Jace Lacob: MASTERPIECE Studio wants you to know that Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is currently making its US debut in New York City. You’ll see Mrs. Patmore’s kitchen, 50 extraordinary costumes, and so much more.
Tickets are available for purchase at www.downtonexhibition.com. The exhibition runs through April 2, 2018.
The exhibition is presented by Viking, the leader in river and small ship ocean cruising, also known for its national corporate sponsorship of MASTERPIECE on PBS.
Baxter: I just wondered if I was right, that you’re to be congratulated.
Anna: It’s a bit early to shout about it but… yes.
Jace: I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
Over the past six years, Anna Bates has had some rotten luck. First, her husband was wrongly accused of murder. Then she was wrongly accused of murder.
But now Anna finally has something to celebrate.
In this episode, I sit down with Joanne Froggatt to talk about Anna’s long-overdue happiness:
Joanne Froggatt: Mary’s had her fair share of tragedy and trauma and so has Lady Edith as well. But I do think Anna and Bates, as a couple, have certainly been through the mill more than most.
Jace: Anna’s not the only one who’s catching a break this season.
Mrs. Patmore: Go on then. Put us out of our misery. Did he pass or not?
Dawes: Mr. Molesley, I’d be very glad if you would join the teaching staff at the village school.
Jace: We’ve seen Molesley evolve from a bumbling servant into a trusted employee and compassionate friend; he’s encouraged Baxter to face her past, and Daisy to follow her dreams.
I’ll sit down with Kevin Doyle to talk about how Molesley’s own dream of becoming a teacher is finally coming true:
Kevin Doyle: Clearly, you know, 40 years of frustration within the man. It all begins to sort of bubble up in the last season. And it was wonderful to play, actually.
Jace: But first, we’ll check in with our Talking Downton roundtable:
This episode had it all: death, marriage and even puppies!
Returning this week to reflect on the latest developments are two of our Talking Downton commentators: Kate Hess, an actress and writer known for her funny MASTERPIECE parody “Murder Abbey.” And Christina Dowling, a writer and unabashed Anglophile who’s reported for E! Online.
Jace: First thoughts? Kate?
Kate: I didn’t know that we needed a puppy that bad until she showed up.
Jace: I think it’s good for him to have a puppy again. I think it sort of, new life at Downton. It needs that sort of energy, especially after the death of poor Charlie Rogers. Let’s talk about death. The death on Downton this week. What are your thoughts on that, Christina?
Christina: Well, because you can’t tell what creator Julian Fellowes was going to do, I was legitimately scared that he would kill off Henry, like, “Let’s do another car crash.” That would be pretty terrible. So…
Jace: But obviously it’s high risk. And they have to sort of do that little race up to the car, which I thought was hilarious.
Kate: That was so funny. Why didn’t Tom have to do that when he was their chauffeur?
Jace: Every time.
Kate: Every time he gets in the car he has to race to the front door.
Jace: I love that, I love that. I mean do we think this is the end of Mary and Henry?
Christina: Well I love Matthew Goode, who plays Henry Talbot. I think he’s perfect for Mary. And you know, she needs someone strong, and maybe marrying someone who races cars is the exact way to get over Matthew’s death.
Jace: Good point.
I think this was the week of sort of inverted fortunes. I mean Edith has traditionally been the very unlucky one, but this week it was sort of Mary’s turn to have bad luck. Edith, on the other hand, is sort of … I don’t know, Edith is in a very good place right now. Despite the car crash at Brooklands, she gets a marriage proposal from Bertie Pelham.
Bertie: I want to marry you.
Bertie: You’re not offended?
Edith: Offended? Why would I be offended? I’m thrilled. I’m delighted. I’m just rather surprised.
Bertie: Why? You know I’m mad about you.
Edith: I don’t ever think I’m the sort of girl men are “mad” about.
Bertie: Then you’re wrong. Because I am.
Christina: She finally seems comfortable like after so many years of trying to make other men work out for her. It’s just better. She seems so comfortable in her skin and with him.
Jace: Favorite scene this week? Christina?
Christina: I love Tom’s crush on Henry. Like he is such a fan of Henry’s and like cheering him on at the race and … He also had like good advice for Mary.
Tom: You will be hurt again and so will I, because being hurt is part of being alive. But that is no reason to give up on the man who’s right for you.
