Downton Abbey stars talk excitement over new characters in Series 4
Why I turned down marriage to Sean Penn and begged on my knees to play Downton’s mistress: Elizabeth McGovern on Hollywood stardom and TV’s biggest show11 months ago on 15 Sep 2013 34 ♥ Comments
'I'll often do the American thing and say exactly what I think, which is not terribly British. I feel very out of place then,' said Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Lady Cora on Downton Abbey
Are you ready for the return of Downton-mania? The frenzied craze for the costume drama to end all costume dramas is set to shoot right off the scale when series four launches next weekend.
And even the normally unflappable Royals are getting in a lather over the imminent return of Lady Mary, Carson, the Earl of Grantham and his porcelain-skinned wife, Lady Cora, the Countess, played by the stunning American actress Elizabeth McGovern.
Except, unlike normal Downton fans, when the Royals crave a hit of their favourite show, they can simply turn up at Highclere Castle – the stately home where it is filmed – to meet the stars.
‘Pippa Middleton came with her mum and her brother,’ McGovern reveals, as she whisks Event on a whirlwind tour.
‘They were lovely. They asked lots of questions, stayed to watch some of the filming.
‘Pippa was very pretty and polite and I’d definitely say the cast were probably more excited than the guests. I had a big chat with her mum, too.’
On her immediate success: ‘Things happened so fast for me. I was 18, 19, 20,’ said Elizabeth
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Downton Abbey series 4: Elizabeth McGovern says, “O’Brien’s departure is a trauma that takes on greater proportions” for Lady Cora! (INTERVIEW) *Spoilers*11 months ago on 13 Sep 2013 16 ♥ Comments
Fans of Downton Abbey will most likely know that lady’s maid O’Brien – who was played by the fabulous Siobhan Finneran – has left the estate and taken up a post with one of Lady Cora’s relatives!
And that’s something that’s set to cause Lady Cora some upset in the forthcoming fourth series of the show.
Elizabeth McGovern, who of course plays Lady Cora, explained, “I think she experiences a little bit of displacement grief when she finds out O’Brien left in the middle of the night…
“You know how sometimes, when there’s a generalised sadness, it manifests in an overreaction to something that is really not that huge?
“Well O’Brien’s departure is a minor trauma, but it takes on an even greater proportion as a displacement for the major trauma, which is of course the hole created by Matthew’s death.”
Next, Elizabeth discussed Cora’s marriage to Robert – who’s played by Hugh Bonneville – which was of course sorely tested last year over the death of Sybil.
She remarked, “Even though we see them as basically an extremely happily married couple, Cora’s more willing to take another side of an argument than Robert is.
“She feels much more comfortable doing so, and also – which I’m really happy about when I see it in the script – she’s much more impatient [in the new series] with his flaws than she has been in seasons past.
“So she’ll be impatient with him when he’s being obstinate about moving on with the times, and things like that.
“But all of that is still within the context of a lot of love and understanding on Cora’s part for her husband.”
Elizabeth added of Cora, “She’s a woman of her time, and she makes the best of the deal she made marrying Robert [but] I had wondered if we’d ever be seeing Cora make more demands for herself because of the changing expectations of women…
“But what’s seeming to happen is that she’s projecting it on to her children and her grandchildren, and making demands for them.
“She’s still very happy to take a passive role herself, and to have no expectations for herself.”
However, Elizabeth remarked that Cora’s main goal is to help her daughter Mary – who’s played by Michelle Dockery – to move on from Matthew’s death.
She said, “She wants to make things right again. Cora’s modus operandi is very much to try to move Mary on…
“To move the whole family on actually, and to give Mary another dimension to her life by giving her some power and control over the estate.
“And even though Cora accepts a complete lack of power and control for herself in her own life without batting an eye, she very much wants it for her daughter.”
With regard to how Cora adapts to being a grandmother twice over in the new series, Elizabeth said, “You don’t see her on her hands and knees with the children very much…
“But that’s symptomatic of the time – children were raised by staff. But she’s definitely got their best interests very much in her mind.
“She’s particularly protective of the chauffeur’s daughter, and the complication that she might inherit as a result of that.
“That’s something that I really appreciated about the writing of that part – that Cora had a chance to come to the little girl’s aid.”
We’ll see how she does so in the first episode, when we get a glimpse of the prejudice that little Sybbie may have to face throughout her life.
September 13th, 2013
The actress who plays Lady Cora Crawley talks about the fourth season of ‘Downton Abbey’, working with Paul Giamatti and ‘new blood and new depth’
Is Cora bereft without O’Brien [whose departure is announced at the start of season four]?
