Liz Trubridge: "We couldn't burn down Highclere. They would have allowed the fire there, using smoke canisters, but in order to protect the wallpaper and furnishings, we would have had to put up blocking material, which would have created a very tight space. So we reproduced Edith's bedroom and the corridor at Ealing Studios, building a doppleganger for Highclere there." Hugh Bonneville: "It was great. It wasn't nearly as scary and butch and heroic as it looks on screen. And obviously we couldn't burn Highclere Castle, so much of that sequence was shot in the studio. But it was great and we had fire trucks, so Allen Leech and I got to play on a real fire truck for a bit, that was fun."
Laura Carmichael: [Laughing about Edith's book-tossing abilities] "…She’s such a crap throw, you know, throwing that book and it landing in the fire and then falling asleep! It was a real struggle to shoot that--I kept missing! No, actually she’s a great thrower, she was aiming for the fire. It was genius!
Laura Carmichael: It’s exciting, those sort of shoots. There were lots of firemen on set obviously, which is always fun in a way that I didn’t expect it would be fun. It’s true, that cliché when firemen arrive. There are a couple of moments where it felt a bit frightening. But really, you knew you were safe and you’re in an environment that was very controlled.
Liz Trubridge: "They storyboarded the scene frame by frame, shot by shot, and rehearsed the scene many times, but had only one chance to burn the room." Laura Carmichael: The flames did get quite high, and it does get quite hot and you have to shout Stop! Stop! Stop! if you ever feel uncomfortable or if it’s going too far. And I think it was the second take that I was like ' Oh, that really smells quite strong, that flammable liquid they’ve just poured all over the bed.' It was definitely higher than the first take, and the firemen jumped in.
Robert James-Collier: "It was very frantic, because we didn’t have a lot of time to do it. But also, it’s something different, something exciting for casting and crew. God knows at Downton Abbey we need a bit of excitement and a bit of action every now and then, because the most exciting thing is when Mr. Molesley drops a plate or something like that, you know what I mean?"
Robert James-Collier: "So to have a fire was quite good, and to jump over a fire, even though the fire was only a foot high, made me feel like a man again, you know?" Laura Carmichael: "It is me. It’s not always Rob who is bravely carrying me over the flames, it’s somebody else. He had hurt his metatarsal, his foot. He couldn’t lift me, I was too heavy. But no, actually, his genuine injury meant he couldn’t lift me. So, I did have another strong man help him out. I don’t know if he wants me to say that, but it’s true. [Laughing] It’s true."
Robert James-Collier: "That’s what I do for Downton Abbey."
Laura Carmichael: "I get to work with Rob James-Collier…so, it’s always hilarious."
Liz Trubridge: "For Branson and Robert, we shot them holding the hose first, then a team donned wet weather gear to spray the fire from Robert's point of view." Hugh Bonneville: "It was a long day, if not two of that sequence, trying to get the effects right, and the right amount of soot and dust, and everything else, and how wet we would be when we've been throwing sand and water around."
Hugh Bonneville: "Then, we went and filmed the exteriors a few weeks later back at the castle. So it was a carefully put-together sequence, but it was great fun. Gave a bit of a sense of adventure at the castle."