Hugh Bonneville: killing off Downton dog Isis was my idea

Lord Grantham's beloved pet - who shared a name with the Islamist extremist group – breathed her last during series five of the ITV drama

We’re used to death on Downton Abbey. Over the course of five series, Matthew, Sybil, Lavinia, Pamuk, William, Gregson and Green have all met their maker – but the demise of the estate’s resident pet turned out to be one of the most controversial yet. 

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Lord Grantham’s yellow labrador Isis, who has remained firmly by her owner’s side since series two (set between 1916-1919), was a casualty of creator Julian Fellowes’ pen earlier this month, dying from cancer.

Ever since, speculation has been rife that she was killed off thanks to her shared name with the Islamist extremist group. Hugh Bonneville, who plays Lord Grantham, has already dismissed the rumours, writing on his website: “Anyone who genuinely believes the Series 5 storyline (1924) involving the animal was a reaction to recent world news is a complete berk.”

But speaking to RadioTimes.com, the Paddington actor revealed that the dog’s death was actually his idea. 

“I suggested the storyline to Julian about a year ago,” said Bonneville. “I said, ‘I know we’re always fairly fudgy about time in our show but even I can tell this dog who could have been three in series two is going to be getting on a bit now and maybe there’s something in that storyline? 

“So he said, ‘Ah, I’ll have a think about that,’ and then there it was.” 

The actor, 51, went on to discuss the reports that suggest Isis was dispatched in order to avoid association with the terrorist organisation which began making headlines earlier this year. “It shows a complete lack of knowledge about how TV shows are made. We didn’t make it last week, we made it months and months and months ago. 

“I find it rather odd. I think odd is a polite way of saying it – I do think people are bonkers that think that we’d develop a storyline based on such utterly appalling world events.”

But for fans of Downton’s dog, there is some good news – Bonneville has faith that Isis will be replaced by another cuddly canine in future. “Knowing Julian and knowing that sort of house, I’m sure another one will come over the horizon. If it’s puppies I’ll be worried!” 

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Hugh Bonneville stars in Paddington – released in UK cinemas on Friday 28th November. Watch the trailer below: