Saturday, July 30, 2011

By EMMA COX

Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery) is ready for her close up

It’s got the cast, the style and enough intrigue to fill the 50-plus rooms of Highclere Castle, where it is filmed. With the long-awaited new series of Downton Abbey soon to enliven our Sunday evenings, YOU goes behind the scenes on this most lavish of sets


Above: Lights, costumes ... drama!


With nearly 11 million viewers, the first series of Downton Abbey was last year’s big drama hit for ITV1. And series two — scheduled for early autumn — has all the ingredients for another Sunday-night blockbuster. The action begins in 1916: it’s World War I and Downton Abbey (‘played’ by Highclere Castle in Berkshire) has been turned into a convalescent home by Cora, Countess of Grantham (Elizabeth McGovern). ‘Each character is profoundly affected in ways they don’t expect,’ says Elizabeth, ‘and for some of the women it’s actually very liberating.’


Above left: Amy Nuttall plays new housemaid Ethel

Above right: Maggie Smith as the Dowager Countess of Grantham


Above: Between takes Elizabeth McGovern's hairstyle is protected by a net


This season’s costumes are more austere, as befits wartime, but no less painstakingly researched. Between takes hairstyles are protected by nets, and actors put on coats or robes. Maggie Smith has the most elaborate outfits as the Dowager Countess of Grantham. Newcomer Amy Nuttall, who plays new housemaid Ethel, says, ‘The “downstairs” scenes are filmed at Ealing Studios, so it’s rare but lovely when both the servants and “upstairs” are all here at Highclere’



Above: A stylist makes sure that no hair is out of place on Lady Mary Crawley (Michelle Dockery)


Above left: Hugh Bonneville returns as Robert Crawley, the sixth Earl of Grantham
Above right: The three Crawley sisters


Above: It takes time to set up the special lighting and camera angles that make Downton such sumptuous viewing. Elizabeth McGovern says, ‘It’s painstaking and laborious but we all know it’s worth the wait’


Above left: Elizabeth McGovern says, ‘I’m wearing vintage fabric but they reinforce it — the set is hard work for costumes’

Above right: It may be wartime but Cora is still keeping up appearances


Above: Lady Edith (played by Laura Carmichael) sits with a badly injured soldier, whose identity is a closely guarded secret. ‘The grounds are beautiful,’ she says, ‘but we’re mindful that people live here. Lord and Lady Carnarvon [Highclere’s owners] must feel like the Granthams, having their home taken over by so many people!’


Above: Downton fans can’t wait for a revival of the simmering sexual tension between housemaid Anna (Joanne Froggatt) and valet John Bates (Brendan Coyle)

source: dailymail

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