Christina: He’s lost someone too. Mary can’t keep all the grief for herself.
Kate: I really like how Tom has kind of fulfilled Sybil’s role in the family and he’s kind of a romantic, and he thinks people should be free to do what they want to do. I like having him in that role. I think it’s really sweet.
Jace: Predictions for next week?
Christina: I have a feeling of dread with Edith. She never gets a happy ending, so as much as I’m wishing that she kind of, you know, sails into the sunset with Bertie, I just almost can’t believe it can happen that easily.
Jace: I just want everyone to be happy at Downton. Is that too much to ask?
Mary: Either way, my life’s up the spout, and though I hate the idea of scandal, somehow the shadow of blackmail is worse.
Anna: The cheek of her. It was all I could do not to give her a slap. We may have our problems, the both of us, but we’ll get through them.
Jace: Joanne Froggatt has been nominated for three Emmys and won a Golden Globe for her role as Anna Bates. She’s also known for her work on Robin Hood and Life on Mars.
Joanne Froggatt (Joanne): Thank you. Thanks for having me.
Jace: On this week’s episode, Anna risked a potential miscarriage to dash up to Lady Mary following the crash at Brooklands. Why do you think these two are so devoted to one another?
Joanne : Well they spend an awful lot of time together. You know in reality, a lady would have spent many, many hours of her day with her lady’s maid, more so probably than her husband in most cases. So it’s not a great leap to imagine that they would become very close…
It’s a friendship. It’s a friendship within the constraints of their situation, and the fact that Lady Mary is Anna’s employer, but within those constraints it is, you know, it is a great friendship.
Jace: So Anna started out as Anna Smith, head housemaid at Downton, and emerged a lady’s maid…
Joanne: Oh how she developed.
Jace: She did develop, didn’t she?
Joanne: I know.
Jace: What do you make of her character arc over the entirety of the six seasons?
Joanne: I mean it’s been incredible. I never thought starting out in season one, a. that we’d be doing six seasons, never mind that this sort of story lines I would have been able to play and the story lines I’ve been given. And Anna’s certainly become a woman who’s had a vast life experience now, bad and good. She’s more emotionally intelligent because of that. She has this amazing strength about her. I think that comes from a confidence in her own moral code. You know she still tries to see the best in things. But she’s been through the mill. She’s had a hard time.
Jace: It hasn’t been a walk in the park for Anna these last six seasons.
Joanne: No. How anybody could go through that. She’s quite an incredible character really.
Jace: She’s just lovely. What was your initial audition like for this role?
Joanne : It was quite a simple process, actually. And I just loved her, I loved Anna from the moment I read the script. It was always Anna that I was going in for. She’s definitely the character that I connected with, that sort of leapt off the page to me. And I just thought, “She’s the kind of person everybody would like as a best friend” and I really connected with that. I had to wait for a couple of weeks to find out the outcome, because they’d already cast Brendan Coyle to play Mr. Bates and Julian had written that character with Brendan in mind.
So originally, in the original script…
Jace: She was older right?
Joanne: She was older. She was written as being older, and it was more of a physical attraction, sort of love at first sight thing. Lucky for me, they decided to change that slightly and so they cast me, but then decided to sort of slow down the journey of Anna and Bates’ relationship.
Jace: I mean that slow-burn romance was, to me, one of the best parts of the first season…
Joanne: Yeah it was.
Jace: …was getting to see these people who seem like such an unlikely couple, fall in love and we fell in love with them through that. You know one or both of the Bates’ has been under suspicion of murder for as long as I can recall. It’s been a lot.
Joanne: Numerous times. It’s been dramatic.
Jace: There’s been a lot. I love when we do get a glimpse of domesticity with John and Anna.
Anna: Together I think we can make it really comfy.
Bates: What do they call extreme optimism?
Anna: They call it “making the best of things” and that is what we’ll do.
Bates: You being in this room is enough to make it nice.
Jace: Did you relish doing scenes that afforded the couple some more gentleness?
Joanne: Yes, we did. We really enjoyed doing those scenes. We really enjoyed the change. We really enjoyed playing the dramatic story lines, but we also really enjoyed playing them being happy together. Because we feel for them, when we play them we feel for them. We want them to be happy as well, but as actors we want to play the drama as well. And those scenes are just as important as the more emotionally dramatic scenes, because they’re the scenes that make people care about what happens to the characters really. They’re the scenes that people go, “Aww. Yeah…”
Jace: Back in season one, I was surprised by just how much I was rooting for John and Anna’s friendship to turn into romance. Why do you think viewers were quite so invested in their courtship?
