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.
I’m Jace Lacob and you’re listening to MASTERPIECE Studio.
On this week’s episode, the Crawleys open Downton to the curious masses. Some support the idea:
Daisy: I think all these houses should be open to the public. What gives them the right to keep people out?
Jace: Others, not so much.
Mr. Carson: I don’t like it. Poking and prying around the house. What’s to stop them slipping the odd first edition into their back pocket?
Mrs. Hughes: You’ve a very poor opinion of your fellow man.
Jace: But the open house isn’t the only thing coming between Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes.
Mr. Carson: And you might ask one of the maids about making the bed.
Mrs. Hughes: Isn’t that good enough, either?
Jace: Now that the honeymoon’s over, Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan join us for some Carson/Hughes couples counseling.
Jim Carter: Unfortunately, they cut the bedroom scenes. That was mainly because my back went. That was a shame because I think that would have jolted people into…
Phyllis Logan: How about, don’t even go there.
Jace: But first – we’ll take stock of this week’s episode including Cora and Violet’s showdown, Henry and Mary’s rain-soaked escapade, and Carson and Thomas’ latest misunderstanding.
We’re joined by two of our Talking Downton commentators:
Melissa Kirsch, author of The Girl’s Guide and contributing editor at SheKnows.com and Melanie Hoopes, a storytelling coach and writer for Alec Baldwin’s “Here’s The Thing.”
Jace: This week we are talking about the kiss that we’ve been waiting for this entire time between…
Jace: …Lady Mary and Henry Talbot. How much more perfect could that have been?
Melissa: It could not have been more romantic.
Melanie: Totally, beautiful. I wanted them to make-out more though.
Melanie: It seemed like just that one kiss and then they left it. It was raining, come on, guys!
Jace: I think he has now made his intentions pretty clear. He mistakenly refers to the racer’s wives visiting the tracks…
Melissa: So fun.
Jace: …And she catches him out and he smiles.
Melanie: And he covers his hand with his mouth and does a little like schoolboy giggle which I love. He’s very, he’s got a real innocence and kind of playfulness to him.
Jace: And I love that he when she says, “We should make a dash for it” he says “Well, you’re the boss.”
Jace: And she is, our Lady Mary.
Melanie: She is.
Melissa: She knows what she’s about.
Jace: The other big thing this week obviously Downtown opened to the public.
Jace: Everybody comes in to view the house. And the family knows nothing about their own house.
Melissa: Nothing at all.
I felt like this was a nice sort of reflection of us, of the audience. We want– we tune in to see how the other half lived, right? And the way of life at Downtown has become this curiosity now to which people will pay admission in the town.
Jace: It’s a museum. It’s not a place of life anymore.
Jace: It’s sort of a tomb.
Melissa: Right. A curiosity.
Jace: Speaking of an era coming to a close, Cora replaces Violet as president of the hospital…
Melanie: That’s big stuff.
Jace: …which can’t be good.
Melissa: Yep, “Golly they’ve sacked the captain…”
Melissa: …Cora says.
Melissa: I want to say that this can’t be good in the same way that we know that Mary is going to freak out about the Marigold situation. What are the wages of Violet not winning a war? How is she going to make Cora pay?
And I also think that line “tell Cora I do not wish to see her face until I am used to having a traitor in the family” says Violet, you know?
Melissa: What about when Lord Grantham implies that Cora is too old for the job of president?
Cora: I’ve had one career bringing up my daughters but they don’t need me now, so I’m ready for the next.
Robert: The girls still need you. But anyway, isn’t it time for a rest? You’re not like Isobel.
Melissa: So out of step with the times, right?
Melanie: So out of step with the times.
Melissa: Right. When his daughters…both of his daughters have taken on, you know, very important jobs with tons of responsibility, but not…that’s not for Cora.
She’s sort of articulating the kind of like work life balance struggle of the modern woman: the kids are grown up and out of the house, like what’s next for me?
Jace: Speaking of other changing times. So we do find out this week that Thomas will be the first staff member cut. And he cries when Carson asks him about his motives about Andy.
Carson: We’re talking about a vulnerable young man and I must look to his welfare.
