Downton Abbey: Laura Carmichael on Lady Edith

The actress shares her character's innermost secrets, including her first kiss with a married man

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Downton Abbey: Laura Carmichael on Lady Edith
Written By
Gareth MClean

How old are you, and how old is Lady Edith?

I'm 25 and Edith is, well, she was born in 1894 so… where are we now? I'm hopeless at maths!

It's 1919 so she's 25 too. How would you describe Edith?

The overlooked middle Crawley daughter. She's practical, possibly catty and quite hard - but I think all of that is something of a carapace.

What about her relationship with her sisters?

I suppose you could describe her as aggrieved, but it comes from years of being neglected in favour of Mary and young, sweet Sybil. Because Mary and Edith are so close in age, that rivalry is very intense. They are as stubborn as each other, but like fire and ice.

Do you have siblings?

I'm the middle of three sisters, just like Edith, though the difference is that there's no rivalry between us at all. My sisters are the people I'm closest to. I love them to bits.

What about your Downton sisters, Michelle Dockery and Jessica Brown Findlay?

We're very close and socialise away from work a lot. All three of us have really bonded.

How does Edith feel about Mary's ability to make men fall for her?

She's very jealous of Mary's charms, but I'm sure she'd never want to admit it to Mary.

Edith tried to ruin Mary's reputation by revealing the truth about the death of Turkish diplomat Kemal Pamuk. What drove her to do such a thing?

Edith was genuinely in love with Patrick [who died on the Titanic], who Mary was engaged to, so Edith's resentment at her older sister has been brewing for a long time. Mary really pushes Edith and relishes rubbing her nose in it whenever she can. But when Edith sent the letter, it was very shocking because she knew that it would spoil things for Mary. I think Edith perhaps has grown up a bit since and might reconsider doing the same thing again.

How does Edith feel about Sybil pursuing her feelings for the chauffeur, Tom Branson?

They're all very sad for her. I think they think it's a terrible decision, but they love her and understand her rebelliousness. That doesn't stop them trying to "save" her from herself.

How do these very different attitudes to love compare with Edith's? She seems very pragmatic until she starts having an affair…

By the end of series two, you see that Edith has almost given up on the prospect of finding love. That resignation is great to play, especially as there are some fine comic bits about Edith that can make you giggle…

Do you think she feels guilty about kissing a married man? Why did she do it?

That was her first kiss ever and the appeal of someone saying that she was beautiful was too tempting. I think she did think it was wrong and she did feel guilty about it - but that she did it anyway was an absolute joy.

In what way do you think the role of women has changed since the days of Downton?

The requirement in those days to find a husband, simply to survive financially, was just awful, but for the drama it's great because there is a real sense of jeopardy for the girls and that's what Julian [Fellowes] writes so wonderfully.

Will Edith ever discover a happy ending?

I'm constantly asking Julian, but don't know yet - and if I did, I wouldn't tell you! It's possible, but I really enjoy the challenges that playing a frustrated and dissatisfied Edith offers.

Do you believe in happy ever after?

Yes!

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