'Downton Abbey' Creator Julian Fellowes Calls Writing "An Act of Faith — You Just Have to Jump In"
"I think you have to believe that if you’re fascinated by a circumstance, by a particular people, you are entitled to tell a story about them, otherwise none of us would get anywhere," Fellowes tells THR.
"Every show operates within a world that is established, and within that world, things are done in a certain way," Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes tells THR during the Drama Showrunner Emmy Roundtable. "Just as in a musical comedy people sing and you have a sort of style, in the Downton style, terrible things happen to them, but you never saw anything."
Fellowes says he doesn't get nervous telling any story, because it's just about staying true to the world in which the story occurs. "I’d be perfectly happy to write a completely different show that had a different language," he says. "It’s just the style of the show and then you take the story into that style. You wouldn’t be nervous unless the story was completely incompatible with the show."
He argues that because writing is only about settling into a specific world, there are no stories that should be considered off-limits to certain writers saying, "I don’t think writers can be held back by ‘I can’t deal with rape because I’m not a woman, I can’t deal with anti-semitism because I’m not Jewish, I can’t deal with racism because I’m not black.’ None of us would be able to write anything. We all have to write stuff. We write characters who are not our own sex — we must because that’s what we’re doing. Of course in a way you think, ‘I hope I’m being faithful to this, I hope I’m not being offensive, I hope I’ve got the right elements of this,’ but to some extent, it’s an act of faith when you write. You just have to jump in."
He calls story-telling "primordial" saying, "We all know what it is to be heart-broken, we all know what it is to be grief-stricken, we all know what it is to be incredibly happy." He encourages writers to tell the stories they are compelled to tell, regardless of their own experience. "If you’re fascinated by a circumstance, by a particular people, you are entitled to tell a story about them, otherwise none of us would get anywhere."
More roundtables featuring comedy and drama actors and actresses, comedy showrunners, and reality hosts and producers will roll out throughout June in print and online. Tune in to new episodes of Close Up With The Hollywood Reporter starting June 26 on SundanceTV, with the premiere of the Drama Showrunners Roundtable on Sunday, July 24. And look for clips at THR.com/roundtables with full episodes on THR.com after broadcast.