Thomas: Yes. And if I were to give you my word of honor that nothing took place of which you would disapprove.
Carson: If I could just be sure.
Thomas: So my word is still not good enough Mr. Carson? After so many years?
Carson: I only wish it were.
Jace: I really do feel for Thomas here. And I feel as though he’s in a very dark place. He’s very much alone.
Melissa: You know you are dispensable when Carson is telling you that your role, the under butler, is a post that is “fragrant with the memories of a lost world.” If Carson is saying you’re out of step with modernity then you know you are finished.
Jace: MVP for this week. I have to say mine would be Bertie. And he completely organizes the open day which is helpful as no one seems to know what they’re doing. And if Bertie had not arrived I don’t know what they would have done.
Jace: Or that they, they don’t even seem to know that they need guides. And we’re just gonna let people wander around the house…
Melissa: He proves he’s a worthy match for Edith. I think, that there’s something kind of sparkly, something glamorous about her that she’s, you know, she’s not necessarily giving Mary a run for her money yet, but she’s, you know, she’s got her own flat in London. That’s not nothing.
Mrs. Hughes: But if you’re sure.
Mr. Carson: I have never been so sure of anything.
Mrs. Hughes: Well then, Mr. Carson, “If you want me, you can have me.” To quote Oliver Cromwell, “warts and all.”
Jace: At the start of this season, it seemed like it could be all romance for Carson and Mrs. Hughes. But the realities of married life have proven a bit more complicated…
I sat down with Jim Carter and Phyllis Logan to discuss.
Phyllis Logan (Phyllis): Thank you.
Jim Carter (Jim): Thank you. Hello.
Jace: Some of my favorite moments on Downton are actually the sitting room scenes between your two characters.
Phyllis: They are ours as well actually aren’t they?
We always– Every time we got the scripts we would be looking out for scenes such as that, which sometimes weren’t there as often as we’d have liked. But, we latched onto them like a drowning man onto a raft. Didn’t we?
Jim: Yeah. We’re very formal people in a very formal time. And then you just open a chink into their private lives and saw, you know, a very formal sort of affection growing between them. But, it was our only chance to relax.
Phyllis: Well, to be ourselves as it were. We had to put up a front. Because we were housekeeper and butler so we had to look out for the rest of troops. And be head of the household as it were.
Jace: Do you have a favorite joint Carson and Hughes scene from the last six seasons?
Phyllis: Well we did enjoy the paddling into the sea together.
Hughes: You can hold my hand, then we’ll both go in together.
Carson: I think I will hold your hand. It’ll make me feel a bit steadier.
Hughes: You can always hold my hand if you need to feel steady.
Jim: That was sweet. I think it ended the episode. And took us sort of wondering off. I mean it could have been a love tryst. It could have been a suicide pack. We have to wait for a whole season to find out. That…
Phyllis: And also the proposal…
Jim: The proposal.
Phyllis: …scene that was very sweet.
Jim: Yes. Ducking downstairs.
Phyllis: That’s right. Yes.
You know, just things like that proper scenes, you know. Proper dialogue. I’m not saying the rest of it isn’t proper. But, you have substantial length scenes that you can, you know, rehearse and get nuance in and yeah…
Jim: Because a lot of the time we’re function raising. A lot of the time I was opening doors. And saying, “Dinner is served.” Or waving people off in cars…
Phyllis: You’re very good at it.
Jim: Well, thank you. Many people have complimented me. In fact, when Shirley MacLaine first arrived she turned up and said, “Oh, you’re very good at standing around.”
Jim: Thanks. Thank you, Shirley. How kind.
Jace: Now traditionally housekeepers didn’t marry. Though they were called misses.
Phyllis: No. That’s right.
Jace: And these two do get together; they do get married. Is this the impossible love made possible?
Phyllis: I don’t know about impossible. No. It was very, very unusual at that time. But then — it seemed and certainly in the public’s eye — it seemed that they were destined to be together.
Jim: To me, in my mind, it was inevitable. Because it just worked. The chemistry was right. It was sort of teased out over such a long period in a way. I mean like Galapagos tortoises heading towards each other. Weren’t we?