‘Yeah, it’s horrible. I’ve always loved the complication of two people who are very intimate, but that intimacy is based on one person paying the other some money. Cora’s really hurt, but it’s just a job for O’Brien. Cora has to resolve herself to an ever-changing picture when it comes to lady’s maids.’
How has Cora dealt with all the grief she’s suffered?
‘She’s the character who’s suffered the worst, I think – the death of a child and a son-in-law. She’s come out of it wanting to just have fun with what she’s got left, and she’s encouraging Robert and the girls to enjoy life a little bit as well.’
Were you surprised by the public reaction to Matthew’s death?
‘I was pleased. We’ve done our job if people are so involved that they have that kind of response. otherwise its a very bland affair. You want people to get pissed off or incredibly happy.’
Paul Giamatti joins the cast as Cora’s brother.
‘That was really fun. I’ve known Paul since drama school. As an American, it was reassuring to have someone so familiar, it makes me feel really at home. He’s a really fantastic actor – great attitude, great fun.’
What is Cora’s relationship with her brother?
‘I don’t think they’re particularly close. It’s been years since they’ve seen each other and you’re aware of how far Cora’s come in assimilating herself into her English family. Her American family seem so culturally different.’
Did you imagine ‘Downton’ becoming so big?
‘Not at all. Especially in America – I was so shocked! I’ve done everything the opposite of what you’re supposed to do if you want to have a career in Hollywood, but I’m still there. It’s miraculous.’
Are there any jaw-droppers this series?
‘Yes, but that’s as much as I can say.’
What’s Cora’s relationship with Robert like now?
‘Cora recognises his shortcomings and takes him to task for them. She wants to help him adjust to a changing world that he naturally resists. But she’s very much in love with him still.’
How did you feel about this season?
‘I was excited. We’d had a nice break so I felt fresh. I’m still really engaged by the writing after four years. I don’t approach it as a job that’s good for my career.’
Has there been a change of tone and pace?
‘I think there’s more depth to everything – I felt that when we worked on it. Julian knows us and we know our characters and relationships, so there’s an opportunity to dig deeper and for new characters to come in. They always cast them so well. So there’s new blood and new depth.’
Sep 12 2013
Whatever would Carson think? The dignified and demure Lady Cora, she of the glorious gowns and discreet necklines, clad in a short, sexy black lace dress, strutting her stuff on stage with a huge guitar slung around her neck. And in electric pink suede ankle boots … It’s enough to make the butler’s stiff upper lip bristle.
As elegant Lady Grantham of Downton Abbey, actress Elizabeth McGovern is more accustomed to being swathed in silk and adorned with jewels. But tonight the glamorous American-born actress is inhabiting her alter ego: that of a rock chick.
It’s an amazing transformation. As she sashays onto the stage, arms waving above her head to the band’s drumbeat, the audience - from young women clad in pink T-shirts, to those enjoying a family picnic - jump to their feet. And as the band goes through the seven numbers of the half-hour set, they dance and clap along to the songs. McGovern, strumming her guitar behind the microphone, looks relaxed. But she is compellingly charismatic.
As she introduces one number with the words “you’re never too old” and a very large grin, there is no hint of the pre-performance nerves she says always wrack her before she goes onstage. (Asked about any rituals she has before the show, she had raised an eyebrow and told me: “Panic.”) But under the lights, singing the songs she has so carefully crafted, she looks absolutely in her element.
McGovern hands out flyers on Edinburgh’s Royal Mile to promote a Sadie and the Hotheads gig.
Her alter ego as leader of the country-tinged band Sadie and the Hotheads has taken her even further from her early career as an Oscar-nominated Hollywood actress than her sojourn in Downton Abbey.
The star who plays Cora Crawley talks Twitter, Downton Abbey spoofs and cheering up for series four
Series three of Downton Abbey was an eventful one for Cora Crawley, played by 52-year-old American actress Elizabeth McGovern. Her eldest daughter walked down the aisle, her middle daughter was jilted at the altar and, just weeks later, her youngest died in childbirth. Then, as if things weren’t bad enough, her husband, who she blamed for her daughter’s death, lost her fortune. And to top it all off, her new son-in-law died in a car crash on the day her eldest daughter gave birth to Downton’s heir. Phew. Let’s hope series four is a little less dramatic, eh?
Before the series kicks off on ITV, RadioTimes.com caught up with Elizabeth McGovern…
What can we expect from Cora in this series?
I would sum up Cora’s modus operandi in series four as someone who’s reacted to probably the worst thing that can happen to anybody, which is the death of a child, by deciding to make the most of what she’s got left in life, and having a little fun. That seems to me to underscore a lot of her stories throughout the season.
