> CHARACTER DESCRIPTIONS,
> first photos of some of the cast in costume
> more photos from the set, BBC press release
> site dedicated to original series of Upstairs, Downstairs
> Daily Mail: photos of cast, similarities to Downton Abbey
From article in Telegraph
The show originally ran on ITV from 1971 to 1975, spanning the fictional life of the Bellamy family from 1903 to 1930, and was the brainchild of actresses Dame Eileen Atkins and Jean Marsh. The new version will be set in 1936.
It will be written by Heidi Thomas, who also wrote the BBC’s recent adaptations of Cranford and Ballet Shoes. “The house itself remains the central character,” said Miss Thomas. “It’s very, very close to the corridors of power. In the original series, Mr Bellamy was quite an influential MP and King Edward VII came to dinner. This house remains in Belgravia, it remains at the hub of empire – we’re going to have politicians and royalty passing through the house.”
Miss Thomas confirmed that the producers are trying to retain the original Upstairs, Downstairs theme tune. “We’re talking to the original composer,” she said. “It’s never occurred to us to do anything different. I think we’ll reorchestrate it slightly – perhaps come in on strings, and then morph it into more of a jazz sound.”
Miss Marsh will reprise her Emmy-winning role as Rose - now no longer a maid, but the housekeeper at the same celebrated address, 165 Eaton Place.
“If you had told me 35 years ago that I would be playing Rose again – for the BBC – I think I’d have had a good giggle,” said Miss Marsh. “Rose will have much more help in this one. There’ll be sweeping machines and washing powders and things. I can see disasters when it doesn’t work – when the Hoover explodes instead of sucking it in.”
The original series – which starred Gordon Jackson as Hudson the butler and Angela Baddeley as Mrs Bridges the cook – was shown in over 70 countries.
Dame Eileen did not appear in the original series, as filming would have clashed with her burgeoning career in the theatre. She is however likely to take a prominent role in the new version, as one of the wealthy and connected Holland family, who now own 165 Eaton Place.
“I probably will, sadly, have to be a lady upstairs,” said Dame Eileen. “I would much rather have been downstairs – they’re much more fun to play. But I’m too old to be employed as a servant.”
Along with the independent production company Sagitta Productions, Miss Marsh and Dame Eileen still own the rights to Upstairs, Downstairs. They have received many offers over the years to revive it – but, until now, none that has come to fruition.
“A long time ago Jack Webb, an American producer, wanted Gordon Jackson and me to film a series in Los Angeles with us running an employment agency,” said Miss Marsh. “Then a musical was going to be done, but that fell through.”
The new version will start as two feature-length episodes, executive produced by Miss Thomas and Piers Wenger, the head of drama for BBC Wales. It will start to be filmed next spring. It will be transmitted on BBC One later in 2010, with a full series possibly following in 2011.
|Keeley Hawes (Lady Agnes, lady of the house)|
|Ed Stoppard (Sir Hallam, master of the house)|
|Adrian Scarborough (butler)|
|Claire Foy ("temptress", sister of Lady Agnes)|
|Anne Reid (cook)|
|Ellie Kendrick (maid)|
|Nico Mirallegro (footman)|
|Jean Marsh , show creator (housekeeper)|
I've always wanted to see this series after hearing so much about it...and I was just reminded that Jean Marsh took on the role of Mrs Ferrars in the 2008 Sense & Sensibility. I'm amused at Eileen Atkin's remark about being stuck with playing an "Upstairs" role rather than "Downstairs". I thought she was wonderful in Gosford Park as well as Cranford!