Phyllis: No it’s true.
Jim: But, I think the will of the people was that we would wed.
Phyllis: Which is nice. You know, at least we’ve got each other.
Jace: As television viewers we don’t often get to see people who are older than say 25 falling in love. But, now we’re seeing stories about adult or middle aged courtship. I mean…
Phyllis: Late middle aged in our case.
Jace: …Why do you think that there’s traditionally been a resistance against depicting those types of courtships?
Jim: Twenty-four-old TV producers probably. Yeah, I mean I was going to do a detective series years ago. It was quite nice because it was a detective and he fell in love with this solicitor. When someone said, “Who wants to see people over 50 kissing.” You know, I remember them clearly saying that. So, yeah, I think it is– idiot TV producers is all I can say. Yeah, but if it’s romantic. I think people– It can work at any age. Doesn’t it?
Phyllis: Well it does. And I think maybe people realize that now. Because I think a lot of people find later love nowadays — if your second or third marriage or whatever — so lots of people are still looking for love.
Jace: I mean to viewers in 2015 Elsie’s concerns about post marital sex might seem positively quaint. But, she really is quite terrified as to what he expects.
Phyllis: I think that would apply to any woman of her age even now who hadn’t, you know, maybe they’ve been widowed or been divorced for a good number of years. And suddenly the prospect of embarking upon a new relationship with a man they’ve never, you know, exposed themselves to before if you see what I mean…
Jace: A full marriage.
Jim: A full marriage. Unfortunately, they cut the bedroom scenes. That was mainly because my back went. That was a shame because I think that would have jolted people into…
Phyllis: How about, don’t even go there.
Jace: So, season six gave us the kiss that we’ve been waiting for a very long time. Are you surprised by the audience reaction to the kiss? I think one British paper called it “the kiss heard around the world”.
Jim: You’re joking.
Jace: No. I’m not joking.
Jim: How do you know these things? Do you know this stuff?
Jim: Does it social media is it? The Kiss…
Jace: …Heard around the world. Yeah.
Phyllis: Were we that awful at it?
Jim: Well I have no idea because I don’t…
Phyllis: Neither do I.
Jim: I don’t read a word about the show or know any of these things.
Jace: Now once they return from their honeymoon. Carson rather mercilessly nitpicks his new wife, everything from the knives needing sharpening to bubble and squeak being an inappropriate accompaniment for lamb.
Phyllis: You think he’d just be delighted the fact that she agreed to be his wife. And the fact that he was now, you know, having some intimacy with– that he hasn’t had his entire life.
Jim: I think I’m sublimating my disappointment in the bedroom.
Phyllis: Is that what it is?
Jim: I’m moaning about the bubble and squeak. That’s all I can read into it my darling.
Phyllis: It’s the warts that have put you off?
Jim: Yeah. I think the honeymoon in Scarborough, it can’t have gone well.
Mrs. Patmore: They’re here!
Mr. Carson: Home again at last. I feel I’ve been away for months.
Mrs. Hughes: Very flattering, I don’t think!
Jim: We had a little bit of time off unusually, because we were away on honeymoon. But, I manage to source some old black and white postcards from Scarborough from the era. So, I wrote these and sent these to the cast members back in the kitchen. You know, “Dear lady Mary– wish you were her.”
And things like that. And in fact…
Phyllis: And you sent quite a rude one.
Jim: Quite vulgar one. But in fact, the one that I sent to Mrs….
Phyllis: Mrs. Patmore.
Jim: … stayed on the set and was actually filmed quite a lot. Part of the set dressing.
Jace: What was the vulgar one though?
Phyllis: Oh, it was something to do with the fact excuse the wobbly writing. Mrs. Hughes is quite enthusiastic. Please excuse the wobbly writing.
Jace: How does the friction in their relationship continue to play out for the remainder of the season? Is it a case just of newlyweds discovering married life together for the first time?
Phyllis: It must be difficult, you know, having said that, that these two people who have lived their entire lives alone and never had that sort of intimacy. So, it probably is a bit of a smack in the face really to suddenly have to adapt to that.