She’s very much in support of her daughters going out and going after what they want to do and having fun in their lives. She’s not asking them any questions because she’d rather not know. It would probably only upset her. She just wants to have a good time. She’s ready to throw a party, she’s having people come over. She’s sort of seen that life is fleeting and it can be snached away from us at any moment and that seems to me to be the driving force behind her. And I think she also wants to loosen Robert up a little and make him kind of relax and enjoy himself, to kind of roll with the punches a bit.
Was it a relief to lighten up after the events of series three?
Frankly, yes. It was nice.
Why do you think people continue to love Downton Abbey so much?
There are a couple of things that make it a little bit special. One is the fact that there are obviously great stories and great twists and turns but intrinsic to the whole enterprise is a sort of wit underneath it all. It’s almost like sort of winking at itself which is why I think people have so much fun making fun of it.
Sometimes I feel as though we are almost doing that ourselves but we are deadly serious at the same time. That’s what I love about the show. It’s almost not taking itself really seriously and yet we are completely serious in our approach. I think that’s what makes it special.
You could play every scene almost as a total parody of itself - and play it almost exactly the same way! There’s nothing quite like that out there.
There are plenty of parodies and Downton spoofs out there. Do you watch any of them?
There are a lot of good ones! It’s hard to beat Puff Daddy’s one, but there’s another guy [Luke Kempner] that imitates all the characters, who does really good impressions of every body. I think he calls his show The Only Way is Downton.
Do you pay attention to the reaction from fans on social media as the episodes air?
No, I’m not one of these that likes to Tweet or retweet while I’m watching, in fact that makes me crazy. I’d much rather people just watched the show! But it’s a reality of life today and I really love that people are having fun with it.
The episodes have quite an impact. What’s it like to know you inspire such emotion in the viewing public?
It is nice. It’s very gratifying. You know, when people get angry or when they want to criticise the show, if it’s still engendering a big response I’m happy. I think that we’ve done our job if that’s the case.
What is working with Julian Fellowes (the show’s creator) like?
I’m still loving the challenge of just acting his scenes. That keeps me going because I don’t know what I would do if it was year four and I didn’t have that element.
You’ve worked with the same cast for four series now. Do they feel like part of the family?
Yeah, inevitably. It’s bound to happen when you spend so many years playing a family.
But what’s really nice is I feel after four years of working with this core group of people that we’ve come to a place which is really filled with trust and respect and it’s nice to feel that. It’s a nice way of spending the day at work.
Downton Abbey returns to ITV later this month
12 September 2013
Downton Abbey’s Lady Cora ‘just wants to have a good time’
Elizabeth McGovern, who plays Downton Abbey’s Lady Cora says after the doom and gloom of last season her character “just wants to have fun” in the period drama’s upcoming fourth series.
Following the dramatic events of last season, with the tragic deaths of two of the programmes most beloved characters, Lady Cora is in a more philosopical mood, says actress Elizabeth McGovern.
"I think she has reacted to the turmoil of last season and living through the war, with the idea that she just wants to have a good time."
As the programme moves on past the war years into the 1920s Lady Cora also has to deal with her increasingly independent daughters.
"I think she is very supportive of her daughters wanting to branch out and have independent lives … but she would definitely be horrified if she knew precisely what they get up to.
Despite the international success of the programme, which received an Emmy nomination in the USA early this year, Ms McGovern said her life hadn’t been “that dramatically affected” by the show as she wan’t often spotted because “she had such a different look” to her character.
12 Sep 2013
The actress who plays Lady Cora talks about her band Sadie and the Hotheads and the “good stuff” coming up in Downton Abbey
I’m an early riser but I lack a routine. My life is constantly having to shift. We finished filming series four of Downton Abbey on Sunday and I was straight out of that and up to the Edinburgh Fringe to play with the band [Sadie and the Hotheads] for a week.
To go from a full-on 14-hour day starting at 5am on Downton Abbey to performing with the band at 11.45pm with no time to readjust, it is extremely difficult. That has been the hardest thing about the last year – a constant squeezing-in of the two things – so I’m pleased for a little while to be able to concentrate on one. We have a residency at London’s Hippodrome in November, Swedish dates in September and we’ve recorded four new tracks – two with the amazing Gretchen Peters.
Edinburgh is madness by definition. Last year I was here flyering for my daughter, who’s in a group called School of Comedy, and this year she’s flyering for me. I have my family with me. It’s a city where grown-ups can be kids and kids can be grown-ups, so it’s fun for all of us.
