It might not be on TV at the moment, but Downton Abbey is dominating headlines anyway, with visits from real-life royalty and rumours that the sixth series might be the last.
There are still over six months until we’ll get to watch more of the hit period drama in the UK, and longer before it reaches American shores, but that hasn’t stopped us asking questions, digging around and, well, in some cases, pestering the cast to find out more about what we can expect from the new season.
Here’s what we know so far…
It could be the last
Rumours have long been circulating that series six will be our final visit to the Crawleys’ country abode, but they’ve stepped up a gear recently. There are whisperings about the cast looking for work, plus the fact that the show’s writer and creator Julian Fellowes is making a pilot for his new NBC period drama The Gilded Age this year, something he’d vowed he wouldn’t do until Downton Abbey was done…
But it might not be
“Three years ago I was told that season three was the last! We’ll call time when we think the time is right,” executive producer Gareth Neame said recently in an interview with Deadline.
Maggie Smith is leaving
If series six isn’t the Abbey’s final foray, chances are it’ll be the Dowager Countess’s. “They say this is the last one, and I can’t see how it could go on,” Maggie Smith, who plays the quick-witted matriarch said last month, adding: “I mean, I certainly can’t keep going. To my knowledge, I must be 110 by now.”
Or maybe not. Smith’s spokesperson has since said “she’ll be with the show for as long as the show runs.” So, sorry. We don’t actually know.
Series six is set in 1925
Something we do know? Hugh Bonneville, aka the lord of the manor himself, has revealed the sixth series of the drama “has nudged on another six months.” “We’re in 1925,” Bonneville told press at the TRIC Awards in London this week.
The scripts are “wonderful”
When we caught up with Lesley Nicol, who plays the Crawley cook Mrs Patmore, earlier this year, she didn’t give much away. What she did say was that the scripts for series six are “like reading a wonderful book. It’s a wonderful read.”
Tom Branson has definitely left
“He’s definitely left at the end of [the Christmas] episode, so we’ll have to see,” Neame told Variety, when asked if we’d see Branson again in series six.
Both he AND Lady Rose have moved to America
It’s not just Branson and Sybbie who have crossed the Atlantic to pursue the American Dream. “Tom Branston has gone to Boston,” Bonneville told press, adding: “Lady Rose has been on her honeymoon and she’s now moved to America.”
It’s not goodbye forever, though
Branson and Rose’s departure doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll never see them again. “Both their characters have travelled to America to make new lives, but they are members of this family so a visit home may well happen at some time,” Neame told Deadline.
Mrs Patmore will have a fridge
Following the wireless and that pesky electric whisk, more new technology is making its way into Downton’s kitchens this year. “Mrs. Patmore’s latest horror story is the fridge,” Bonneville revealed. “Which is another invention that is coming to take her out of her profession. Modernity is creeping ever forwards. We had the wireless last year, and all sorts of devices over the years – electricity was the first one. But now we’ve got a fridge. So that’s a big plot spoiler for you.”
The future isn’t certain for Hughes and Carson
“No doubt married life – with all that entails – is on the horizon, although with the twists and turns of the events of life in Downton we don’t yet know if they’ll even make it down the aisle!!” says Neame, adding in another interview with Variety: “Let’s just hope one of those tricky ‘Downton’ things doesn’t happen that thwarts them.” The course of true love never did run smooth.
Or Anna and Bates
When asked about the potential for happiness in their future, Neame replied: “They are the star-crossed lovers of television.” Sounds ominous to us…
Love is in the air for Lady Mary. Again.
“Some faces that we met towards the end of the fifth season may or may not be coming over the horizon to break or make the hearts of Lady Mary and Lady Edith and people like that,” says Bonneville, while Neame has said: “Mary has definitely shown a flicker of interest she hasn’t much shown before, so it will be interesting as to where that goes… It’s almost like we’re matchmaking for a fictional character.”
Isis is gone but not forgotten
Good news, labrador fans. “We’ll still start with the dog’s bottom,” Neame says, about the show’s iconic opening credits.
Downton Abbey returns later this year