EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol talks Christmas special
Downton Abbey is set for a spectacular send off at 8.45pm on Christmas Day, and we’ll be watching it armed with wine, a turkey sandwich and a box of Kleenex’s finest.
It has been more than five years since Downton first premiered on ITV, introducing viewers to its unique blend of costume drama and soap opera. It has met unprecedented success. Today, the series is watched in more than 250 global territories, boasts 50 Emmy Award nominations (the most any non-American show has ever received), and has reportedly boosted the British economy by a whopping £22,000,000,000.
All good things must come to an end, however, and this one is going to be a particular tearjerker. We spoke to Downton Abbey star Lesley Nicol, who plays Mrs Patmore in the hit series, about what heartbreak is lurking ahead.
What were your thoughts on the Christmas special?
Yes, I think it’s a great episode. I haven’t actually seen it, I’d love to see it. We had a great director on it, brilliant American director [Michael Engler]. I’m really looking forward to seeing it.
Do you think fans will be satisfied with how the series wraps up?
I’m only getting general feedback here from England [Ed’s note: Lesley lives in LA] and what people are saying about season 6. There seems to be a very positive feeling about it, so I would imagine this will be – I hope it will be – what they’re looking for. I hope so.
Were you happy with more Mrs Patmore’s story was wrapped up at the end of the Christmas special?
I don’t think it’s all been wrapped up. There are more things that could happen, if they did a film for instance… things aren’t drawn to an end.
You speak of a film – would you be happy to do one if the time came?
Oh yes, we’re hoping he’ll [Julian] have time to write a script because he’s very busy. Lots of us are very enthusiastic about it.
What would you like to happen to Mrs Patmore after the series ends?
I’d like her to be happy, whatever way that may take its form.
What can you tell us about the relationship between Mrs Patmore and Daisy in the Christmas special?
Their relationship has always been interesting and it’s got more complicated this year because she’s developing her mind and becoming more independent and maturing. And that’s brought with it – there’s still a closeness between them – but a few challenges trying to accommodate her behaviour [laughs]. So that just carries on I think.
Do you think Mrs Patmore’s worried about Daisy potentially leaving service?
Oh yes, I think she’s always been a bit anxious about that. It’s a double-edged sword really. Like a mother, she’s thrilled when she gets her exam results, but she does feel very attached to her and to lose her completely would be very sad.
How has appearing in Downton changed your life?
It’s changed my life in very many ways, personally and professionally. I think a lot of the cast would say that. It’s had a big impact, because nobody knew it was going to be the global success it has been. It’s taken me places I’d never been, met people I wouldn’t have otherwise met… it’s given me opportunities. It’s been a big big change.
Do you get recognised a lot?
It’s very weird. Not all the time. There are some people of the cast who are recognised every day. I think Jim and Hugh are in the category, because they look exactly the same. Well, Jim doesn’t quite, but he’s a big tall impressive looking guy, so he doesn’t melt into a crowd very easily. I think in the US I get recognised sometimes because of my voice, because it’s English and they recognise it. Sometimes people do, sometimes they don’t. Not all the time, that’s for sure.
What has been your favourite moment filming Downton?
I don’t think I could pick one to be honest. They were just very very happy years with a good bunch of people.
Is there a scene or a storyline in particular that sticks in your mind?
[Julian’s] given me some nice, contrasting things which I’ve really enjoyed. I really enjoyed this season when she was put on the spot and tried to find out from Mr Carson what his desires were from Mrs Hughes. He also gave me some nice meaty scenes around the war memorial and nephew. And then losing her eyesight right at the beginning, those were nice kind of emotional things to play as well. It’s been really good having the breadth of things to play it’s not just one thing it’s a nice variety of emotions.
Are you a good cook?
Did you learn anything from playing Mrs Patmore?
No, nothing at all. Except keep busy, keep going at a good speed, don’t do anything technical and they won’t catch you out – with any luck.
What’s in the pipeline for you?
I am doing a little animated series for Disney for children, playing the fairy godmother, so that’s sort of ongoing. And I’m off to China tomorrow to visit my charity Animals Asia.
What would be your ideal Christmas present?
Oh, blimey. What would be my ideal Christmas present… a working iPad. I’ve been having great difficulties with getting people to help me with my new iPad. A working iPad, that would be marvellous!
What do you like watching on TV?
I like a good drama a good documentary. In the US, I’ve really enjoyed House of Cards and Veep I’ve enjoyed very much. Things like Happy Valley, oh and I loved Last Tango in Halifax.
The Downton Abbey Christmas Special airs at 8.45pm on Christmas Day on ITV.