Joanne: For me, certainly I can only sort of speak for myself in that I found the whole story so much more romantic because of the slow burn and because of the way they couldn’t be together but they wanted to be together. They were always stopped at every turn. There was always something in their way, you could see, hopefully, how much they cared for each other, and that’s romantic. That’s what we’re all searching for. Some of us are lucky enough to have found it and some of us are still on the search, and some people are not so bothered.
But that’s fine! But you know the majority of people, it’s kind of like that’s the kind of relationship that you want. When it’s somebody that will fight your corner through everything. You can’t really ask for more than that. That’s romance.
Jace: One of my favorite Anna scenes from the entire show, is in the very first episode when Anna brings a tray up to the attic to Mr. Bates.
Joanne: That’s possibly my very favorite scene I’ve played.
Jace: It’s lovely.
Joanne: I loved that scene. Thank you.
Anna: Mr. Bates, are you there? I brought something up in case you’re hungry.
Mr. Bates: That’s very kind.
Joanne: That scene really sticks in my head as well. It’s one of the first scenes we filmed together. We’d had a bit of rehearsal time and Brendan and I were on the same page straight away, and I loved working with him. So we talked about it and we were excited to sort of get in there and do our first scene. I remember being really nervous about doing the scene, because it was…we decided that it meant so much more that what I was saying. It meant so much more to the two of them. He’s very upset, she comes with a tray of food saying, “I brought you something to eat.” But what she’s really saying is, “I care about your. Are you okay?” He’s very embarrassed that she’s seen his vulnerability. And he sort of feels that, and connects with that and needs that in a way. Just carrying a tray in became so much more than bringing him some food, which was a really nice thing to develop.
Jace: What are some of your own favorite Anna moments?
Joanne: There’s so many. I love the scene in Episode 1 that you just referenced– carrying the tray into Mr. Bates. I also love, you know, some of my scenes with Michelle. Definitely carrying Mr. Pamuk down the corridor was a highlight.
Mary: He’s dead. I think he’s dead. No, I’m sure he’s dead.
Anna: But how?
Mary: We were together and…he’s dead.
Anna: In your room? We’ve got to get him back to his own bed.
Mary: But how?
Joanne: That was brilliant. I did like the the whole– having to buy the contraceptive for Lady Mary. It was nice for me to play something a bit lighter, which was great.
Like her and Mr. Bates, we just had some beautiful scenes to play together. I loved the sort of stolen looks and all of that. It was from a time gone by, where– In life now we move so quickly. Relationships move so quickly. Everything sort of happens overnight. And it just took us back to something more gentle.
Jace: It’s not as though Anna and John found each other on Tinder.
Joanne: No, exactly.
Jace: Now that the final season is airing, what emotions do you have about the ending of Downton Abbey?
Joanne: It’s strange. It feels like the right time, but it was incredibly sad, filming my last scenes I think as it was for everybody. It’s been a wonderful, wonderful thing to be a part of. You come to the end of it, and you go, “Wow. I was a part of something really special.” I imagine it’s a bit like leaving the band and going solo. It’s sort of like, “Oh, back to life, you know, before.” It’s like– you know doing your own projects again.
Jace: What was your final day of shooting like?
Joanne: I had a very small scene to film as my last scene, and I had to come into the kitchen with a tray and pop off again. All morning I kept saying, “It doesn’t feel like it’s my last day. It doesn’t feel like it. It feels very surreal. I don’t feel like I’m finishing.” And then as soon as it happened I sort of looked– everybody sort of piled into the kitchen where we were filming, all the crew and everyone, and I looked at everyone, and I was about to try and say “thank you” to everyone you know for six wonderful years, and I just went, “Thank you so much, waa” and just sort of burst out into tears. And I was like, “Now it feels like it’s my last scene.”
Jace: Though Downton Abbey is ending, Joanne will return to MASTERPIECE later this year as Britain’s first female serial killer in the new mini-series Dark Angel.
Joanne Froggatt: It’s a very different role to Anna.
