Laura Carmichael tells us more about being a lady in the 20s and why Downton Abbey is a family favourite
NEITHER as smooth talking and spunky as her little sister Sybil nor as beautiful and passionate as her elder sibling Mary, this season sees Lady Edith break all the rules. Laura Carmichael, who has played the role since the start of the series, lets us in on her storyline. Plus, a sneak peek behind the scenes of the period drama:
What have you most enjoyed about season five?
I’ve actually found it the toughest season because it’s very emotional and my storyline is quite separate from the rest of the house.
Could you sum up Lady Edith at the start of the season?
She’s in a bit of a mess and a web of secrets. She’s had a child out of wedlock and thought she could give up her daughter for adoption in Switzerland, but has realised that’s impossible. She has to be part of the child’s life in some way, even if it’s from afar. One of the farmers down the road, Mr Drewe, takes her in under the guise that she’s an orphan. But some of the family knows about the child. Edith and Mary are always feuding as well.
With such heavy plots, is there any fun on set?
When you’ve wrapped a scene or break for lunch, you laugh harder because you’ve been crying all day. It’s very enjoyable, although they are tough scenes to do. It’s not something you can take lightly.
Are there many gaffes when you’re filming?
Yes, lots. And there’s nothing funnier than hearing someone who’s extremely posh get their lines wrong.
The best part of 1920s fashion.
I love the daywear because it’s something you could easily wear now. The coats are phenomenal; they’re so well-tailored and they finish the look. The dresses look fabulous and they’re not just something you throw on. Even the 1920s flapper look is weirdly flattering and risqué; there are a lot of dresses that go quite low in the back. It’s a different kind of sexy — classy and glamorous.
You don’t look like Lady Edith in reality. Does that help in public?
I am recognised sometimes though. I was in the stairwell of a tube station recently and this tourist went berserk. At first, I just thought I’d dropped something, but it turned out they’d figured out who I play on the show.
What makes the show so popular globally?
Julian Fellowes (the director) took the framework of big US shows like The West Wing and ER—with many characters, short scenes, everyone circling around each other—and he gave it a very British twist. It’s a classic period drama that’s told at such a fast pace, and there are 17 or 18 lead characters and more characters besides. It’s lavish and it’s a fantasy, with a no-expense-spared look to it. That, I suppose, has drawn attention.
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— Team Indulge