Uncostumed Drama

Photo: All © Carnival Film & Television Limited 2012 for Masterpiece

Hugh Bonneville
Robert Crawley

Is the food served in the dinner scenes period authentic?
We have a special cook. She learned a lesson early in season one when she served fish. We didn’t have electricity in the house, so it was all hot candles and camera lights. By two in the afternoon, it was just Oof. Since then, she’s been very canny about what she serves. Let’s say we’re having a salmon mousse: It won’t actually be salmon.

How fussy is Julian Fellowes about details in general?
I mean this in the most benevolent way: His hands are everywhere. In season two, I had four costume fittings over one waistcoat because he and the costume designer couldn’t agree on the color tone.

You made headlines in the U.K. for being a big knitter. Are you?
No, no, no. I attended a charity where they teach inmates to embroider and sew. I mentioned that many, many years ago I used to do tapestry on set, but I haven’t done it for fifteen years, and that became “Hugh Bonneville Is Obsessed With Knitting.” —Denise Martin

Michelle Dockery
Lady Mary Crawley

What do you and Lady Mary have most in common?
She’s a very sensitive person underneath this cold exterior. I can sometimes relate to that strength she has on the outside. But we’re quite different in many ways.

How so?
I am, maybe, not quite as blunt as she is.

What frustrates you the most about her?
I think just her meanness toward Edith. I think if I were a friend of Edith’s, I’d stick up for her.

Why doesn’t Lady Mary have more dresses?
I think she has plenty. The amount of changes we do every day—she couldn’t possibly have any more! That would be really greedy. In the second series, we didn’t have quite so many changes because the war was on and it seemed inappropriate. But for the third series, there’s slightly more glamour; the war is over, the diamonds are out. —Katie Van Syckle

Joanne Froggatt
Anna Bates

Anna has a big job this season trying to free Bates.
Yes, Anna Bates Investigates: That’s going to be my spinoff show. She has such complete faith, but then she falters. She worries they’ve been apart for a while and wonders whether he’ll want to set her free or do his usual noble thing.

Which of the old acts of chivalry do you enjoy seeing on the show?
Opening doors for women, even though as servants you don’t get the doors opened for you. It’s quite different now: As a woman, we want complete equality, but I still find it quite endearing if I’m on the tube and there’s no seat and a man offers me one just because I’m female. Actually, I’d love to have your seat! —D.M.

Jim Carter
Mr. Carson

You juggled on The View.
I always envied people who could play guitar or piano, but I couldn’t. So I taught myself juggling and magic. I came to New York in 1974 and did a vaudeville-style comedy stunt show for two and a half years.

Is that why Mr. Carson has the vaudeville backstory?
I don’t know! I saw an early draft where Carson’s dark secret was that he had this drunken mother who turned up and was a complete embarrassment. But I think they must have done their math and worked out that my mother would’ve been about 90.

You just got back from L.A. Did you enjoy it?
It’s not my cup of tea.

What is this empty place with no people in it?
You’re a cyclist, though, so it must be good for that. Yeah. I just came back from cycling in Cambodia. I got recognized there! —Amanda Dobbins

Lesley Nicol
Mrs. Patmore

Mrs. Patmore is going to have a romance this year.
I put in a request for that [story line]. I actually thought, Julian must be fed up with me. I’ve said it too many times. So I was really pleased when it finally showed up. I wanted to investigate what would happen to a lady like Mrs. Patmore if those feelings came to the surface. I thought there might be some comic potential or that it might be quite touching to see her get male attention. She obviously hasn’t for a very long time.

What did Julian say when he told you it would happen?
I think he just said, “Are you happy?” I said, “Yes, thank you!” Are you happy? Now shut up! Now I have to think of something else to request. I think she should become a nightclub singer. —D.M.

Rob James-Collier
Thomas Barrow

Thomas smokes in a very dastardly way. Is that how you normally smoke?
I don’t smoke! My smoking was terrible in the first year, but by season two I was getting better. There was a scene where I took it so deep, I said five lines and smoke was still coming out my mouth.

Tom and O’Brien always smoke while they scheme.
Yeah, smokers always bond outside. You can’t smoke indoors. But I’m not advocating smoking. “Build bonds through smoking, it will enhance your life.” I’m not fucking saying that.

Joanne Froggatt says that the upstairs actors play Wink Murder during their downtime. What do the downstairs actors do?
We’re far crazier. We have break-dance and body-popping competitions on the big servants’ table. Jim Carter, he’s an amazing breaker. We’re like, “Go, Carson. Go, Carson.” —D.M.

Sophie McShera
Daisy Mason

You just visited New York. What did you do?
We went to a Knicks game in Madison Square Garden. It was just ace, like how you imagine America to be. Like, cheerleaders and basketball. Candy floss.

You’d never seen a basketball game before?
No, and I’d never met a basketball player. They were so tall, and we’re just these little people from England.

Are you much like Daisy?
Well, we have the same face and the same voice.

What’s it like to see yourself onscreen playing a less attractive person?
I am totally over it now. I think it is better to be the dowdy one. I’d hate to be the one that’s really beautiful, and then people would be like, Oh, she’s actually not that hot in real life. —K.V.S.

Elizabeth McGovern
Cora Crawley

Shirley MacLaine plays your mother. Was it nice to have another American on set?
As a matter of fact, yes. In spite of the fact that I’ve been living in Britain for twenty years, it’s still a foreign country. I love it, and it would be hard for me not to live there now. But there’s just nothing like home and my people.

Cora’s fortune is pretty much squandered in season three, and yet she’s remarkably calm about it.
That was very, very difficult for me. I really thought it was not humanly possible for her to react the way she does. And I had to be convinced.

What were those conversations like?
My reaction was, “It’s just not reasonable.” And they said, “Well, do it anyway.” [Laughs.] It was kind of like that. —A.D.

Matt Zoller Seitz on Downton Abbey’s Season Three

Uncostumed Drama