A couple of the band went up Arthur’s Seat – that’s something I’d love to do. One of them has a kilt on loan for the week, so he’s sashaying around in that.
I’m shocked by the amount of promotion you need to do to just keep the show going! I expected I would see three wonderful shows a day then just drift into a packed house of my own. But it’s 20 per cent performing and 80 per cent actually getting people in to watch you.
When I’m out flyering people don’t recognise me as much as you would think. I get the same amount of people rejecting the flyer with annoyance as anybody. I might try it in full-on Cora costume and see what happens.
At the beginning in the audience there were a lot of Downton Abbey fans but it’s changing. It’s really a terrific band – it’s not me talking about my career or life. I miss the band [when I’m filming]. They’re good company and there’s something thrilling about a live performance. TV is a completely different discipline; it’s never going to have that live buzzy feeling but I love doing it, too – and who wouldn’t?
I would never in a million years have thought there would be a place for me in music. It never occurred to me until I was a grown-up with kids and a husband. I’d moved from the country where I grew up and left my career behind for a while. It left a space in my brain for something else and there was a build-up of songs I didn’t even realise were in me.
People ask me what’s happening next in Downton a fair amount. All I say is “good stuff!”
Sadie and the Hotheads play The Hippodrome, London, on November 14, 21 and 28 sadieandthehotheads.com
Illustration: Miles Cole
SEP 4, 2013
Currently at the Edinburgh Festival with her band, Downton Abbey actress Elizabeth McGovern discusses why the show’s humour keeps it going
Downton Abbey star Elizabeth McGovern has told The Big Issue that the show could “almost” be played as a satire of itself, and said she believes the secret of its success is the sense of humour that underpins its scripts.
Speaking while she is at Edinburgh Fringe this week playing a series of gigs with her band Sadie and the Hotheads (pictured), McGovern, who plays Lady Cora in the hit show, said: “I think one of the things that I think saves the show is that there’s a sort of bubbling sense of humour about itself. It’s almost like you could play the scenes exactly as we play them as a satire of Downton Abbey and they would work completely.
“I think that’s why the Maggie Smith character is so important. She always cuts right through the melodrama, which is the machine behind the stories, but she cuts through it with that sense of humour, and all the actors – whether coincidentally or whether this is part of some masterplan – all have a sense of humour.
“So my latest theory is that it survives all the wobbles the show gets – like any long-running soap opera – almost because it’s sort of winking at itself slightly. It makes it more fun for the audience, and for us doing it. When we do it we attack it with the utmost seriousness, but I think [a slightly arched eyebrow] is intrinsic to the way Julian [Fellowes] writes, because he is somebody who has innate wit.”
She revealed that as soon as she finished shooting series four of Downton Abbey last week, she got straight on a train to Edinburgh for her Fringe dates, which continue tonight (Thurdsay, August 22) until Sunday (Aug 25) at the city’s New Town Theatre. The late-night show was, she admitted, a little too late, and the original start time of 11.45pm has been brought forward for the remainder of the run to 10.10pm, starting tonight.
She explained: “It wasn’t so much for the band as for the audience. There were lots of people saying, ‘I’d love to come to the show but I just can’t stay up that late’, which I can completely understand. But 11.45pm is awfully late to start your show, so I’m glad it’s earlier.”
McGovern said that at the beginning of the run the audience contained a lot of Downton Abbey fans “who are just determined to stay up late, which I appreciate.” But she added: “They’re not really the late-night music crowd that had been partying all night that I was expecting. They were your sort of person raising kids and grandkids who just decided to make this effort, and they were really tired. But as we play and get the word out, audiences are becoming more a young music crowd and more lively.”
Folk-pop-rock outfit Sadie and the Hotheads, who have a residency at London’s Hippodrome in November, was formed by McGovern and bouzouki player/guitarist/vocalist Steve Nelson in 2007, and have released two albums, I Can Wait and How Not To Lose Things. But McGovern admitted that her Downton Abbey celebrity status hasn’t done much to help her on the streets of Edinburgh handing out flyers among the thousands of other performers.
“When I’m out flyering, people don’t recognise me as much as you would think. I get probably the same amount of people rejecting the flyer with annoyance as anybody. I might have to try it in a full-on Lady Cora costume and see what happens! But it is nice in a way, I much prefer it.”
Read more in our interview with McGovern in next week’s Big Issue, out Monday in England and Tuesday in Scotland and Wales
Sadie and the Hotheads play New Town Theatre, Edinburgh, 10.10pm nightly until Sunday, and London’s Hippodrome November 14, 21 and 28. sadieandthehotheads.com
AUG 22, 2013