“Downton Abbey” has been off our screens since 2015, but it returns in high style this week with an eagerly awaited spin-off movie.
Dame Maggie Smith, Michelle Dockery and Jim Carter are among the film’s stars who have descended on the red carpet in London’s Leicester Square for the world premiere of the movie, which comes just days before its official release in the UK on Friday.
The film, which was written by series creator Julian Fellowes, is set in 1927 and centers around a visit to Downton by the King and Queen of England.
Our old friends above and below stairs are thrown into disarray as they scramble to prepare the stately home for its biggest moment yet.
Downton’s latest reinvention sees the return of many of its biggest stars, including Dame Maggie Smith as the formidable Dowager Countess of Grantham, Hugh Bonneville and Elizabeth McGovern as the Earl and Countess of Grantham and Michelle Dockery as their headstrong daughter, Lady Mary; plus Penelope Wilton as Cousin Isobel and Phyllis Logan as Mrs Carson, the kindly housekeeper.
The film will also feature a host of new stars, including Oscar-nominated actress Imelda Staunton, who plays Lady Maud Bagshaw. Staunton happens to be married to Jim Carter, who plays Mr. Carson, Downton’s rock-like butler.
Speaking before the premiere, Staunton revealed the pressure she felt acting in the film as the spouse of one of the show’s original cast.
“I have had Carson coming home every night for many years,” she said, according to the UK’s PA Media news agency. “I did feel at ease but I hoped that I didn’t let the side down.
“You don’t want to come in under, you want to come in absolutely at a par and bring in more if you can. I would have got it in the neck from Carson at night if I hadn’t.”
She said she expected to be cast in a “downstairs” role and was surprised when she got the script to find herself playing an aristocrat.
“I would have of course liked to be downstairs giving Carson quite a hard time, but not to be,” she said.
“But I was very happy being upstairs with Geraldine James’s company (Queen Mary), and Maggie, that is like being with Federer and Nadal.”
Laura Carmichael, who plays the Earl and Countess’ younger daughter, Lady Edith, told PA she “had the initial nerves of being back,” but noted that it also felt like “coming home.”
Set in the early decades of the 20th century, the show ran for six seasons until 2015 and centered on the interweaving narratives of the aristocratic Crawley family and their servants.
The show charted the highs and lows of the British upper class during the period, including the scandal of illicit romances, the impact of World War I and the dwindling power of the aristocracy alongside the rise of the middle class.