“At this time — and particularly for someone like Mary, the older daughter of a family such as the Granthams — she would need to marry in order to wrap things up neatly for the future and for her son George,” explains Dockery. The actress is delighted that Lady Mary has her mojo and acerbic wit back. “There’s definitely a shift in Mary — she’s come back to life. She’s getting herself out there again and of course she has this love triangle going on. So she decides to give it a shot with… one of them.”
Who would Dockery choose — the urbane Viscount Gillingham (Tom Cullen) or the scrupulous Charles Blake (Julian Ovenden)? “I can’t tell you that! What I love about Lady Mary’s story this year is that she’s allowing herself to make those choices. There’s a scene where she says, ‘Why can’t I have a relationship with a man before I decide he’s the one I want to settle down with?’ She’s very complex, she’s very modern.”
Lady Edith – Laura Carmichael
With her daughter in the arms of a local farmer’s wife and her lover still absent without leave, Lady Edith is at an especially low ebb. “Everyone is assuming Michael Gregson’s dead, but she is still holding onto the idea that he could be alive somewhere,” says Carmichael, “and so she’s really pretty depressed.”
Is there any light at the end of the tunnel? “There are ups and downs, and a lot of tears! What’s interesting with Edith is that she’s changed so much. I certainly felt after she was jilted the first time that that’s it, she’s done with men. Then she fell in love with someone who respected her, who thought that she was smart and not just because of her position. So there’s always that possibility, but it might be a different kind of love… Who knows? It’s all in Julian’s hands!”
Lady Rose – Lily James
James giggles when asked about Rose’s romantic prospects after the teenage tearaway’s scandalous affair with jazz singer Jack Ross (Gary Carr, above) last year.
“I have to be coy about this! She’s come out,so now it’s find a man, start your life, that’s your future, all wrapped up in a proposal. So that’s certainly — inevitably — part of Rose’s journey this year.” Rose has also stopped rebelling. “She’s different this year, calmer. She’s not obsessed with going to London any more; she seems to be more happy and content just being at Downton.”
Lady Anstruther – Anna Chancellor
The arrival of Chancellor as Lady Anstruther makes life awfully tricky for Jimmy the footman. The widowed aristocrat harbours improper designs on her former employee. Will Jimmy be able to resist her advances?
Gladys Denker – Sue Johnston
Will Downton’s waspish Dowager (the deliciously dry Maggie Smith) finally meet her match? In this series she hires a new lady’s maid, Miss Gladys Denker, played by Sue Johnston, best known for playing no-nonsense matriarchs in Coronation Street and The Royle Family.
Prince Kuragin – Rade Sherbedgia
The Croatian-Serbian actor (Eyes Wide Shut, Snatch) plays Russian prince Kuragin, who takes up residence when the Granthams welcome a boatload of aristocratic refugees fleeing Bolshevik Russia.
Simon Bricker – Richard E Grant
Grant plays art historian Simon Bricker, who’s keen to examine the Granthams’ dazzling array of paintings. But it’s not only the artwork that catches his eye: so does a certain Countess…
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