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Members of the Downton Abbey cast and production team discussed the drama’s upcoming sixth season, its legacy and a possible film version at a press event in central London on Thursday.
Creator Julian Fellowes said, “We thought about ending it after [season five], but then it felt a bit crammed.”
He said he feels good about wrapping up key storylines in the final season but said, “Life is a slightly open-ended story.” Overall, he said of the ending of the series: “I think it’s satisfactory. I hope it is.”
Asked about how he enjoyed writing an ongoing series rather than limited serials for the first time, Fellowes said he liked that “the actor starts to bring qualities that you then start to write for. That was true with all of them.”
Maggie Smith, in a rare appearance at the event organized by ITV and producer Carnival Film & Television (part of NBCUniversal), told reporters of the impending end of the series, “I’m just surprised that I got to the end.”
Asked about her Dowager Countess character’s famously mean one-liners, Smith said: “They are wonderful, wonderful put-downs, but they are all Julian’s.”
She also lauded the show’s crew, saying its members were “always in a very good mood, which I can’t say for myself.”
When asked about her next project, Smith joked that she thinks she’ll be lying down “for quite some time,” before adding that she plans to get a box set of the show to watch it.
Hugh Bonneville was asked what he would miss the most about Downton. He said it would be “the ensemble,” meaning both the actors and the crew. “We’re the visible tip of the iceberg,” he said, crediting the crew. “They work far harder than us actors.”
He also lauded the show’s attention to detail and said he took a prop letter as a souvenir. “They are gorgeously researched and beautifully written,” he said.
Joanne Froggatt said, “We’re all happy to have Downton on our CV,” joking that “Maggie doesn’t really need it.” She said she appreciated that “we are a true ensemble.”
“I start a new job on Monday,” Froggatt said of her next career steps. She will shoot two-part ITV drama Dark Angel, about a female serial killer in Victorian England, poisoner Mary Ann Cotton.
Executive producer Gareth Neame said the decision to end the show with the sixth season got the full support of ITV and PBS, who said they liked the integrity of the decision.
When asked whether there would be a Downton movie, Neame replied, “That remains to be seen.” If there ever were to be a movie, it would be similar enough to the show but, at the same time, a different way for audiences to experience the characters, he said.
Asked if she would be up for a movie, Smith answered: “It would be fun.”
Neame also said he was happy about the “enormous success” of Downton in the United States and other international territories that he said has made the show a “flagship piece of British content.” But he said that when ITV commissioned the show, the international appeal wasn’t a focus.
Neame also said that the show has “indirectly had a significant impact on British tourism.”
Executive producer Liz Trubridge compared Downton to the Harry Potter film franchise in those terms. “It was an enormous global success,” she said.
Fellowes said he felt sad to say goodbye to the show’s characters. “There is some sadness, however idiotic it is,” he said, adding that the team “wanted to go out when people were still sorry.”
He said, “If we go on too long, they will start to feel, ‘We have had enough of this.’ ” He also said that he expects never to be involved in as big a hit ever again.
When asked where she would like to see the show go if it were to continue, Trubridge joked that she would like to see the characters in the 1970s. Neame said he would be most interested in following the story of Master George Crawley.
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