We find out more information about the lady who becomes engaged to Matthew, after his split with Mary... Zoe Boyle plays Lavinia Swire.
Zoe explains that the relationship between Lavinia and Matthew is very difficult because he is away fighting in the war. “It’s really hard – war intensifies everything. They see each other in short sharp bursts whenever he is on leave. She is constantly thinking, ‘I’m about to lose you.’
“There is no permanence to the relationship – they’re trying to grab onto anything permanent. That’s why they get engaged so quickly. She is tormented by the war just as much as he is. Family and friends are affected as much as the soldiers are. That anxiety permeates everything.”
The actress, who has also starred in Lewis, Poirot and Grey’s Anatomy, underlines the intensity of the relationship between Lavinia and Matthew. “They write each other letters all the time. Matthew is a very good letter writer – he is extremely eloquent. You can bare your soul in a letter. That brings them closer together and makes their relationship more special.”
Underlying everything in their relationship is Matthew’s history with Mary. Lavinia is intelligent enough to realise that she cannot simply ignore that. Zoe explains that, “Lavinia’s relationship with Mary is very complicated. She is aware of how close Matthew and Mary still are. “That might pose a threat, but the war overshadows everything else. As the war comes to an end, that threat re-emerges. But it is not your typical rivalry because Lavinia and Mary quickly grow to like each other. That is typical of Julian’s writing – it’s so nuanced.”
Zoe believes that the First World War is a great setting for this series because it still has such a powerful hold on the popular consciousness. “It is so potent in our imagination. It affected such a huge section of the youth in this country. As a woman in my 20s, I cannot imagine my male friends going off to the front. It is too hard to grasp. It is unthinkable, and yet it happened to so many people and is still happening now. “If I think about that and put myself in those shoes, it’s a horrible concept. It sounds corny, but when I was playing Lavinia, I thought about my relationships with family and friends and how I would feel if they were taken away. The boyfriend of a friend of mine is in the Army. She’s very nervous when he goes to Afghanistan. That shows this problem is still ongoing and bears a huge relation to what is happening today.”
Zoe reveals that her family and friends are delighted that she is joining the cast for this series of Downton Abbey. “My granny is thrilled. She loves Downton Abbey. She told me, ‘It’s about time you were in a period drama!’”
More on Season 2 of Downton Abbey