But, I think it’s just you trying– Mr. Carson’s maybe trying to establish the fact that he’s the head of the household. So, he’s knowing full well that he’s not really. But, trying his best.
Jace: Knowing Mrs. Hughes though I don’t think that that will last very long.
Jim: No. No. I don’t stand a chance.
Jace: Before this next question, a brief word from our sponsors.
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Jace: While Mr. Carson and Mrs. Hughes are great together, they are so much more than just their relationship.
I spoke with Jim and Phyllis one-on-one to look back at how their characters have evolved over the past six seasons.
Mr. Carson: Hello. This is Mr. Carson the butler of Downton Abbey. To whom am I speaking?
(Voice on the other end of the phone)
Mr. Carson: Well I’m not shouting! Who are you?
Jim Carter (Jim): Hello. Nice to be here.
Jace: Now I want to talk about the evolution of Mr. Carson. What do you make of his journey over the last six years?
Jim: It has been slow I would say. He’s the keeper of the flame of tradition really for both for upstairs and downstairs. He and the Dowager Countess, Violet, Maggie Smith, got similar views on progress to be resisted at all costs. But of course Carson has to bend to the progress, to telephones, to toasters, to electricity, and fridges. So begrudgingly he is with coaching from Mrs. Hughes, he’s edged along.
But, you know, if you think of the reality of a butler and a housekeeper and the cook in those days, they’d be very lonely people. I mean who can the butler be friends with? He can’t be friends with people upstairs — he’s obviously got paternal feelings for Lady Mary — and he can’t be friends with people downstairs nobody is at the same status, apart from Mrs. Hughes. So that’s why the moments when he is with Mrs. Hughes are sort of quite tender cause it’s the only person he can really open up to in his 1925 buttoned-up manner.
Jace: Now your wife Imelda Staunton, once said of you in an interview, quote “He has never been this sort of actor who earns to play Hamlet, maybe it’s because he came to acting from performing in the circus. He has always just done what he wanted to do.” Is that true? Where you a magician?
Jim: I’m…yeah. I did magic act for thirty years, alongside acting. And I– In fact I went to Circus School in New York in the late seventies. I was a good tight rope walker, and juggler, and unicyclist, stilt walker. Looking at me now of course that’s slightly difficult to imagine but I am still keep my hand in a little bit with the magic and can still juggle a comedy set of three balls. Yeah.
I have no ambitions at all to be King Lear or whatever. I just like to get out of the house and work with nice people.
Jace: That a very Carson-esque thing to say.
Jim: Is it? I…I…just turn everything off while I hit this man for accusing me of being like Carson.
Jace: In the script for the first episode Julian Fellowes describes Carson by saying — he is in the pantry — he just says, “Carson the butler sits in his magnificence.” What sort of conversations did you have with Julian Fellowes in the early days and how much of the surprises such as his past and The Cheerful Charlies were you aware of early on?
Jim: Well it’s funny that you quote that, “Sits there in his magnificence.” I read that and I understood that and I thought, because I had to go meet for the part and read for it and everything, and I thought, “I can do that. I can sit there in my magnificence.” And I did think, “I should be rather disappointed if somebody else gets this part, cause I think I’d be right for this part.”
But oddly enough, in the very first draft that I saw, my secret past was not a life on the musical boards, but I had an old, drunk mother that I was smuggling food out of the house to. And then I think somebody in the casting department must of thought, “Crikey this woman is going to be about 110 years old how are we going to cast her?” so they changed it to this past on the boards.
Charles Grigg: We were a double act. On the halls.
Robert: You were on the stage? Carson, is this true?
Carson: It is, my lord.
Charles Grigg: The Cheerful Charlies, that’s what they called us.
Jim: I did actually suggest that if I’d a past as a magician and a juggler then that could be incorporated into the character, but he said no this is a song and dance man. Neither of which I do. So there’s no danger of Carson bursting into song.
Jace: Throughout the shows’ run Mr. Carson is served as sort of surrogate father to Lady Mary. Why has that relationship remained so important?
