Laura Carmichael: Watching Downton Abbey makes me squirm

Lady Edith on Carson's on-set magic tricks, her addiction with Geordie Shore and sharing the stage with her childhood crush, Sam West

What do you wake up to?
The Today programme. I have Radio 4 on in the background at all times. I love that you can absentmindedly learn about, say, basket-weaving or beer fermentation; and I love falling asleep to the shipping forecast.


What’s on your recorder?
Modern Family. Whenever anyone comes round and we’re having a lazy moment, I put it on. I’m trying to get everybody addicted.

What’s your TV guilty pleasure?
Geordie Shore. I can’t believe that these people exist, that they actually say what they say; and so I confess I’ll sit there and watch a second episode.

And which programme makes you squirm?
Downton! When it’s a storyline involving Edith my heart beats faster and I want the seat to swallow me up, but I have to watch it to find out what’s going on downstairs. Of course I’ve read the script, but I want to see it. So my sisters come round, and sometimes my fake Downton ones, too, and we watch it together.

Do you squabble with your sisters?
When I was a teenager aspiring to be an actress, I’d want to have an intellectual conversation after every film we saw, which drove my sisters crazy.

Who was your first crush?
Sam West as Prince Caspian [in a 1989 TV series]. I’m pinching myself now because I’m about to share the stage with him. You want to go back in time and whisper in the ear of your ten-year-old self: “One day you’ll end up doing a play with Prince Caspian.”

Have you confessed your ardour?
I have. Luckily, in the play, Uncle Vanya [at London’s Vaudeville Theatre from 25 October], I suffer from unrequited love: I’m besotted with Sam West’s character. The producer asked me if I thought it would be easy to be in love with Sam West; how I blushed.

Any other childhood favourites?
Sunday-afternoon dramas like The Railway Children and The Borrowers. We had an argument on the set about whether a Borrower could fit in a teacup or an acorn. Fortunately, we could ask Penelope Wilton: the answer is teacup.

How do you amuse yourselves when the cameras aren’t rolling?
Magic tricks! Jim Carter (Carson the butler) is a good magician so when he senses that the crew are getting tired, or it’s been a long day, he’ll pull a rabbit out of a hat.

Will Lady Edith get her happy ending?
The great thing about Edith not having a long-running romance is I get so many fellows. I get to meet great actors and show off my beaus at the wrap party. Humiliation and heartache for Edith, but quite fun for me!


1. The X Factor or Strictly?
Strictly. I’m looking forward to seeing Richard Arnold – he’s going to be fabulous.

2. EastEnders or Coronation Street?

3. Nigella or The Great British Bake Off?
Bake Off. Love it.

4. Homeland or Inspector George Gently?

5. BBC Breakfast or This Morning?
This Morning.

Downton Abbey is on tonight at 9:00pm on ITV1


If you can’t wait till then, check out Radio Times’s episode three preview pictures and predictions…