren’t told who, and I have a guess but won’t say); several of the characters have new love interests, including an unexpected wife. And the house (lovely Highclere Castle) and the costumes look as fetching as ever. “Downton Abbey” premieres in England next month; for those of us here in the U.S., it’s a reason to look forward to winter.
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Hugh Bonneville and a very nicely hatted Elizabeth McGovern in “Downton Abbey”

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