Jace: Look for Dark Angel on MASTERPIECE later this year, and keep listening to MASTERPIECE Studio to go behind-the-scenes with Joanne.
Joanne Froggatt: People kept asking me what I wanted to do after Downton and I was jokingly saying for about a year, “Oh, just something totally different. Maybe, a murderer or something.” This script came along for Dark Angel and there it was…there it was on the page. I thought, “Oh, okay.” I better put my money where my mouth is and give this a go.
Jace: Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors.
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Daisy: Mr. Molesley I thought it was you.
Mrs. Patmore: Are you a footman now?
Molesley: I’m having my career backwards.
Jace: Kevin Doyle — who plays Molesley — is a British actor who’s had parts in a wide range of television series. Beyond Downton, Kevin will appear in Season 2 of the hit television drama Happy Valley.
Jace: Welcome, Kevin.
Kevin Doyle (Kevin): Thank you.
Jace: As we enter the final season of Downton Abbey, we’ve seen Moseley and Baxter growing closer. Is there any chance that their relationship might progress from something more…to something more than friendship?
Kevin: I mean, I don’t want to give too much away, but, yeah, there is a possibility of that. But, in a way, it kind of doesn’t really matter. They’re not like Anna and Bates; there isn’t this kind of passionate love that’s clear to everybody. These are two people who are very tentative about their lives. And so they’re very careful with each other. So if it doesn’t develop, then they’ve got a wonderful friendship. If it does develop– And I think they both want it to develop but like I say, they’re both very careful individuals. And they don’t want to spoil what they have.
Jace: Molesley urged Baxter to testify to against Peter Coyle, the man who betrayed her and caused her to go to prison.
Molesley: I know it’s not my decision, but I think you should do it.
Baxter: You don’t know what you’re asking.
Molesley: “All that’s needed for evil to triumph is that good men do nothing.”
Jace: And considering how hard it was to reconcile his moral code with his feelings for Baxter last season this is a pretty huge shift for Molesley, no?
Kevin: Yeah. That’s something I really enjoyed about the development of the character.
It’s been interesting actually watching the American take on the character because back home I think he’s sort of seen more of as an everyman figure; he’s clearly a bright person but his dreams have been thwarted to an extent. And I think back home, people recognize that whereas here, it was interesting because they saw him as a bit of a joke you know, a bit of a loser. And it’s been interesting the last two or three years seeing the American take on that change.
He’s kind of become regarded as more, he’s more rounded. And yeah, he has a big heart and I think that’s something which has just come through in the last few years. The great thing about doing something for six years is that the characters have been allowed to develop and I think most people recognize that certainly Molesley– It wasn’t a character that was meant to necessarily be with the show for very long…
Jace: I mean, the character was sort of in the beginning, paired with Matthew Crawley.
Jace: When Dan Stevens after season three, did you have a fear that Molesley would be written out?
Kevin: Of course, yes. Yeah, I mean, there are no guarantees. Are there? And in fact, what happened was that the year after that became really exciting storyline because that uncertainty in real life became Molesley’s uncertainty. You know. You– He was having to suddenly he was without a job and without a place and there were lots of questioning about, “Was he doing the right thing in life?”
Molesley: I’ve placed advertisements, Mr. Carson, you know I have.
Mr. Carson: But the answers weren’t suitable?
Molesley: I didn’t get any answers. Well, I did, but when I wrote back, I heard nothing more.
Mr. Carson: Well, I don’t know what to suggest.
Kevin: When I was sent the script for this and I went to a meeting for it, they sent me one scene. And it was the scene in season one where he’s trying to dress Matthew. And he’s not allowed to do his job. And Matthew says, at one point during that scene, “Well, you know, it’s a ridiculous way for a man to spend his life, you know, dressing somebody else.” You know, and in a way, he’s absolutely right. It is. But for Molesley and for a lot of other characters downstairs, it’s their only option.
And I think actually the turning point for him in terms of people’s perception was that– He has a great line: “I’m living my career backwards.” So you see him sort of diminished socially within the hierarchy of the household. So he’s having to take on a job where they would normally be held by somebody 30 years junior to him. And it’s profoundly disappointing and humiliating but he has no choice.
And I think the education of Daisy becomes very important to him because he can see that well, if it doesn’t happen to him, at least it can happen to somebody else. At least, he can help her to a brighter future. And then that opens up the possibility of being able to help himself as well. Something else has awakened in him.
