Image above: Phyllis Logan, second from right, in Downton Abbey sequel A New Era
Phyllis Logan is every bit as kind and accommodating as her character in Downton Abbey, the housekeeper Mrs Hughes / Carson. She spoke to me after a long day’s filming on her current film, No Way Up, ‘a high concept combination of disaster movie and survival thriller, as characters from very different backgrounds are thrown together when the plane they’re travelling on crashes into the Pacific Ocean’.
It sounds a lot less fun than Downton Abbey, (there are sharks), though she says she is working with “a lovely bunch of young actors”. Downton Abbey is now home after six TV series and two feature length films. The filming of Downton Abbey: A New Era was “another wonderful reunion” with her old mates Elizabeth McGovern (Cora Crawley), Lesley Nicol (Mrs Padmore) and Hugh Bonneville (Robert Crawley) and the rest of the crew. Those three are all west London dwellers, like Phyllis, so she has kept up with them in between filming as well.
“We spend more time in the castle [Highclere Castle in Hampshire] this time” she tells me. “Some of the characters go off to the South of France and some exciting things happen but most of the downstairs staff are left behind”.
The film picks up just a few months on from where the last one left off. “It couldn’t really be much later” she says “or the older characters would all be dead!”
Last time I talked to her, before the release of the first film, she couldn’t really see how they could string it out much longer, for that very reason, but they have managed it. The new era of the title is the late 1920s and early ’30s.
“We conveniently by-pass the General Strike” she says and Downton Abbey gets involved with a new craze – film making. They welcome “a lovely bunch of new people” to the cast, including Dominic West (The Wire, The Affair) – “very entertaining and amusing off set and wonderful on screen”, the “lovely” Laura Haddock (Guardians of the Galaxy) and the “gorgeous” Hugh Dancy (David Copperfield).
And what of her character, the longsuffering Mrs Carson, formerly Mrs Hughes?
“She gets a bit of excitement” she tells The Chiswick Calendar. “Something one would never have imagined, involving Mrs Padmore, Mr Carson and Daisy”.
She wouldn’t be drawn on who gets the chop, but fans will soon find out for themselves, as Downton Abbey: A New Era is in cinemas, including Chiswick Cinema, from Friday.
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