Jim: Yeah. Carson is sort of the surrogate dad, as you say, the downstairs dad of Lady Mary and we saw that really nicely when she got married and she came down the staircase in her wedding dress and both her fathers were there, Lord Grantham and me, and she said, and I thought this was a nice touch from Julian Fellowes, “Will I do Carson?” A sort of a tender moment.
And we had a little scene in series one that we never got around to filming, so I asked if it could be put into series two cause I thought it was such a nice story.
Mrs. Hughes: To me, Lady Mary is an uppity minx who’s the author of her own misfortunes.
Mr. Carson: You didn’t know her when she was a child, Mrs. Hughes. She was a guinea a minute then. I remember once she came in here, she can’t have been more than four or five years old, and she said, “Mr. Carson, I’ve decided to run away and I wonder if I might take some of the silver to sell.”
“Well,” I said, “That could be awkward for His Lordship. I suppose I’ll give you a sixpence to spend in the village instead.”
“Very well,” said she, “but you must be sure to charge me interest.”
Mrs. Hughes: And did you?
Mr. Carson: She gave me a kiss in full payment.
Jim: That was a nice little story that– You know as I say he is a lonely man so to have these little children running around would have been great for him.
Jace: I love the two of them.
Jace: Set the stage for me what was your final day of shooting like?
Jim: The final day of shooting was actually– All the servants were together in the servants hall and we were filming our final scene as servants. And it was a nice, quite a low-key sort of scene. Then suddenly they said, “Ladies and gentlemen that’s a wrap on the staff of Downton Abbey.” And there was like a round of applause and the producer came in and sort of said “thanks” to all of the cast and everything. Then I thought, “Well somebody has got to thank the crew,” because the crew has been– some of them have been right from the start of– many of them for two or three seasons and they worked twice as hard as we do. So I said, “On behalf of the cast, I want to thank all the crew…” and then lo and behold started to choke up you know so it was like I saw these tired faces have been through so much and I started to get rather emotional– Oh my god!
And then I turn around and Lee the rigger you know the great big tattooed– just carries heavy things around for a living– tears pouring down his face. Bobby the grips guy shoves the camera around, tears pouring down his face. Oh my god, you soft lot! So it was rather emotional. It took me by surprise really.
Jace: Jim Carter thank you.
Jim: My pleasure.
Jace: Okay now we will get Phyllis in.
Mrs. Hughes: You know me Mr. Barrow. A woman of mystery if ever there was one.
Phyllis Logan (Phyllis): Thank you. Hello.
Jace: I want to talk about the evolution of Mrs. Hughes. What do you make of her journey over the last six seasons?
Phyllis: Well, I think she’s always been the same, this is what I like about her really, that she speaks her mind. She may have started off being a bit of a poor-faced, you know, disciplinarian, but we soon discover that she actually has a lot of compassion.
Certainly, we saw in the first/second season, whenever it was, when the character Ethel became pregnant. And because she’s a compassionate woman, she was prepared to, you know, put herself on the line by helping poor old Ethel.
Jace: She does run interference, too, between Ethel and the grandparents of Ethel’s baby…
Phyllis: Yes, yes.
Jace: …the grandfather played by your real-life husband.
Phyllis: Played by my real-life husband, I know. He was such a horror, wasn’t he?
Mr. Bryant: What proof have you?
Mr. Bryant: I say, what proof have you? If my son was the father of this boy, where’s your proof? Any letters? Any signed statement?
Ethel: Why would there be any letters? We were in the same house.
Mrs. Hughes: I think she’s telling the truth.
Mr. Bryant: I’m not interested in “think.” I want proof that my son acknowledged paternity of this boy. If what you say is true, then he would’ve known of the boy’s existence for months before he…before he was killed.
Phyllis: He was a nasty piece of work that Mr. Bryant unlike my husband.
Jace: What was it like actually having him on the set of Downton as a character that you’re playing opposite?