Jace: Now, I do think Molesley besides for Lady Edith, might be the single most unlucky character on this show. And that’s saying a lot because poor old Edith is very, very unlucky. How does his luck change going forward?
Kevin: Well, I suppose it’s about realizing that those dreams that he had when he was younger and that he left behind are a possibility after all, I suppose.
I remember when we shot the scenes where he’s told that he has…there’s the possibility of something other in his life, you know, a career, being really quite profoundly affected by it. I found myself sort of in the last couple of years, actually sort of, it being very easy to sort of cry. He was in such a sort of…pent up in a way, I suppose. Clearly, you know, 40 years of frustration within the man and it all begins to sort of bubble up in the last season.
Jace: Were you surprised by the fact that he is able to turn this around completely now in the sort of last few episodes of the series?
Kevin: I’m not surprised because it’s always been there. He’s clearly a bright person. And there’s a line that that the headmaster says to him.
Mr. Dawes: I’m impressed, Mr. Molesley. There are Oxford and Cambridge graduates who know far less than you do. You should be proud.
Kevin: It really sort of stuns him. He’s always been a diminished character and it allows him to be something other. He can take a certain amount of pride in himself.
Jace: One of my favorite Molesley scenes is actually when he slipped a mickey at the ghillies ball at Duneagle.
Robert: They do say there’s a wild man inside all of us.
Violet: If only he would stay inside.
Jace: What was it like filming that scene which has become sort of a very gif-able scene?
Kevin: Terrifying. Absolutely terrifying because I had to do it time and time again. And Maggie was sat there right in front of me for most of it. And there were no sort of choreographed movements or anything like that, you know, just had to go wild. And going wild for four hours was both sort of mentally and physically exhausting and terrifying. It was really terrifying because I didn’t really know those actors very much cause I didn’t have much to do with, you know, the likes of Maggie and all the upstairs lot very much because I was in my own little world at Crawley house. So, it was, yeah, it was absolutely terrifying, actually. I remember that day til the day I die probably.
Jace: Was it sort of Maggie staring at you that made it even more terrifying?
Kevin: Yeah. Yeah. But then at the end, she said, “Bravo!” and so that was lovely. So it was all worth it.
Jace: Do you have a favorite moment from behind the scenes?
Kevin: Yeah they probably involve Maggie. There was a great– At Highclere castle, you’re not allowed to take any beverages or food or anything into the building. And she was desperate for a cup of tea but she had to stay inside the dining room and so I remember her having to sort of lean out of the window so somebody could feed– I think Laura and I fed her chocolate biscuits and a cup of tea. This is Dame Maggie Smith…
Jace: Dame Maggie Smith leaning out the window.
Kevin: …leaning out of the window because you weren’t allowed to take a cup of tea into the dining room. So, yeah. That’s, yeah.
Jace: So, now that the final season is airing, what sort of emotions do you personally have about the end of Downton?
Kevin: Well, it was a gift. It was a gift being able to work with all those wonderful actors and all the brilliant, brilliant crew. I think a day that I will probably take to the grave with me actually, is the last day of shooting for us. All the servants finished on the same day downstairs at Ealing so all the actors were on stage and the producers came on and said some very lovely words to all of us. And then Jim Carter, who plays Mr. Carson, wanted to respond and he said– He wanted to talk about this brilliant crew that we had worked with for six years. And he started to speak and then he looked around he couldn’t continue and we couldn’t continue. So I think that’s the abiding memory.
Jace: So when they said, “That’s a wrap for Kevin Doyle,” what was the first thought that went through your mind?
Kevin: Try not to cry.
Kevin: No. No, not at all. No, I wept like buckets.
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For more Downton Abbey behind-the-scenes content, check out the MASTERPIECE Studio podcast at pbs.org/masterpiece, on Stitcher, and on iTunes.
MASTERPIECE Studio is hosted by me, Jace Lacob and produced by Nick Andersen. Elisheba Ittoop is our editor. Susanne Simpson is our executive producer. The executive producer of MASTERPIECE is Rebecca Eaton.
Sponsors for MASTERPIECE on PBS are Viking and The MASTERPIECE Trust.
Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is open in New York City, now through April 2, 2018. See downtonexhibition.com for tickets and more details.