Phyllis: Well, it was very funny. When he first told me about– He was supposed to be going off somewhere to do another job but he said, “Oh, I’m having to delay it because I’ve got another job in London, at the time.” And I said, “Oh, yeah?” What’s that? And he said, “I’m doing Downton Abbey.” And I said, “You’re not serious.” He said, “I’m deadly serious. They’ve asked me to play the character of blah blah blah.” How dare he? Without even consulting me. This is my gig, get out.
So yeah, but that was good fun because in actual fact, we were involved in the same scenes because our storylines were inextricably linked with Ethel. So, we even got driven to work together, you know, in the same car.
Jace: That’s lovely.
Phyllis: They actually said, “Do you mind — because Kevin’s called at the same time as you? — Do you mind coming in the same car?”
As if we could refuse that.
Jace: Did you have an inkling when you started the show that your character would end up marrying the very stuffy butler in episode one?
Phyllis: No. Not at the beginning. I knew that they obviously had a long history with each other and had a great deal of respect and compassion for one another. But I thought, “Would it spoil the dynamic if they were to suddenly become an item?”
Jace: Well, I’m happy that they ended up together.
I love the rapport that developed over the years between Mrs. Hughes, Mrs. Patmore, and Mr. Carson. And they are sort of this little triumvirate…
Phyllis: A triumvirate, I know. They are!
Jace: …downstairs. I mean, what was it like working more with Jim and Lesley?
Phyllis: Oh, well, it’s been lovely, actually. Well, I mean, when it first started off, Mrs. Hughes and Mrs. Patmore were a bit at lager heads, really. But they soon got over that hump, which was lovely, actually ’cause you suddenly see these two women of the same age who’d obviously had similar background and suddenly realizing that, you know, “We’re in this together, dear. So, we might as well be friends rather than an enemies or adversaries.” So, I think it was nice the way that all developed. And then Mr. Carson, as well. It’s nice that they can have a bit of a giggle over him being a silly old fart.
Jace: Do you have a favorite behind-the-scenes moment? I know that Lesley has said that you tend to sing and dance a lot on the set between takes.
Phyllis: Well, we do mock about and that’s all part of work. I mean, for my money, there’s no point in doing a job unless you can have a laugh, really and by Jingo, we did.
We were all in the studio doing all these big group scenes together and dressing rooms are all very near one another. So, generally, we’d all pile into Jim’s ’cause he had the biggest dressing room. Big Jim. So, he’d say, “Okay, party time.” So, we’d all– in between– When there was lighting going on, we’d all pile into Jim’s dressing room and bring in our tea and, you know, just chitchat and yes, singing always sort of cropped up here and there.
Phyllis: Mind you, you know, Lesley can’t accuse just me because of course, she’s a well-known musical performer herself.
Jace: Though you have been referred to as a jukebox.
Phyllis: Was that Jim?
Jace: It wasn’t Jim.
Phyllis: The human jukebox, yes. I know it’s probably really unsettling and a bit annoying for everybody that if you– Any phrase or saying, I will dream up a song that fits the bill. It’s a bit of an annoyance. So, I wish I didn’t have to do that.
Jace: That could be your hidden talent though.
Phyllis: Is it?
Jace: Give us an example.
Jace: What was it like saying goodbye to Lesley Nicol and Sophie McShera?
Phyllis: Oh. Well, we just blubbed like idiots on each other’s shoulders for about 20 minutes at the bottom of the makeup stairs when I was about to go and get my wig off.
And I went– I had a sneaky poodle around the set. It was in semi-darkness. And so, I looked in the kitchen. I looked in Mrs. Hughes’ sitting room and Mrs. Hughes’ pantry and sort of just said a silent farewell to all the rooms. And strolled out through the servants’ hall, scene of many an escapade when we, you know…and many a laugh, and wondered out and there was Sophie and Lesley just hugging each other at the bottom of the stairs. And so, I went up and we had a group sob with each other for about 20 minutes, just sobbing into each other’s necks.
Jace: Aw. That’s sweet.
Phyllis: Pathetic, really, isn’t it?
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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.
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Jim: You started off with a difficult question there involving memory and things like that. Which is tricky for an aged butler like myself…
Jace: Downton Abbey: The Exhibition is open in New York City, now through April 2, 2018. See downtonexhibition.com for tickets and more details.